a legal document calling someone to court to answer an indictment
The formal charging of a defendant with an offense
Arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea. Acceptable pleas vary among jurisdictions, but they generally include "guilty", "not guilty", and the peremptory pleas setting out reasons why a trial cannot proceed. Pleas of "nolo contendere" and the "Alford plea" are allowed in some circumstances. In England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Australia, 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 charge. In federal courts of the United States, arraignment takes place in two stages. The first is called the initial arraignment and must take place within 48 hours of an individual's arrest, 72 hours if the individual was arrested on the weekend and not able to go before a judge until Monday. During this arraignment the defendant is informed of the pending legal charges and is informed of his or her right to retain counsel. The presiding judge also decides at what amount, if any, to set bail. During the second arraignment, a post-indictment arraignment or PIA, the defendant is allowed to enter a plea.