What do You Plead at Arraignment for Possession of Alcohol While Being Under Age 21?

This is kind of a trick question unfortunately, but a lot of people have confusion about what happens at arraignment in Virginia. People see on TV such as, Law & Order where a defendant is being arraigned and he enters a plea to the charge. In Virginia for a misdemeanor, that’s not the normal process.

Normally on your first appearance for a misdemeanor charge in Virginia, if there’s any threat of jail time, the judge is not even going to ask for a plea. He’s normally going to advise you about what you’re charged with and that you have the right to have an attorney. This is why some courts refer to the arraignment as “advisement”, because you’re being advised about your rights and the charge that you’re facing.

If you’re not asked for a plea, you don’t need to enter one. All you need to do is tell the judge that you want to have an attorney or not and the judge will give you a court date to come back for trial.

However, in some courts they may handle underage possession of alcohol cases a little differently. For example, on a first offense underage possession, you may not be facing the real risk of actual jail depending on the facts of your case. Therefore, the court in your case might tell you at your first appearance that you’re not facing jail so you do not have the right for a court-appointed attorney; however, you can hire your own attorney or waive your right to counsel. The court may go on to tell you that you can enter a plea that day and resolve the case that day if you want. But it should be solely up to you whether or not you want to come back another day with a lawyer.

What should you plead then when the judge asks you? This question is unfortunately impossible to answer in the abstract. You really need to call me for a free case strategy session so we can go over the facts of your case and what possibilities you may be looking at in court. It would not be a good idea to plead guilty, for example, if you have a real defense in the case. However, if you’re simply trying to get a first offender outcome and the Commonwealth can prove the case against you, then pleading guilty or no contest might make sense.

Call me today to discuss the facts of your case, and we can discuss what you should plead if and when you’re asked at arraignment.

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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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