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Facing drunk driving charges in Virginia can be scary, particularly if it is the first time you have been charged with a crime. If you are facing DWI charges, you will need to pay special attention to the arraignment process, as it will typically be your first time appearing in court for your case.

Once you have been arrested for a DWI, you may be taken into police custody where you were booked and processed. Unless you have a significant criminal history or your DWI offense was severe, you will likely be allowed to post bail. Once you post bail, you will be released from police custody under the condition that you will appear in court for the arraignment, and any other criminal proceedings that follow.

The arraignment is often the next step and should occur within a few days of your arrest. You will be called in front of a criminal court judge who will read the charges you are facing. The judge may then ask if you have an attorney or if you need one assigned to you by the court.

After that, you will have to decide whether to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest to the charges you face. If you plead guilty, you will likely receive your sentence and no future court dates will be set. However, you do not need to plead guilty, even if you were over the legal limit. In many cases, people facing DWI charges will enter a not guilty plea to have an opportunity to investigate further and collect discovery material, including dashboard camera footage, Breathalyzer maintenance records and other evidence that could help their case. During the arraignment, you will also receive your police report, blood or chemical test results and other pertinent information to your case.

If you choose to enter a not guilty plea, the judge will determine whether to revise bail and set a date for your next hearing. At the next hearing, you will likely decide whether to enter a plea bargain or go forward with a trial.

This is only a general overview of the arraignment process, so it is possible that a person's particular case may differ slightly. However, in the end it is important that those facing such charges understand the DWI arraignment process, so they can prepare a proper defense.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI Arraignment," accessed on April 2, 2018

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