- CITATION TO APPEAR
Most people arrested for marijuana in the District of Columbia are released from the police station with a “citation to appear” in D.C. Superior Court about 10 days later. A citation is just a notice telling you when and where to be.
If more serious charges are involved, you have a prior criminal record, or there are allegations of distribution, you may be held overnight at the D.C. Jail or Central Cell Block, and see the judge the next morning. The only visitor you will be allowed at this point is your lawyer. You will be given a chance to make one phone call. Use it to call your lawyer, and let him call your significant others and make arrangements for your release.
- PROBATION OR PAROLE
If you’re currently on probation or parole from an earlier case, you may be held in jail pending a hearing on whether you will be released in your new case. Hearings for those on probation or parole usually take place between 3 and 7 days later, and during that time you will be held.
- ARRAIGNMENT – COURTROOM C-10
Both those released, and those held overnight, appear before a judge for an “arraignment” in courtroom C-10, beginning at 10 a.m. Courtroom C-10 is on the lower level of the Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001.
Arraignments are held 6 days a week, Monday – Saturday, including most holidays.
Outside Courtroom C-10 you will find TV monitors with the names of those scheduled to be in the Courtroom that morning.
If you don’t see your name on the screen, check with the CJA office, or the Pretrial Services office, both also located on the “C” level of the courthouse. The list of those in lock-up is augmented throughout the day, as new arrestees are processed. If someone was arrested after midnight, his arraignment is likely to be after lunch.
Arraignments are open to the public. Be sure to silence your cell phones inside the courtroom.
- WHAT IS AN “ARRAIGNMENT”?
A defendant’s first appearance in court is called the “arraignment.” That’s when an official copy of the charges will be provided, along with a “discovery package,” consisting of various police reports. At the arraignment, the following will happen:
- You will receive an official list of charges, called a “criminal information”
- You will received a “discovery package,” containing police reports
- If the government is asking for you to be held in jail, you will receive a sworn statement of “probable cause.”
- Your attorney will enter his appearance, or you will be given time to hire an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, you will be interviewed to see if one will be appointed for you free of charge.
- A new date for your next court hearing will be set. For misdemeanors, it will be a “status hearing,” about 3 weeks later. For felonies, it will be a “preliminary hearing” and/or “detention hearing.”
- WHAT’S A “CRIMINAL INFORMATION”?
Although a police officer may arrest a person for marijuana or other controlled substances, only the U.S. Attorney’s office can file the formal document which starts the official prosecution. (For felony cases, the grand jury votes on whether to charge by way of indictment).
- MY CASE WAS “NO PAPERED”
Great. When the U.S. Attorney declines to prosecute, the case is “no papered,” and formal proceedings are at an end. A “no paper” is without prejudice, which means that the case can be brought at a later date, but this rarely occurs in marijuana or other misdemeanor cases.
- DO I NEED A LAWYER AT ARRAIGNMENT?
If the case is “papered,” the judge will want to know which lawyer will be representing you. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you will be sent to be interviewed for eligibility for a public defender. If you intend to hire your own lawyer, he should be at your arraignment. You may also ask the judge for additional time to hire a lawyer.
- WHAT SHOULD I SAY AT ARRAIGNMENT?
Very little. Other than confirming your name and address, and agreeing to return on the next court date, you will not be asked any questions and should not make any statements.
You should not talk about the facts of your case with anyone other than your own attorney, including the arraignment judge.
Everything said in court is recorded, and can be used against you by the government. Don’t make any statements.
- CONDITIONS OF RELEASE
The judge at arraignment will establish “conditions of release,” which may include urine screening for drugs or alcohol, a “stay away” from a particular person or location, electronic monitoring, or a curfew. Your lawyer will be able to argue for the least restrictive conditions, or bring any issues concerning your release conditions to the judge’s attention.
Cash bonds and professional bondsman are now rarely used in Superior Court.
As a general rule, if you have been released from the police station, and you show up on time for your arraignment, you will be released again on your own personal recognizance to return for your next court date. Citations are the first cases called at 10:oo a.m.
Please leave sufficient time to make it through the courthouse security lines.
- MY FRIEND, RELATIVE OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER WAS HELD OVERNIGHT
If someone is held overnight following their arrest, he is likely to be released at arraignment, if he doesn’t have other pending charges, and is not on probation or parole.
For more serious charges, or if the person is currently on probation or parole, the judge may hold him, and set a further hearing to consider his ties to the community and the safety of others, before making a decision on whether to grant release.
- GOT RELEASED. NOW WHAT?
After you leave courtroom C-10, you will be required to verify your address with Pretrial Services, also on the “C” level of the Courthouse.
Suitable verification consists of a piece of U.S. Mail sent to your address of record within the past 30 days. So if you remember, bring this mail with you to arraignment.
If you don’t have recent mail, you can ask Pretrial Services to mail a letter to you, which you can then use as your proof of address.
- DRUG TESTING
Many defendants arrested for marijuana or other controlled substances are ordered to provide a urine sample following arraignment, to test for drugs or alcohol.
The testing facility is located on the “C” level of the courthouse, right outside of Courtroom C-10.
If you are taking any prescription medications, you can present your prescription, or pill container, as verification, to prevent the possibility of your medication creating a false positive.
Medical marijuana prescriptions from California, Colorado or elsewhere are not recognized in D.C.
- STAND-IN COUNSEL
If you didn’t hire a lawyer prior to the arraignment, or the lawyer you did hire was unavailable, the judge may ask another lawyer in the courtroom to “stand in” for your counsel. This usually means that the judge intends to release you, and it is easier to ask another lawyer to stand in than wait for your own counsel.
- HOW LONG WILL ARRAIGNMENT TAKE?
The typical arraignment takes only 3 to 5 minutes, once your case is called. But it is not unusual to spend several hours at the courthouse to complete the entire arraignment and release process.
Most people who are in court on a “citation to appear” will be done by lunch time.
- WHAT ABOUT THOSE LINES TO GET IN?
Everyone entering the Superior Court is searched at a security screening checkpoint for metal objects, contraband and electronic recording devices, which are prohibited.
Security lines can be long, particularly in the morning. A rear entrance on “C” Street usually has the shortest lines, but you should allow 30 minutes to clear security during the busiest times.
Judges usually take a dim view of clients who are late. Business or business-casual attire is always appropriate.
- I MISSED MY COURT DATE OR I WAS LATE
If you fail to appear at arraignment, or are late, the judge may issue a “bench warrant” for your arrest.
If there is a warrant for your arrest, you should contact an attorney promptly.
Zukerberg Law Center, PLLC