On his recent visit to San Diego, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said, “It is not the Bill of Rights that keeps the U.S. the freest country, the Bill of Rights is worthless unless the real Constitution prevents the centralization of power. I centralization of power occurs, then the Bill of Rights is merely words on paper.”
Once a charge has been filed and an arrest is made, the next step is to present the charges to the accused. This is called an “arraignment.” At the arraignment a judge will inform the accused of the charges against him/her, including any special allegations. In some courts, the maximum penalties and the accused’s constitutional rights (including the right to remain silent, the right to trial, the right to an attorney, etc.) must also be formally acknowledged.
Usually an attorney will ask the court to enter a “Not Guilty” plea at this early stage of the proceedings, and to deny any allegations.
The question of who will represent the accused is addressed. Either an attorney is hired or an accused may apply to the court for a public defender. In some jurisdictions a defendant who has financial ability to pay may be ordered to pay for his/her public defender.
Finally, the question of bail is addressed and next court dates are set.