An arraignment is a pretrial process. It is to tell the defendants of the charges and what their legal rights are. Arraignments make sure the defendant has an attorney if needed, enter a plea and set a date for the trial.
Rule 14 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure outlines the process of an arraignment as a pretrial procedure.
Arraignments have time limits. It must take place no later than 10 days after the date of a filing for a defendant in custody. For a defendant who is not in custody, the arraignment must happen no later than 30 days after a filing.
A few exceptions for this are:
- Defendant is not yet arrested or is in custody somewhere else
- The defense counsel enters a not guilty plea
- The court allows a defendant to enter a not guilty plea by mail
The defendant must appear before the court personally or by video. The defendant can waive his or her appearance by filing a written waiver at least two days before the arraignment. After filing a waiver, the defendant has 20 days after the arraignment to submit a notarized affidavit stating he or she is aware of the court dates. By signing the document, the defendant understands that by not appearing at the sentencing, he or she may lose the right to a direct appeal.
It is typical that several people have their time set for the same day. So, although the appearance does not take much time, the defendant’s wait time may take a while.
The arraignment usually only takes a matter of minutes, but it covers several items:
- Entering of the defendant’s plea; usually a not guilty plea
- Deciding the conditions of release, if any
- Setting the date for trial or a pretrial conference
- Informing the defendant of his or her rights
- Appointing an attorney if needed
- Ordering the fingerprinting of a defendant
The main purpose of an arraignment is to make the defendant aware of the charges against him or her. It gives a person the chance to understand his or her rights of the criminal process.