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Arraignment: Purpose & Laws

Instructor: Vericia Miller
In this lesson, you will learn more about the arraignment procedure during the court process. You will learn more about why they exist and why it is a significant piece of the process.

Arraignment: What is it?

The criminal justice system is made up of three components: Courts, Corrections, and Prisons. For this lesson, we'll mainly focus on the court component. When someone is arrested, they are not immediately sent or transferred to prison. There is a process by which the defendant must go through before getting to the sentencing phase.

After a defendant is arrested, booked, and a bail appearance is completed, the defendant will then be arraigned. The arraignment is a hearing in which the defendant is formally charged, their rights read, and a court appointed attorney assigned if the defendant doesn't already have one. Also, during the arraignment, the defendant can plead either guilty or not guilty of the crime they are being charged with. The defendant has a choice of three ways in which to plead. He/she can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. No contest is an alternative to actually pleading guilty or not guilty. Basically, the defendant is saying that he/she does not wish to contend, meaning not going to admit or deny guilt. Though there's no formal pleading on the defendant's part, a no contest plea is often times viewed as a guilty plea. After the plea, the judge will give the defendant information about upcoming court dates.

The American criminal justice system is adversarial in nature, meaning, there will always be one side vs. the other. In this case, a prosecutor will always go up against the defense--both sides attempting to prove their case, thus the adversarial system. The court process is very important, as its purpose is to prevent unjust treatment of an alleged offender, particularly one who may be innocent. The process allows for a sort of checks and balances, which ensures that during each phase of the process, defendants are aware of their rights and receiving the services needed to protect them against mistreatment.

Every jurisdiction differs on time frame by which an arraignment must occur. The Supreme Court ruled that arraignments must occur within 48 hours of the arrest; however, some jurisdictions have a 72-hour rule.

Arraignments and the 6th Amendment

With each Bill of Right, the Sixth Amendment included, there are multiple rights covered. Based on the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, all citizens have the right to an attorney if they cannot afford one. You have the right to be informed of the charges against you and you have the right to a speedy trial. It is during the first appearance or the arraignment that the judge covers most of these areas. As stated, you do have the right to a speedy trial, but how fast you actually go before a jury will depend on the jurisdiction. Though the Sixth Amendment does mandate certain rights, it does not state that this has to be done during the arraignment. However, this happens to be the phase during the court process where the Sixth Amendment is either fully or partially covered.

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