What is a district court arraignment?

An arraignment in district court is the first step of the formal legal process after a person has been charged with a crime. When a person has been criminally charged, they are brought in front of a judge in district court. An arraignment takes place for misdemeanors and felonies. Every person has the right to an attorney at this stage in the legal process.

The judge will usually begin by confirming that the court has the appropriate personal information for the person accused, including name, date of birth, address, and phone number. Next, the judge will read from—or sometimes summarize—the complaint. The complaint is a document that lists the criminal charges being brought against the person. This includes where the alleged crime happened, the date it happened, and a brief description of the offense. The complaint also explains the maximum penalty for the criminal charges. After the judge reads out loud from the complaint, the judge will ask the person if he or she understands the criminal charges and the potential penalty. The person should simply answer this question and avoid saying anything on the record about the case.

The judge will then ask the person, or their attorney, to enter a plea on the matter. The three options are a plea of guilty, a plea of not guilty or standing mute to the charge. If a person chooses to stand mute, a plea of not guilty will be entered. Once this step is complete, the judge will determine the bond conditions. Bond is what allows the person to not have to stay in jail pending the resolution of the criminal matter. Click here to learn more about what factors the judge considers when determining bond.