In Texas, an arraignment is a court hearing that occurs after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime. The purpose of the arraignment is to formally notify the defendant of the charges against them, advise them of their legal rights, and allow them to enter a plea.
During the arraignment, the defendant will be brought before a judge, who will read the charges against them and ask how they plead. There are three possible pleas:
Guilty - The defendant admits to the charges and waives their right to a trial.
Not Guilty - The defendant denies the charges and requests a trial.
No Contest (also known as nolo contendere) - The defendant neither admits nor denies the charges but agrees to accept the punishment.
It's important to note that the arraignment is not a trial. Rather, it's a procedural step in the criminal justice process. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be set for trial at a later date. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, the judge may sentence them immediately or set a sentencing hearing for a later date.
In addition to entering a plea, the arraignment is also an opportunity for the defendant to have their legal rights explained to them. These rights include the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, and the right to a fair trial.
If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for them. The defendant will also be informed of their right to a jury trial, although they may choose to waive this right and have a bench trial instead (where the judge decides the case).
In summary, an arraignment in Texas is a court hearing where a defendant is formally notified of the charges against them, advised of their legal rights, and given the opportunity to enter a plea. It's an important step in the criminal justice process that sets the stage for the rest of the proceedings.