Arraignment

Arraignment is a common law term for the formal reading of a criminal complaint, in the presence of the defendant, to inform him/her of the charges against him or her. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea. Acceptable pleas vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but they generally include "guilty", "not guilty", and the peremptory pleas (or pleas in bar), which set out reasons why a trial cannot proceed. In addition, US jurisdictions allow pleas of "nolo contendere" (no contest) and the "Alford plea" 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.

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 that hearing the judge will assess the offense, mitigating factors, and the defendant's character; and then pass sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date will be set for a preliminary hearing or 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"). But today in all common law jurisdictions, defendants who refuse to enter a plea will have a plea of not guilty entered for them on their behalf.

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

The US "Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure" state: "...arraignment shall... [consist of an] open...reading [of] the indictment...to 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."


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  • arraignment — I noun accusation, accusation in court, allegation of criminal wrongdoing, crimination through law enforcement, delation by criminal charges, formal accusal, imputation from criminal proceeding, incrimination, inculpation by prosecution, judicial …   Law dictionary

  • Arraignment — Ar*raign ment, n. [Cf. OF. arraynement, aresnement.] 1. (Law) The act of arraigning, or the state of being arraigned; the act of calling and setting a prisoner before a court to answer to an indictment or complaint. [1913 Webster] 2. A calling to …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • arraignment — (n.) mid 15c., from O.Fr. araisnement, from araisnier (see ARRAIGN (Cf. arraign)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • arraignment — [n] accusation bill of indictment, charge, citation, denunciation, impeachment, indictment, prosecution, summons, trial; concept 54 Ant. acquittal …   New thesaurus

  • arraignment — n. 1) (legal) to hold an arraignment for 2) a public arraignment * * * [ə reɪnmənt] (legal) to hold an arraignment for a public arraignment …   Combinatory dictionary

  • arraignment — [[t]əre͟ɪnmənt[/t]] arraignments N VAR Arraignment is when someone is brought before a court of law to answer a particular charge. [LEGAL] Keating and his associates are scheduled for arraignment October 5th... Crowds appeared at the arraignments …   English dictionary

  • arraignment — /euh rayn meuhnt/, n. 1. an act of arraigning or the state of being arraigned. 2. a calling into question or a finding fault, esp. with respect to the value or virtue of something; critical examination. [1400 50; late ME arainement < MF… …   Universalium

  • arraignment — /ahreynmant/ Procedure whereby the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge against him in the indictment or information. The charge is read to him and he is asked to plead guilty or not guilty or, where permitted, nolo …   Black's law dictionary

  • arraignment — /ahreynmant/ Procedure whereby the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge against him in the indictment or information. The charge is read to him and he is asked to plead guilty or not guilty or, where permitted, nolo …   Black's law dictionary

  • arraignment — arraign ► VERB ▪ call before a court to answer a criminal charge. DERIVATIVES arraignment noun. ORIGIN Old French araisnier, from Latin ad to + ratio reason, account …   English terms dictionary

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