The arraignment is the formal process by which a criminal charge is reflected on someone's criminal record, and is for all intensive purposes, the first formal step in the Court process (with exceptions of course (show-cause hearings, grand jury proceedings, etc..). Even if a case is later dismissed, either outright or after a CWOF(continuation without a finding), it will still appear on someone's record if such record is run, and will reflect the appropriate disposition. For example if a case is disposed of by way of CWOF, and the case is later dismissed without any violations of probation (“VOP”) or in other terms, the individual complied with all their requirements while on probation (no new arrests, no positive drug test, etc.), the entry of the charge will still appear along with the CWOF acronym followed by a “DISM”, indicating dismissal. Once the entry is made, it can either by sealed by way of motion to the Court (5yr for misdemeanors, 10yr for felonies), or in the very rare and often unattainable circumstance of an expungement.
It is where the Court apprises the individual the nature of the charges being levied against them, any bail issues (such as revocation of bail; request by the prosecution for added cash bail, conditions of release, or the imposition of a “58A” hearing- to be held without bail for up to 120 days, among others…) and the next date of the case along with the nature of the proceeding the case is on for next.
There are many variations and terms associated with what the public believes to be the definition of a "clean record". It is very difficult to attain a result of a dismissal prior to arraignment and it is the result of a harmonious combination of prosecutorial discretion, Court approval, and the attorney's ability to fact gather and present the relevant and appropriate evidence. What this actually means in layperson's terms is that the case essentially is "wiped clean" by never appearing on the client's board of probation record. This type of disposition is possible under the right circumstances which would include the facts of the case; the procedural history of the charge, and any mitigating and/or exculpatory evidence that can be presented to the either the prosecution or the Court.
It is always important to get a qualified criminal attorney involved early enough in the process in order to be able to obtain such a disposition, such as the Office has been able to do.