What is an arraignment?

Updated: May 31

Linn County Courthouse at dawn

When a prosecutor submits, and a judge approves a trial information, or, criminal lawsuit, in Iowa, the Defendant must answer to the charge. This answer is called arraignment. This is usually the third court date after initial appearance and preliminary hearing.

The defendant may have the trial information read to him or her or waive formal reading. The Judge will certainly want to know if a Defendant demands or waives so-called “Speedy Trial,” the right to have a case tried within 90 days of the date of the filing of the trial information unless good cause is otherwise shown by the prosecutor.

In some cases, a Defendant may waive presence and submit a “written arraignment and plea of not guilty” that indicates a Not Guilty plea and either waiver or demand of the above mentioned speedy trial right.

While lawyers treat arraignments as mere formalities, it’s important to point out that those unfamiliar with the process are entitled to know the official, formal charge against them. The arraignment is the court date for this very purpose.

Until the filing of the trial information, or, indictment, against the Defendant, there was only a “complaint” against them by a law enforcement officer swearing that they had probable cause to believe the Defendant committed the crime. The State has 45 days from initial appearance to file a trial information to satisfy the speedy indictment rule, unless good cause is otherwise shown by the prosecutor.

After the filing of a trial information and its approval by a judge, the elected prosecutor of the jurisdiction where the crime was alleged and, more importantly, the judge have decided there is enough to the accusation to force a jury trial. In Iowa, by approving a trial information, the judge has found that, without rebuttal by the Defendant, a jury is likely to conclude that the Defendant will be found guilty.

If you or a loved one have been arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community or county, contact us for a free initial consultation. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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