It is very important to have competent representation at an arraignment, even if court-appointed counsel is available. Although Criminal Procedure Law 180.10(5) allows waiver of counsel for the purpose of arraignment, this is rarely advisable. In the alternative, by appearing, counsel can take advantage of an early opportunity to obtain release of the client, change the jurisdiction in which the action is heard under Criminal Procedure Law 180.20, or seek removal of a juvenile offender’s case under CPL 180.75(5). These rights, along with those rights established by other provisions, demonstrate the important of counsel making the earliest assessment of defendant’s case that circumstances allow.
One of the more underutilized provisions is New York’s Criminal Procedure law 180.20 which allows an arraigning court to reduce the charges below the felony level. If the arraigning court exercises this authority, the court will retain jurisdiction of the case until final resolution.
One of the many reasons an attorney may not be present at the initial arraignment is due to the fact that arraignments often occur with very little advanced notice. The lack of advanced notice is due to the time-limits associated with holding a person in jail prior to an arraignment.