Do I Need An Attorney For my Arraignment?

UPDATE: Virginia decriminalized simple possession of marijuana on July 1, 2020. Click here for details.

I talk with lots of people who are charged with a more serious offense, such as Virginia DUI or Virginia possession of marijuana, and one questions people have is whether or not they need to have counsel for their arraignment in court.

The general answer is no, you do not need to have an attorney at your first appearance for a DUI or possession of marijuana case.

The longer answer is that it will depend upon the court. In the courts where I practice, Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania, even for a marijuana case, the first appearance it is safe for you to come without counsel and tell the court that you would like to have an attorney. The main reason for this is that the court cannot sentence you to jail time without first advising you about your right to have an attorney. That’s why sometimes the first appearance is also called an advisement because you’re being advised that you have a right to have counsel.

This means that you have some time to consider your options for your case if you only have your first court appearance coming up. It could very well be safe to go to court without counsel and simply tell the judge that you would like to have an attorney and you’d like to have a chance to talk with someone about the case. Most judges, at least around the Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania area, will give you a continuance. Normally they will give you a month or two in order to discuss the case with an attorney. Now, when you are set to come back for your second time, the judge can and may make you go forward without counsel if you haven’t hired an attorney at that point, but for the first appearance you do not necessarily have to have an attorney for most cases.

What this also means though is that you don’t have to feel pressured to hire an attorney right off the bat. Some people think that they need to hire an attorney the day after they were arrested for a DUI case and that’s simply not the case. You do have a little bit of time to contact attorneys, weigh your options and to figure out who is the best attorney for your case.

If you have an arraignment coming up in Virginia, call me for a free consultation so we can talk about your rights and whether or not you need to have counsel at that first court appearance.

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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