Reviewed by Sweta | Updated on Sep 30, 2020


An arraignment refers to court proceedings in which the defendant is charged and asked to enter a plea before a Court of law. The word ‘arraignment’ is derived from the French word ‘aresnier’, which means to speak or address in a reasonable manner. It refers to a pleading as ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ by the defendant.

‘Arraign’ also refers to calling someone before the court to answer against an accusation.

Understanding Arraignment

There are generally two types of court cases, namely, civil cases and criminal cases. A case generally moves through various stages before it is closed or concluded. Hearings are carried out, witnesses are heard, the evidence is presented before the court, and cross-examination of witnesses is done by both the parties. In all cases, there are two parties, namely the plaintiff and defendant.

In civil matters, it is the plaintiff who files a complaint against the defendant. The filing of a complaint is the first stage in a case. A copy of the complaint is then mailed to the defendant with a notice for appearing before the court.

At this juncture, both the defendant and plaintiff have an opportunity to close the case using an alternate dispute resolution mechanism (ADR). The ADR is an alternative to the regular trial proceedings before the court.

The courts can also dispose of the case summarily. In case the court proceeds with a trial, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove their claims. The court may consider the case prima facie and dispose of. If the court finds insufficient evidence presented, the court may decide the case against the plaintiff.

In criminal cases, there is a charge made by the plaintiff against the defendant. A notice of charges is framed against the defendant, followed by an arrest of the defendant. Unless the case involves a charge punishable with a fine or imprisonment for less than a year, the defendant can choose to be represented in a court.


An ‘arraignment’ occurs in an open court in the U.S. The defendant has to be present in the court before the judge and can ask for bail as per the law. The judge will also review the defendant’s history and background before passing the verdict. In case the defendant is denied bail, they are kept in custody till the disposal of the case.

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