Arraignment is the process when a person accused of an offence is read the charge/s (the indictment) and asked to formally enter a plea, either of guilty or not guilty, to each matter charged. Arraignments in New South Wales are governed by the Criminal Procedure Act 1983.
When Does An Arraignment Take Place?
Arraignment only occurs for indictable matters (matters dealt with in the District or Supreme Court) and does not occur in the Local Court. Arraignment will proceed once the matter has been committed to either the District or Supreme Court.
The charges may be read by the Judge or the Judge’s Associate. As each charge is read aloud to the accused, they will be asked to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. This will proceed until each charge has been read, and a formal plea entered.
If the accused pleads not guilty at arraignment, then a trial date will normally be set.
If the accused enters a plea of guilty to any of the charges at arraignment, then the matter will be either adjourned for sentence following the trial for any matters that they have pleaded not guilty to, or otherwise listed for a sentence. If the accused refuses to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, or “stands mute” (does not say anything), the court has the power to enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of the accused and the plea will have the same effect as if the accused had themselves entered the plea.
Can I Represent Myself?
A person charged with criminal offences has the right to represent themselves. However, the matters that proceed in the District or Supreme Courts are serious and can often be complex. For this reason, should an individual not be legally represented at arraignment, the Judge may adjourn the matter to ensure that the accused has had the opportunity to obtain legal advice and/or representation before entering a formal plea. This is particularly likely to occur if it appears that the accused is inadequately prepared or if there are complex legal issues involved.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.