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Arraignment is a common law term for the formal reading of a criminal indictment, in the presence of the defendant, to inform them of charges against them. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea[?]. Acceptable pleas vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but they generally include "guilty", "not guilty", and the peremptory pleas (or pleas in bar), which set out reasons why a trial cannot proceed. In addition, US jurisdictions allow pleas of "nolo contendere" (no contest) and the "Alford plea".

Guilty and Not Guilty Pleas If the defendant pleads guilty an evidentiary hearing usually follows. The court is not required to accept a guilty plea. During that hearing the judge will assess the offense, mitigating factors, and the defendant's character; and then pass sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date will be set for a preliminary hearing.

What if the Defendant Enters No Plea? In the past, a defendant who refused to plea (or, "stood mute") would be subjected to peine forte et dure. But today in all common law jurisdictions a defendant who refuses to enter a plea has a plea of not guilty entered for them on their behalf.

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure The US Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure[?] state: "...arraignment shall...[consist of an] open...reading [of] the indictment...to the defendant...and calling on him to plead thereto. He shall be given a copy of the indictment...before he is called upon to plead."

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