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What Is an Arraignment?

When a person is considered suspect to a number of offenses or charges, it is necessary that the person be made known of such charges brought against him or her. The formal reading of such charges is referred to as an arraignment.

The purpose of the arraignment is to inform exactly what violations or offenses were supposedly committed by the individual. This does not automatically mean that the person is guilty; rather, it provides the person the opportunity to address charges in the form of a plea.

There is no standard format for an arraignment. However, there is a general guide followed when producing one. First, the accused individual is called by his or her name. Second, the charges brought against the person are recited one by one, including the date, time, and place where such charges were said to have been committed. And third, the accused person is asked to respond in the form of a plea. This plea may be guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere, or an Alford plea in some circumstances.

An arraignment can take place on several stages if it is to be done within the system of a higher court. The US District Court provides for 2 stages of an arraignment. The first stage is the initial arraignment wherein the reading of charges occurs within 48 hours of the person’s arrest, while the post-indictment arraignment is when the person accused is asked to enter a plea. However, other courts apply a single stage of arraignment wherein the charges are read and the accused is asked to enter a plea after.

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