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What is an Arraignment in Virginia?


Arraignment - Your First Court Date

In a Virginia criminal case the first court date you are given is your arraignment, also sometimes referred to as an advisement depending on the jurisdiction you are charged in.

This court date is listed on the paperwork given to you by the officer that looks like a traffic ticket, or on the paperwork given to you by the magistrate if you were arrested and given a bond by a magistrate at the local jail.

Arraignments work the same for both misdemeanor charges in Virginia as well as felony charges in Virginia. 


What happens at an Arraignment?

The purpose of an arraignment is to:

(1) Formally explain to you what you have been charged with; and

(2) Tell you that the charges you are facing carry the possibility of jail time; and

(3) Ask you if you plan to hire a lawyer, represent yourself, or see if you qualify for a public defender or court appointed attorney; and

(4) *Give you your next court date.

*If you choose to represent yourself and waive your right to a lawyer, or are appointed a lawyer by the court, the next court date you will be given will most likely be a trial date.

If you inform the court that you plan to hire a lawyer you will most likely be given an attorney review date.


What is an Attorney Review Date?

If you plan to hire an attorney the court will give you time to do so, and will normally set an Attorney Review Date. This is the date by which you must have hired an attorney and that attorney must have filed paperwork informing the court that he or she has been retained to represent you.

If you have hired a lawyer and they have notified the court of it then you normally do not need to appear at the Attorney Review Date. However, you must confirm with your attorney whether you need to go to court for any and all hearings.

Note: Every jurisdiction is different, and if you fail to appear in court you may get fined or even charged with an additional offense for Failing to Appear (FTA) which can carry the possibility of jail time.


What If I Have Not Hired An Attorney Before My Attorney Review Date?

If you have failed to hire an attorney by your attorney review date you must go to court on that date yourself. When your case is called you will need to explain to the judge why you have not hired an attorney yet.

The judge will normally expect you to arrive prepared to explain the steps you have taken to hire an attorney - be prepared to show your diligent efforts.  

If you show up to the Attorney Review Date without having hired a lawyer you must do one of three things:

(1) Ask for more time to hire a lawyer, (which the judge may or may not grant, this is completely based on his discretion);

(2) Ask for the court to appoint you a lawyer; or

(3) Waive your right to a lawyer, in writing.


Is There a Benefit to Hiring a Lawyer Before Your Arraignment?

If you have hired an attorney before your arraignment court date, your lawyer will normally be able to waive your presence at the arraignment - meaning you will not have to go to that court date.*

*Each Jurisdiction has different local policies on this, so it is important to confirm with your lawyer if you will have to appear in court or not.


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