An arraignment hearing is the initial court proceeding in a Nevada criminal case. At the hearing, the court formally notifies you of the charges against you and you enter a plea. You must attend in person unless you have an attorney appearing on your behalf.
Here are five key things to know about Nevada arraignments:
- If you are arrested and bail out, the court will typically arraign you within the next few weeks.
- If you are arrested and cannot bail out, you will be arraigned within 72 hours.
- You should plead “not guilty” since you can always take a guilty plea later on.
- If you miss your arraignment (and no attorney appears for you), the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
- Arraignments are the shortest of all court proceedings, usually just a minute or so.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is an arraignment in Nevada?
- 2. Do all arrests lead to one?
- 3. What happens during an arraignment?
- 4. What happens next?
- 5. When do they occur?
- 6. Do I need to be present in court?
- 7. What if I miss my arraignment?
1. What is an arraignment in Nevada?
An arraignment hearing is typically the first court appearance in the life of a criminal case. It is where charges are formally brought against you and where you enter an initial plea.
2. Do all arrests lead to one?
Most, but not all. After you are arrested, the D.A. conducts a pre-file investigation to see if there is sufficient evidence to convict you of the crime.
If prosecutors believe they have a weak case, charges will not be brought. If prosecutors believe they have a strong case, the arraignment will go as planned.
Note that prosecutors frequently “join” related offenses and defendants into one case. Learn more about joinder.
3. What happens during an arraignment?
After the judge calls your case, you and/or your attorney appear in front of the judge. The judge then recites the charges against you and asks whether you plead guilty or not guilty.
In most cases, you will plead “not guilty.” This does not prevent you from later pleading guilty (or no contest) as part of a plea bargain. If you are in custody, your lawyer may also ask the judge for you to be released on your own recognizance or for a bail reduction.
Once you plead “not guilty,” the judge will then give you another court date. Depending on the case, the next date will be for either a
4. What happens next?
Your lawyer will then ask the prosecutors for a copy of your “discovery.” Discovery is the state’s evidence in your case such as
- police reports,
- surveillance tapes and
- forensic test results.
Meanwhile, your attorney will try to negotiate a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor. Most cases end in pleas where your charges are reduced or even dropped without a trial.
If the prosecutor will not agree to a fair plea bargain, then your attorney should discuss with you the possibility of going to trial. Note that you have a right to a “speedy trial” within 60 days of your arraignment, though there are exceptions.1
5. When do they occur?
Some arraignments do not occur until weeks after you were originally cited, arrested, or summoned. However if you are in custody and cannot bail out, your initial arraignment must occur within 3 court days of your arrest.2 Learn more about 48-hour hearings and 72-hour hearings.
6. Do I need to be present in court?
If you were charged with a misdemeanor in Nevada, your attorney can usually appear at your arraignment on your behalf. However, if you are facing felony charges, whether you need to be present depends on your particular case and the judge’s wishes.
7. What if I miss my arraignment?
If neither you nor your lawyer shows up to your arraignment, the consequences are very serious. The judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you missed your arraignment, it is important you retain counsel right away. Your attorney can file a motion with the court to “quash” your bench warrant within a few days.