ARRAIGNMENT (from Lat. ad, to, and rationare, to reason, call to account), a law term, properly denoting the calling of a person to answer in form of law upon an indictment. After a true bill has been found against a prisoner by the grand jury, he is called by name to the bar, the indictment is read over to him, and he is asked whether he be guilty or not of the offence charged. This is the arraignment. Formerly, it was usual to require the prisoner to hold up his hand, in order to identify him the more completely, but this practice is now obsolete, as well as that of asking him how he will be tried. His plea in answer to the charge is then entered, or a plea of not guilty is entered for him if he stands mute of malice and refuses to plead, If a person is mute by the visitation of God (i.e. deaf and dumb), it will be no bar to an arraignment if intelligence can be conveyed to him by signs or symbols. If he pleads guilty, sentence may be passed forthwith; if he pleads not guilty, he is then given in charge to a jury of twelve men to inquire into the truth of the indictment. He may also plead in abatement, or to the jurisdiction, or demur on a point of law. Several defendants, except those entitled to the privilege of peerage, charged on the same indictment, are arraigned together.
In Scots law the term for arraignment is calling the diet.
The Clerk of Arraigns is a subordinate officer attached to assize courts and to the Old Bailey. He is appointed by the clerk of assize (see Assize) and acts as his deputy. He assists at the arraignment of prisoners, and puts the formal questions to the jury when delivering their verdict.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)