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Definition of Arraignment

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.

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