An Arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant, to inform them of the charges against them. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In Texas, the arraignment process has deep historical roots as a fundamental hearing in order to put the defendant on notice of the criminal charges against him/her. Initially, at a time where reading and writing were not as common among the people, a defendant would often have the local barber, preacher, or county judge read a summons or warrant to them if they couldn't actually read it themselves.
Consequently, the arraignment hearing was a required hearing where the defendant's presence was mandatory.
Now, the arraignment hearing is mostly a formality and still pretty antiquated. If you do not have a lawyer, you will be required to attend your arraignment hearing and sit in a courtroom for a majority of the day with others that do not have a lawyer present. However, most courts, including all of the courts in Smith County, allow for the lawyer to file a waiver of arraignment before the actual hearing date. The waiver essentially informs the court that you have a lawyer, and that you are pleading not guilty. Once the waiver is filed and approved, your personal appearance is not necessary, although, always double check with your attorney if you need to be there or not.
If you have a criminal charge in East Texas, be sure to consult with a criminal lawyer about your arraignment date and getting a waiver on file as soon as possible. If you have any questions about this process, or need a good referral in your area, give our office a call at 903-999-1234.