What is an Arraignment?

An arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal complaint, almost always in the presence of the defendant.

In North Carolina, arraignments vary by crime type. In the case of misdemeanors, a person is usually arraigned just once – immediately prior to either taking a plea or immediately prior to trial.

In the case of felonies, a person is usually arraigned at least twice. In North Carolina, the person will be arraigned within 48 hours of arrest. At this time, no plea is entered. The person will be arraigned, informed of his or her charges, informed of his or her right to a lawyer, and, if the person is still in custody, bond will be set by a judge.

After that arraignment, the person is free to leave court if the person has bonded out of jail. Or the person is returned to jail to await the next hearing.

If the person enters into a plea agreement or decides to go to trial, the person will be arraigned again, this time before the plea of guilty or not guilty is entered. Then either a plea colloquy will begin (in which the person answers questions before a judge who decides whether or not to accept to plea and how to sentence the person) or the trial begins.

Following indictment in felonies, the person typically can enter a Waiver of Arraignment (also called a stipulation or a “stip”) which is a way of avoiding the formal arraignment.

Since the arraignment lacks meaningful value in most cases, it’s usually waived to avoid unnecessary visits to the courthouse.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.