In every criminal matter, a defendant has a constitutional right to Arraignment. An Arraignment is a Court hearing wherein the defendant is advised of the nature and cause of the accusations against him and receives a copy of the charging document. In general, Arraignment is a defendant's first appearance in Court on the filed charges.

At Arraignment, the charging document (Indictment, Information, Complaint, etc.) will be read to the defendant (unless reading is waived), and a copy of the document will be given to the defendant if he has not already received one. Additionally, the Court will inform the defendant that he has the following rights:

  • The right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury in the county where the crime is alleged to have been committed;
  • The right to remain silent before and during trial, and the right to refuse to testify against himself;
  • The right at trial to hear and question the witnesses who testify against him;
  • The right at trial to testify and to have witnesses testify for him, and that these witnesses can be made to appear at no expense to him;
  • That he is presumed innocent unless the charge is proven beyond a reasonable doubt or he enters a plea of guilty; and
  • The right to appeal a finding of guilt after a trial.

A defendant also has a right to be represented by counsel, and if he cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed by the Court at no expense to him. If a defendant appears without counsel at arraignment, the Court must inform the defendant of his right to have counsel before being arraigned.

A defendant will usually be asked to enter a plea at Arraignment, and usually the defendant will enter a not guilty plea.

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