Arraignment or First Appearance
If the defendant is appearing in response to a court Summons received in the mail, the First Appearance in court, is traditionally called the Arraignment and also called simply the “First Appearance.”
At an Arraignment, the accused had the right to be informed of the claim lodged against him or her by the government’s lawyer, the prosecutor. Though literacy rates are much higher than they once were, the defendant has the right to have the Complaint read to him or her in court. Most waive that right and just read it themselves.
The First Appearance is normally the point at which the court learns who the defendant’s defense lawyer will be. The defendant may apply for a Public Defender defense attorney based upon indigency. Or the defendant has the right to retain a lawyer of their own choosing. The defense lawyer will normally file a Certificate of Representation with the District Court, either shortly before or at the First Appearance, but only after being formally retained by the defendant.
The Arraignment is also used by prosecutor’s as a point by which they expect to have all the evidence collected by police in their file. After, it can be provided to the defense lawyer as discovery. Sometimes initial discovery is supplemented later by prosecutors as they get more evidence, for example witness statements.