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I've been arrested and accused of a crime and I have to go to court for an arraignment. What should I expect at an arraignment in Virginia?

The term arraignment is a general criminal law term which means different things in different states, and even means different things in different courts within a given state. 

Procedurally, in Virginia the term "arraignment" is commonly used to refer to the first appearance an accused will make before the Court.  If the accused is held in jail after being arrested, the arraignment in Virginia (first appearance) usually takes place the next day the court is open.  In some jurisdictions, the inmates are brought over to the courthouse for the arraignment, and more commonly arraignments are being done via video conferencing with the inmates remaining at the jail.  On the other hand, if the accused is released from custody, by being released on his or her own recognizance, by posting bail or by using the services of a bail bond agent, the arraignment is typically scheduled for several days later. 

Substantively, this sort of first appearance arraignment in Virginia is a brief administrative hearing at which the Court will typically: 

  • inform the accused of the allegation / accusation 
  • make sure the accused understands the allegation / accusation 
  • inform the accused of the right to be represented by a lawyer 
  • ask whether the accused plans to hire an attorney of his / her own choosing, request the court to appoint the Public Defender or a private court appointed attorney, or proceed without the assistance of an attorney
  • inform the accused of the next court date  

In many Virginia Circuit Courts the term arraignment is used in the more formal sense to describe the stage of a criminal case at which the accused is formally advised of the charge and asked to enter either a guilty or not guilty plea.  In some Virginia jurisdictions, this arraignment process occurs immediately before the trial is scheduled to begin, and in other Virginia jurisdictions it happens much earlier in the process and further proceedings are scheduled depending upon the particular plea which is entered by the accused.

If you have been accused of a DUI / DWI, Criminal or Traffic offense in Virginia and have a question about an arraignment or some other aspect of your case, call The Wilson Law Firm at 703-361-6100 or 540-347-4944 and our knowledgeable, experienced and successful Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic Defense Lawyer(s) will be happy to discuss the arraignment process and other matters of Virginia DUI / DWI, Criminal & Traffic defense with you in more detail.