Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Arraignment


Quick Summary of Arraignment

A court appearance in which the defendant is formally charged with a crime and asked to respond by pleading guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. Other matters often handled at the arraignment are arranging for the appointment of a lawyer to represent the defendant and the setting of bail.

What is the dictionary definition of Arraignment?

Dictionary Definition

  1. legal The formal charging of a defendant with an offence.
  2. a legal document calling someone to court to answer an indictment

n. the hearing in which a person charged with a crime is arraigned in his or her first appearance before a judge. This is the initial appearance of a criminal defendant (unless continued from an earlier time) in which all the preliminaries are taken care of.

Full Definition of Arraignment

Arraignment is a common-law term for the formal reading of a criminal complaint, in the presence of the defendant, to inform him of the charges against him. 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.

The arraignment, also called preliminary hearing or initial appearance, is the formal proceeding where the defendant is read their criminal charges. At the arraignment, the defendant must enter a plea which can include not guilty, guilty, no contest, or the peremptory plea, which means there are reasons a trial cannot proceed. At the arraignment, the defendant will be asked if they have a lawyer or they need a court-appointed lawyer. The court will also decide on bail or whether the defendant will be released on their own recognizance. The court will also notify the defendant of all future proceedings such as the preliminary hearing, pretrial motions and the trial date.

If you have not had the time to talk to your lawyer before the arraignment you generally should plead not guilty which simply means you do not want to give up any of your constitutional rights at this time. Pleading not guilty will allow you time to find legal counsel and talk to a lawyer. Pleading not guilty does not have any impact on the final outcome of your case.

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 the sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date will be set for a preliminary hearing or trial.

What if the defendant enters no plea?

In the past, a defendant who refused to plea (or, “stood mute”) would be subjected to peine forte et dure. 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.”

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Arraignment. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
December 08, 2022
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Arraignment. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: December 08, 2022).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Arraignment. Retrieved December 08, 2022
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Arraignment are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 26th November, 2021 | 0 Views.