Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Arraignment Definition:

The formal appearance of an accused person to hear, and to receive a copy of, the charge against him or her, in the presence of a judge, and to then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
An arraignment is a proceeding at which an accused enters a plea to a charged offense, including pleas of not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty, or no contest.1

Normally, the process of an arraignment consists of calling the name of the accused or defendant, reading the indictment or information against him/her and seeking from the accused whether he or she wishes to plead, not guilty or guilty, and formally entering that plea on the court record.2

Baie-Comeau courtroomCanadian criminal law specialist Roger Salhany wrote:

"The arraignment of the accused involves the calling of the accused to the bar of that court to plead to the charge made against him.... The procedure generally followed is that the clerk of the court will call the accused by name to appear before the presiding judge. He will then read the charges set out in the indictment or information to the accused and ask him to plead (guilty or not guilty) to each count....

"If he pleads guilty, the court will then enter a conviction against the accused. However, if he pleads not guilty or refuses to plead, then the court must proceed to enter a plea of not guilty and proceed with the trial."

In R v Morin, Justice Ritchie of Canada's Supreme Court adopted these words:

"Arraignment. — The arraignment of prisoners, against whom true bills for indictable offences have been found by the grand jury, consists of three parts: first, calling the prisoner to the bar by name; secondly, reading the indictment to him; thirdly, asking him whether he be guilty or not of the offence charged.

"It was formerly the practice to require the prisoner to hold up his hand, the more completely to identify him as the person named in the indictment, but the ceremony, which was never essentially necessary, is now disused; and the ancient form of asking him how he will be tried is also obsolete."


  • R. v Morin, 18 S.C.R. 407 (1890). Citing Archbold Pleading and Evidence in Criminal Cases, 20th ed., p. 158.
  • Salhany, Roger E., Canadian Criminal Procedure, 6th Edition (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 2010), p. 6-49, ¶6.1650 and ¶7.480.
  • State v. Miller, 182 P. 3d 158 (Justice Wechsler of the Court of Appeals of New Mexico, 2008 - NOTE 1)
  • Yodock v. United States, 97 F. Supp. 307 (United States District Court, Pennsylvania, 1951, NOTE 2)

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