What happens at an arraignment?

After an arrest, a criminal charge goes forward in an arraignment. A defendant will appear at a hearing, or legal counsel may be able to appear on his or her behalf. In the state of Iowa, it is common for arraignments to take place entirely in writing.

Anyone facing criminal charges should familiarize themselves with the procedural significance of arraignment in the timeline of a criminal trial. Knowing what to expect can provide some important context for the information that you receive and how you respond to charges.

Recitation of charges and notice of rights

One key element of due process in this phase of prosecution is a notice of the charges against you. In reality, you will have probably already received notice of the specific crimes that the state is accusing you of in advance of an arraignment. The state will recite the charges in writing. The state must also advise you of certain rights such as the right to a trial by jury.


A formal arraignment is your first opportunity to enter a formal plea. If you plead guilty, all further trial proceedings will cease. If you enter a plea of not guilty, you have the right to a speedy trial. The court will set a trial date set for within a fixed length of time after the date of arraignment.

It is important to begin preparing for the next steps immediately after your hearing. Responsive and decisive action to criminal charges may help you avoid serious consequences.