Arrest, Indictment And Arraignment

Understanding Criminal Law Procedure

If you’ve never had exposure to the criminal justice system before, it’s easy to become confused about the various steps that are required as you move through the process. Gaining some familiarity with each step, including arrest, indictment and arraignment, and how it leads to the next can help provide a framework so you know to some degree what to expect.


If you’re charged with a federal crime, you will likely hear the word “indictment” at some point. An indictment is a document that states what crime you’re being charged with and is issued by a grand jury after it has reviewed the evidence against you and decided there is enough evidence to proceed with an arrest. You can be indicted without even knowing you’re being investigated by a federal agency like the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the IRS or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).


When law enforcement officials take you into custody on the basis of a federal indictment or evidence of probable cause for state criminal charges, this is an arrest. If an officer simply questions you without arresting you or pulls you over for a lawful stop, you are under no obligation to stay and may simply leave. But if you are presented with formal charges, you are required to comply or face additional charges for resisting arrest. Once you’ve been arrested, you will be taken to jail to be booked. This is the point where it becomes crucial to have a defense attorney on your side who can help negotiate bail and serve as your representative in detention hearings, among other things.


Once you’ve been arrested, you are required to show up at an arraignment, where you will be presented with the charges against you and will have to enter your plea: guilty, not guilty or no contest. If you plead guilty or no contest, your case will proceed to sentencing. If you plead not guilty, however, your attorney will then begin building your defense against the state or federal charges that you face.

Contact Your Arrest Defense Attorney

If you’ve been arrested on state or federal charges, you’re in a serious situation that you shouldn’t try to handle alone. The sooner you have a criminal defense lawyer working on your behalf, the better protected your rights and future will be. To speak with an attorney at Bellwoar Kelly, LLP in West Chester, Pennsylvania, call 610-314-7066 or reach out online today.