Arraignment and Plea

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The purpose of the arraignment is to make a public declaration of the charges against the accused and to inform the accused of the exact allegations before he decides on plea and election.[1]

An arraignment has three components:[2]

  1. calling the accused to the dock or bar;
  2. reading the charge to him; and
  3. asking for a plea.

On summary conviction offences, s. 801 directs the arraignment to occur at the appearance for trial:

801. (1) Where the defendant appears for the trial, the substance of the information laid against him shall be stated to him, and he shall be asked,

(a) whether he pleads guilty or not guilty to the information, where the proceedings are in respect of an offence that is punishable on summary conviction; or
(b) whether he has cause to show why an order should not be made against him, in proceedings where a justice is authorized by law to make an order.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 801; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 177, c. 1 (4th Supp.), s. 18(F); 1995, c. 22, s. 10.


Certain indictable offences will also require the reading of the election address as to mode of trial after the arraignment.[3]

Practice will vary on when the arraignment will happen. It can be at the first appearance, any subsequent appearance, or immediately before trial. In a jury trial, for example, the accused must be arraigned in front of the empanelled jury.

Other Notices
Other formalities required before plea, include informing the accused of his choice of language for trial.

  1. R v Carver, 2013 ABPC 51 (CanLII) at para 9
    R v Mitchell, 1997 CanLII 6321 (ON CA), (1997), 121 CCC (3d) 139 (Ont.C.A.) at para 27
  2. Carver, supra at para 8 citing Criminal Pleading and Practice in Canada, 2nd ed., Canada Law Book, at 14:0010
  3. s. 536(2)


See also: Crown Election and Defence Election

Under s. 536(2), where "an accused is before a justice charged with an indictable offence, other than an offence listed in section 469, and the offence is not one over which a provincial court judge has absolute jurisdiction under section 553" the accused shall have the choice of mode of trial being:

  1. trial by provincial court judge,
  2. trial by Supreme court Judge Alone, with or without a preliminary inquiry; and,
  3. trial by Supreme court Judge and Jury, with or without a preliminary inquiry.


There are only three types of pleas permitted:[1]

  1. plead guilty
  2. plead not guilty; or,
  3. special pleas authorized by Part XX

Pleas permitted
606 (1) An accused who is called on to plead may plead guilty or not guilty, or the special pleas authorized by this Part and no others.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 606; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 125; 2002, c. 13, s. 49; 2015, c. 13, s. 21.


  1. See s. 606(1)

Plea of Guilty

Plea of Not Guilty and Other Pleas

Refusal to Enter a Plea

Refusal to plead
(2) Where an accused refuses to plead or does not answer directly, the court shall order the clerk of the court to enter a plea of not guilty.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 606; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 125; 2002, c. 13, s. 49.


Where a defence election exists, and the accused refuses to enter an election, the judge may deem the election as electing to be tried by judge and jury with a preliminary inquiry. [1]

See Also