Arraignment Law and Legal Definition

Arraignment is usually a criminal defendant's first appearance in court or before a judge on a criminal charge. At arraignment, the charges against the defendant will be read or the defendant will be asked if he/she is aware of the charges against them, and will be asked how they wish to plead. It is not a hearing to determine guilt or innocence.

If the accused remains in jail after their arrest, they must be brought before a judge for arraignment within 24-48 hours after arrest. The exact time limit varies though the U.S. Supreme Court now requires that if a person was arrested without a previously-issued warrant, they must be brought before a judge within 48 hours, so that a judge may determine whether there was probable cause for the arrest.

The following is an example of a statute governing waiver of arraignment:

"Rule 303.2 Waiver of Arraignment

The provisions of B.R.Crim.P. 303 and 303.1 notwithstanding, in all cases in which a defendant is charged with crime, other than murder, the defendant, if represented by counsel who has entered his appearance in writing, may enter a plea of "not guilty", or by notation on the information stands mute in the presence of counsel without appearing at arraignment court. Where a notation is made that the defendant stands mute, the clerk of courts shall enter a plea of "not guilty" on behalf of the defendant. Such plea or notation that the defendant stands mute may be entered in the district attorney's office at any time prior to 5:00 P.M. of a day preceding arraignment court, providing the defendant enters the plea of "not guilty" in writing upon the face of the information, or in the case where the defendant stands mute enters such notation in writing upon the face of the information, and that the attorney who has appeared for the defendant approves such action by likewise endorsing his name upon the information; and providing further that the defendant and his counsel sign a waiver of the right to arraignment; further, defendant shall be furnished documents required by the applicable Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure and defendant and his counsel shall execute a receipt therefore."