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What is an Arraignment?

An arraignment is a reading of a criminal complaint in the presence of the defendant; it is the formal reading of charges to notify the suspect as to what he or she is being charged with. The defendant, in response to the arraignment, is expected to enter the plea before the court. At this point, although acceptable pleas will vary among jurisdiction, the suspect will plead either “guilty” or “not guilty.” Moreover, please of “no contest” and the “Alford plea” are also typically allowed following the arraignment.

In the United States’ federal court system, the arraignment will take place in two stages. The first stage is referred to as the initial arraignment; this step takes place within 48 hours of the individual’s arrest. During this stage, the defendant will be informed as to their pending legal charges and notified of their right to seek and subsequently retain legal counsel. Following the promulgation of rights, the presiding judge will decide what amount, if any, is needed to set bail. During the second arraignment process (referred to as the post-indictment arraignment) the defendant is allowed to enter their official “guilty”, “not guilty”, “no contest” or “Alford” plea.

The arraignment is based on the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees an accused party the right to be informed regarding the nature and cause of the charges against them. That being said, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the delivery of an arraignment is not a necessary a pre-trial condition. The court has also ruled that a failure to delivery an arraignment is not a reversible error where the failure is inadvertent or the defendant knows that he or she is the accused.

How is the Arraignment Formed?

An arraignment is a formal declaration of a suspect’s charges. Because an arraignment is delivered as an affirmation and deemed explicit by the courts, it must be formulated in a precise manner. In general, the arraignment will conform to the following principles:

1. The defendant (individual accused with wrongdoings) is formally addressed by their full name

2. The charge against the defendant is read to the individual; during the reading, the alleged date,

3. time and place of the suspected wrongdoing will be promulgated

4. The defendant will be asked formally how he or she pleads

Arraignment Process: The Plea

After the arraignment is delivered, the defendant will enter his or her plea. If the defendant pleads guilty, and evidentiary hearing will typically commence. If the defendant enters a “not guilty” please a date will be set for the individual’s preliminary hearing or trial. If the defendant refuses to enter a plea, the court will enter a “not guilty” plea for the individual. The rationale behind this automatic plea is based on the defendant’s on their right to silence.

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