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Arraignment: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal complaint in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea. Acceptable pleas vary among jurisdictions, but they generally include "guilty", "not guilty", and the peremptory pleas (or pleas in bar) setting out reasons why a trial cannot proceed. Pleas of "nolo contendere" (no contest) and the "Alford plea" are allowed in some circumstances.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, arraignment is the first of eleven stages in a criminal trial, and involves the clerk of the court reading out the indictment. The defendant is asked whether he or she pleads guilty or not guilty to each individual charge. This process is the same in Australian jurisdictions.

In the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, arraignment takes place in two stages. The first is called the initial arraignment and must take place within 24 hours of an individual's arrest. During this arraignment the defendant is informed of any pending legal charges and is informed of his or her right to retain counsel. The presiding judge will also decide whether or not to set bail, and, if so, for how much money. The second arraignment is called a post-indictment arraignment or PIA. It is during this second arraignment that a defendant will be allowed to enter a plea.


Form of the arraignment

The wording of the arraignment varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,[1] however, generally conforms with the following principles:
1) The accused person (defendant) is addressed by name;
2) The charge against the accused person is read, including the alleged date, time and place of offence; and,
3) The accused person is asked formally how they plead.

Guilty and not guilty pleas

If the defendant pleads guilty, an evidentiary hearing usually follows. The court is not required to accept a guilty plea. During the hearing, the judge will assess the offense, mitigating factors, and the defendant's character, and pass sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date will be set for a preliminary hearing or a trial.

In the past, a defendant who refused to plead (or "stood mute") would be subject to peine forte et dure (Law French for "strong and hard punishment"). Today in common law jurisdictions, defendants who refuse to enter a plea will have a plea of not guilty entered for them by the court.[2] The rationale for this is the defendant's right to silence.

Pre-trial Release

This is also often the stage at which arguments in favor or against pre-trial release and bail are made, depending on the alleged crime and jurisdiction.

United States Federal rules of criminal procedure

Under the federal rules of criminal procedure, "arraignment shall...[consist of an] open...reading [of] the the defendant...and calling on him to plead thereto. He shall be given a copy of the indictment...before he is called upon to plead."


  1. ^ In some jurisdictions the wording of the arraignment is set by statute or court practice direction.
  2. ^ In Queensland, Australia this matter is covered by statute. See s601 of the Queensland Criminal Code.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ARRAIGNMENT (from Lat. ad, to, and rationare, to reason, call to account), a law term, properly denoting the calling of a person to answer in form of law upon an indictment. After a true bill has been found against a prisoner by the grand jury, he is called by name to the bar, the indictment is read over to him, and he is asked whether he be guilty or not of the offence charged. This is the arraignment. Formerly, it was usual to require the prisoner to hold up his hand, in order to identify him the more completely, but this practice is now obsolete, as well as that of asking him how he will be tried. His plea in answer to the charge is then entered, or a plea of not guilty is entered for him if he stands mute of malice and refuses to plead. If a person is mute by the visitation of God (i.e. deaf and dumb), it will be no bar to an arraignment if intelligence can be conveyed to him by signs or symbols. If he pleads guilty, sentence may be passed forthwith; if he pleads not guilty, he is then given in charge to a jury of twelve men to inquire into the truth of the indictment. He may also plead in abatement, or to the jurisdiction, or demur on a point of law. Several defendants, except those entitled to the privilege of peerage, charged on the same indictment, are arraigned together.

In Scots law the term for arraignment is calling the diet. The Clerk of Arraigns is a subordinate officer attached to assize courts and to the Old Bailey. He is appointed by the clerk of assize (see AssizE) and acts as his deputy. He assists at the arraignment of prisoners, and puts the formal questions to the jury when delivering their verdict.

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