If you or someone you know has been arrested on a  federal criminal charge, you know that everything seems to happen very quickly.  Typically, in the days after the arrest,  a criminal defendant must attend an arraignment.

What is an arraignment?

An arraignment is a relatively short proceeding in which the prosecutor informs the defendant of the criminal charges against the defendant and the defendant enters a plea—guilty or not guilty—to the charges.  The arraignment is heard before a Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court.

Pursuant to Rule 10, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,  the arraignment must be conducted in open court and consist of “(1) ensuring that the defendant has a copy of the indictment or information; (2) reading the indictment or information to the defendant or stating to the defendant the substance of the charge; and then (3) asking the defendant to plead to the indictment or information.”

It is important to note that no witnesses testify at the arraignment.  Likewise, there is no evidence presented.  The arraignment is simply a procedural hearing to ensure that the defendant is fully informed of the charges and to provide the defendant with an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.

The arraignment is usually a quick hearing.  Defense counsel will typically meet with the defendant prior to the arraignment to review the indictment and to discuss the implications of how and whether to enter a plea of guilty versus a plea of  guilty.  Defense counsel commonly waive the reading of the indictment.  Most defendants choose to enter a plea of not guilty and invoke their speedy trial rights.  (A defendant can change his or her plea to guilty at a later point in the case—but that’s another topic for another day.)  After the defendant enters a plea, the Court sets a trial date and any appropriate pre-trial deadlines.

At Beggs & Lane, our attorneys have decades of experience in federal court proceedings.   Please contact us if you would like to discuss further.


By: Matthew P. Massey, Esq.

Beggs & Lane’s White Collar Criminal Defense and Internal Investigations Group is led by former First Assistant United States Attorney David McGee.  The Group includes Gregory R. Miller, a former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida; Charles T. Wiggins, a Board-Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and former criminal prosecutor with the Office of the State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit of Florida; and Matthew P. Massey, a former Assistant United States Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.