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Arraignment is usually the first in-person event for criminal proceedings in district court.

At arraignment, the clerk will call the defendant’s name and ask him to step forward. If the defendant is sitting in the dock, he’ll be asked to stand up.

The clerk will then read the case name and docket number. Following the docket number, the clerk will read the charges against the defendant.

If the defendant is represented by counsel, the defense counsel can “waive the reading of the charges.” This means that the defense counsel can ask the clerk to refrain from stating, in open court, what crimes the defendant is being charged with.

According to Rule 7(b)(1)(A) of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure, on arraignment day,

The court shall read the charges to the defendant in open court, except that the reading of the charges in open court may be waived by the defendant if he or she is represented by counsel.

Although most clerks require the attorney to waive the reading only after the docket number has been read, some clerks will allow the attorney to waive the reading before the case is even called. In such cases, the attorney will approach the clerk before the courtroom is open to the public and request that he or she waive the reading.

Waiving the reading can save the defendant from at least some of the stress and embarrassment that he may experience during his first appearance in court.