Arraignments for DUI in Manassas

An arraignment in a Manassas DUI case is when an individual is called upon to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges that they have in their case. As a practical matter, the hearing that is called an arraignment in the General District Court is actually a time where the court is going to advise the individual that they have a right to have an attorney represent them, and ask them how they want to proceed.

The actual arraignment in a district court case does not typically occur until right before the trial is going to begin. In Circuit Court, it is somewhat different because it is a more formal court and the proceedings are more formal.

Typically, an arraignment will take place at a separate hearing where the individual will be called upon to plead guilty or not guilty and at that time, regardless of what they choose, the Circuit Court judge is going to ask a number of questions to determine whether the plea that is being made is given knowingly, as well as voluntarily.

Importance of the Arraignment

The arraignment is an important part in the process where an individual is going to make a decision about whether they want to move forward with the trial and require the Commonwealth to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, or whether they wish to plead guilty and are going to attempt to provide mitigation to the court as to why they should not receive a harsher punishment.

Because this is a complicated determination that has a number of far-reaching consequences, what someone should do at an arraignment is a choice that they should only ever make after having consulted with an experienced attorney.

Arraignment Process

At a Manassas arraignment, an individual will be called upon to plead guilty or not guilty to whatever they have been charged with. This is what happens at a formal arraignment.

There are some preliminary hearings in the General District Court, which are called arraignments, and are actually something more like an advisement where an individual will simply be told that they have a right to have an attorney and ask what they want to do in regards to that.

An individual needs to appear at an arraignment because an arraignment is in fact a court hearing and an individual is expected to appear at all court hearings. If they do not, they are potentially subject to arrest or subject to having their bond revoked.

In addition, there is typically important information that is received at the arraignment as well as important choices that may need to be made.

Between Arrest and Arraignment

Between the time of the DUI arrest and the arraignment—and particularly immediately following the arrest—the individual will be brought before a magistrate and formally charged with the DUI. Typically, they will also be held in jail for a period of hours until they have sobered up, but between that time and the time that the case comes to court for arraignment, there is nothing official that occurs.

Setting Bail

Manassas judges do set high bail in certain types of DUI cases. For felony DUI cases, judges in some circumstances will hold an individual without bail. If they do set bail, then they may set it fairly high.

But for first or even second DUI offenses, bail is not typically set high and, in many cases, a person will be released on their own recognizance.

The Different Possible Pleas

There are three potential pleas that a person can make. The first is not guilty. The consequence of a not-guilty plea is going to be that the matter will be tried. Sometimes, it is tried at the same time and date where the not-guilty plea is made. In other circumstances, it is continued to the future for trial.

When an individual pleads guilty, they are acknowledging that they did in fact commit the crime they are charged with, and they are waiving a number of important rights. This includes the right to confront and cross examine witnesses, to have the judge hear the case, to testify—although no one could have compelled them to testify—and the right to defend themselves and the right to remain silent.

Pleading guilty is going to mean that the person is conceding the case and that the only issue that remains for the judge to determine is punishment.

The final possibility for a plea is what is called no contest or sometimes referred to as nolo contendere. This is a plea where the individual is telling the court that they understand that they have been charged with something, but that they do not wish to mount a defense.

Under Manassas law, for every purpose, a no-contest charge is identical in every way to a plea of guilty and has all of the same consequences.

A Manassas Attorney’s Role

An attorney can help at an arraignment by helping their client to understand the choices that they have to make at an arraignment, which typically include whether to plead guilty in the case or to plead not guilty.

Each of those choices has consequences and a number of factors that go into them that only an attorney can help someone properly evaluate.