I just got arrested for DWI. What happens next?
When you were released you should have been given a date to return to court. This will be for arraignment. Arraignment in Virginia’s general district court is a pretty simple process. The judge must tell you that:
- you have a right to an attorney (because the State is seeking to jail you),
- if you cannot afford an attorney and you qualify financially, an attorney will be appointed for you
- if you want to hire a private attorney, you will be given some time to find and hire an attorney
What do I say when the judge asks me if I am guilty or not guilty?
The judge should not ask if you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. In the odd case that he does, just say “not guilty your honor.”
Do I have to go to arraignment if I already have an attorney?
As a general rule, always assume that you MUST go to court. Your bond depends on you showing up!
With that said, most courts in Virginia take the sensible position that if you already have an attorney, you don’t need to go to court to hear that you have a right to an attorney!
When retained, we will fax a letter to court (1) saying that you are represented, and (2) asking for a trial date. With most courts, we will hear back from the clerk that you do not need to come for arraignment. Then, we call you to let you know. If you call the office, we will let you know if the court you’re in requires an appearance.
If I’m required to appear, will you come with me?
Once your name is called, your arraignment will usually take about 30 seconds. If you are the third or fourth person in a row to be arraigned, some judges just ask “public defender or hire your own?” since you’ve already heard the spiel for the last three defendants. Most people do not need an attorney for the 30 seconds that arraignment takes. If you are still not sure, ask us and we will arrange for an attorney to be there.
TIPS for arraignment:
Always plan to arrive early. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, on your court date – extra heavy traffic, lack of parking at the courthouse, long lines to get through the metal detector just to name a few. If you’re late, the judge can charge you with another crime. It happens.
Don’t take your cell phone or other electronics into court. With a few exceptions, you will not be allowed to take a cell phone or other electronic device into a court. Some courts have lockers for phones, but most deputies will send you back to your car. WARNING: the locals will know all the favorite “hiding places” where people try to stash their phones!
Check the docket for your name once in the courthouse. Ask the deputy when you go through the metal detector where the “docket” or court schedule is posted. Deputies are usually very helpful. Check for your name and that you are in the proper courtroom.
Relax. You are in court and on time.