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Virginia Arraignment & Attorney Dates Addressed by Fairfax Criminal Lawyer

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Virginia arraignment and attorney review date basics addressed by Fairfax criminal lawyer

Virginia arraignment and attorney review dates are critical to correctly calendar and follow. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that Northern Virginia courts ordinarily excuse a criminal and DUI defendant’s appearance at such court dates so long as a lawyer timely files his or her appearance with the court. Nonetheless, I see so numerous unrepresented Virginia criminal defendants get bench warrants / capias orders for their arrest for failure to appear at such court dates, on top of a new misdemeanor charge for failing to appear.

Do I have a Virginia arraignment that I need to attend?

Your first court date may or may not be a Virginia arraignment, which is a date on which the judge advises the criminal defendant of the names of the offenses charged against him or her, asks whether the defendant plans to obtain a retained lawyer or to apply for a court appointed lawyer, and tells the defendant his or her next court date. If you are charged by warrant of arrest, you may ask the magistrate whether the first court date is an arraignment, trial date or preliminary hearing date. If you are charged by summons, you may ask that question of the issuing law enforcement / police officer. A qualified lawyer knowledgable about such calendaring can also answer that question. The court clerk may or may not have the correct answer.

Where do I find my upcoming Virginia criminal or DUI court date?

Your upcoming Virginia arraignment or other criminal or DUI court date will be listed on your summons (if charged by summons rather than warrant of arrest) and on your recognizance if charged by a warrant of arrest. Your court date will also eventually appear online on the General District Court’s online docketing system if your case is prosecuted in that court.

What is a Virginia attorney review date?

In the Fairfax and Arlington courts, for instance, it is common for the judge at the Virginia arraignment date to set an attorney review date, where the Virginia criminal defendant will need to appear if s/he does not yet have a lawyer, and to report his or her progress in obtaining a lawyer. Virginia criminal defendants are permitted to defend themselves in court, but the arraignment and attorney review dates at minimum are calculated to minimize the number of trial date continuances that will be granted to unrepresented criminal defendants on their trial dates.

How can my Virginia criminal lawyer avoid my appearance at my arraignment and attorney review date?

Some non-Northern Virginia county courts require the appearance of a represented defendant and/or his or her lawyer at the Virginia arraignment unless excused in advance by the court. These practices are not automatically written down, so it is ideal to check with a knowledgable qualified lawyer. Clearly, arraignment and attorney review date appearances can be very burdensome on many defendants, particularly those who live far away, have out-of-town obligations, and have work and educational obligations. The Northern Virginia courts where I practice enable both the lawyer and his or her client to avoid appearing at either court date by timely filing an entry of appearance with the court, and in Arlington to state in that appearance that the defendant and his or her lawyer waive their appearance at the arraignment, while listing one or more requested trial or preliminary hearing dates, commensurate with available dates obtained from the court clerk. The Fairfax County General District Court enables lawyers to enter their appearance online for a criminal or DUI defendant’s case before the prior afternoon deadline listed therein; that link is here. The Fairfax District Court clerks also, during Covid-19, are accepting lawyer court filings by email. Several Virginia District Court clerks also permit faxed court filings.

How should I conduct myself if I appear by myself at a Virginia arraignment or attorney review date?

As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I have seen some unrepresented criminal and DUI defendants conduct themselves in court in ways that are best avoided. Best behavior practices include arriving at the courthouse entrance at least one hour before court starts and in the courtroom at least fifteen minutes before the start time (for unrepresented defendants); not leaving the courtroom before your case is called (so it is best to go to the restroom before court starts, or to have a friend in the courtroom to tell the judge that you are in the restroom (but during Covid-19, not all courts will allow friends and family into the courthouseI); dressing appropriately (I recommend dressing respectfully, dressing with no flash, and not wearing athletic shoes, shorts nor blue jeans); not horsing around with friends or family members who accompany the defendant; not letting one’s phone be seen nor heard in the courthouses where cellphones are allowed; and, very importantly, listening closely to what is being asked of you and said to you, and politely and clearly addressing the judge (for instance “Yes, your honor”). I would not expect the judge to ask a defendant at a Virginia arraignment or attorney review date any incriminating questions, and criminal defendants should not answer incriminating questions without a lawyer present and advising accordingly.

The benefit of visiting the courthouse before your Virginia arraignment date

If the court is not far from you, if you visit the courthouse before your case is scheduled to proceed for your Virginia arraignment date, you can orient yourself about how long traffic will take to get to court, parking, and procedures for entering the court in terms of security and Covid-19 precautions. In Fairfax, for instance, parking is available for free at the nearby City Hall surface parking lot and its surrounding streets, besides the paid courthouse parking lot; and only the front entrance to the courthouse is open to the public, and not the rear entrance.

When is the best time to obtain a criminal or DUI defense lawyer?

The sooner you obtain a qualified lawyer, the sooner the lawyer can start defending you; although it usually is not necessary to obtain a lawyer before  your Virginia arraignment date if you are not incarcerated pretrial. The police and prosecutor are not suspending their work prosecuting you for you to obtain a lawyer. It is ideal to hire a lawyer when that lawyer can deliver you firepower without needing to exercise in much catching up work that might be involved if obtaining your lawyer too close to  your trial date.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defensive approach against Virginia DUI, felony, and misdemeanor prosecutions. Jon Katz is available daily to meet with you for free at his office about your court-pending case, at 703-383-1100.