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What is an Arraignment?

Finding yourself in trouble with the law can be an overwhelming and stressful experience, especially for those who have never had experience with the criminal justice system before and don't know what to expect. However, as a defendant, the State of Tennessee renders certain rights to you. A formal court proceeding called an arraignment addresses some of those concerns.

Our attorneys at Richards & Colburn have over 20 years of accumulated experience in criminal law matters and can help you understand the legal procedures involved in criminal cases. Here you'll learn what arraignment is, why it's an important step in the criminal justice system, and why you should make sure to have a team of experienced attorneys guide you through this process when faced with criminal charges.

What is an Arraignment?

Learning what arraignment is can help you understand your Sixth Amendment rights as a defendant. The arraignment process addresses several of those issues of defendant rights, including:

  • A public and speedy trial

  • Right to counsel from an attorney

  • Court-appointed attorney representation

  • Notice of accusation

A formal court process called an arraignment ensures that you are aware of these rights and provides a forum to make these rights accessible to you. For example, you have the right to be "informed of the nature and cause of the accusation." At the arraignment, the judge will read the charges against you, unless waived.

When Does Arraignment Occur?

When arraignments are scheduled depends on your circumstances. For example, if you were arrested and confined, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a right to a speedy trial. So a general session initial appearance (arraignment) are usually scheduled no later than 72 hours after you were officially arrested.

However, if you were arrested and then released or received a citation without confinement, the arraignment can be scheduled at any time. A speedy legal process is not an issue when you're not detained.

In criminal court the arraignment is the initial proceeding in front of the Criminal Court judge. You will receive a copy of the indictment which will contain the charges brought against you, the state’s witnesses and a pretrial scheduling order.

What to Expect at Arraignment

An arraignment is formal beginning of proceedings against you and is not a trial. In the state of Tennessee, a judge, the prosecutor, and a defense attorney would be present- if you've already secured counsel -but no jury or witnesses. You may have already gotten a written copy of the indictment or information about your charges before you were called for arraignment. However, a copy of the indictment will be provided and the judge will read the criminal charges against you to ensure you understand them, unless waived.

Normally, we waive a formal reading, enter a plea of not guilty and provide the court with the last four of your social security number and your date of birth and confirm who will be representing the state in the prosecution. We receive a pretrial scheduling order and give you a copy of all the dates you are expected to be at court. We normally file for discovery and then leave. Its very anticlimactic.

Let Richards & Colburn Law Help You Navigate Your Arraignment Process

Once you know what arraignment is and what to expect, it may put your mind at ease that participation in this process is required to help you understand and protect your rights as the defendant. If you find yourself charged with a crime, you don't have to navigate legal processes like arraignments alone. Contact the attorneys at Richards and Colburn so that we can advise you on the best course of action when faced with criminal charges.

Image credit: Elnur/ Shutterstock


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