How Arraignments and Bond Hearings Work

The first steps in the criminal justice system in Michigan


Your phone rings in the middle of the night. You answer. “I’m in jail. I was arrested.” In hushed tones, you try to understand what has befallen your loved one, then the call is over. What now?

The next steps vary dependent on what is being alleged, but the process is similar and knowing the first steps may save you or your loved ones time, effort and money.

Bail & Arraignment

Depending on the offense and the facility they’re calling from, you may be able to bail them out immediately. Many facilities will only release arrestees during business hours, and a quick internet search will generally be fruitful on the policies of the particular place. To bail someone out of jail there are either statutory bail limits or the arrestee will need to be seen by a judge before they are released. This first meeting with a judge is an arraignment.

It is typically schedule 24 to 48 hours after the arrest, but sometimes longer. In the United States you have a constitutional right to hear the charges brought against you and to, “face your accuser.” The accused is brought before a judge and the charges and possible penalties are read aloud on the record. There is an opportunity at this stage to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. If one pleads not guilty, the next steps depend on the severity of the charges.

The Charges

If there is a misdemeanor charge, there will be the opportunity to have a hearing on the probable cause of the charges. The accused may waive this hearing or exercise their constitutional rights to challenge the charges against them. This is a decision that a lawyer can help with, but if one isn’t available at that time, the conventional wisdom would be to not waive any possibility to fight these charges. This hearing will most likely be set for two to six weeks from the date of arraignment, but could happen immediately in smaller jurisdictions.

If the charge is a felony, there will be an opportunity to be arraigned again in the higher court that will hear the case. There is also an opportunity to waive this second arraignment, and since the proceeding is the same as before, generally it is waived due to redundancy. An arraignment is not the place to argue the case; it is simply to inform the accused that they are being charged with a crime.


The next issue is whether a bond should be set or not. A bond is an agreement with the court that the accused will show up at every hearing. There are various agreements the judge/magistrate can make:

  • They may set the bond as a personal recognizance (PR) bond, which doesn’t require money, just the accused’s word that they will be in court.
  • They may set the bond at a monetary number, often called a 10 percent bond or a cash surety bond. This requires the accused to put up 10 percent of the amount quoted by the judge to be released. A cash surety bond means the accused must put up the whole amount. To do that, generally one would find a bail bonds person that would front them the whole amount and take a 10 percent to 20 percent fee for the service. Essentially it works the same as a 10 percent bond, but requires a lender to assure the accused will be in court. Any money given as a bond can be refunded at the close of the case, but often the bond money is used to pay fines and costs during sentencing.

The considerations for setting a bond amount include: the severity of the crime alleged, the criminal history (especially if one has failed to appear in court on an earlier occasion), the connections of the accused to the community, the flight risk of the accused, and the public interest or safety issues with allowing this person out in public. Any and all arguments for a lower bond must be framed around these topics, not on the facts of the case.

Often the judge/magistrate will close this hearing by informing the accused that they will be seen at a hearing in the near future. Or, if they are so inclined they will give the date of the next hearing on the matter. This all happens in about a minute. The courts are busy and judges see thousands of these hearings a year. These proceedings require the counsel of a reputable criminal defense attorney


This all happens in about a minute. The courts are busy and judges see thousands of these hearings a year. These proceedings require the counsel of a reputable criminal defense attorney.

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