Interviewer: Are most of these arrests bondable? Were people just let go to go home on their own recognizance?
Brian Geno: A person typically gets a bond. Here’s how it works. Once you are arrested, you’ll be issued a warrant, then you’ll be taken to the jail where a magistrate will write terms for your release on bond. At that point, the magistrate will check your record to see how dangerous you are (or whether you are a flight risk). If any other conviction or outstanding warrants were reported to the NCIC (a national criminal information system) it will show up and will be a factor of some kind in your release on bond. This issue would be described in (and controlled by) Virginia Code § 19.2-76. It says that a Virginia Warrant or capias (rather than a summons) shall be executed by the arrest of the accused. It also says that the person shall be brought before a judicial officer for the purpose of a bail hearing or to give bail.
A person typically will get a bondsman that will charge say 10% of the total bond, and so they’ll wind up paying $300, $400, $500 for the bondsman, because it will be a $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 bond, if they are given a cash bond. Many times, if a person is a low risk of flight or security, he will be issued a personal recognizance bond so that, if a person does not show up for court they will be required to pay that money to the court, but there’s no bondsman involved.
Post-Arrest & Arraignment Timeline
Interviewer: What happens when someone’s arrested and they’re released? What are the timelines? How long will it be before their first court date? What’s going to happen immediately after the arrest?
Brian Geno: Within a few days, a person gets a court date so that they can be arraigned. It could be three or four days, or it could be a week. They’ll have to come just to say that they’ve got a lawyer. In Fairfax, the place where I practice most, a person’s first court date will be about a month after the offense date.
Interviewer: Some people will be arraigned and that’s where you go when you answer a plea of guilty or not guilty or otherwise?
Brian Geno: Yes. An arraignment is hardly ever a guilty plea. Of course you would technically have the opportunity to plead guilty but typically they don’t even read you the charge, they just ask you who will be your lawyer. The 6th amendment of the constitution provides the right to counsel in criminal cases. It also gives the right to be informed of the charges, that is the arraignment. A DWI is one of those cases so you have the right to counsel. I suppose in practice, having provided a person with the warrant of arrest, the charge is presumed and they move right to the counsel part of the process. So, they just ask about counsel.
Self-Representation in a DUI
Interviewer: What about people that think they can represent themselves or go on without one, what will happen at the arraignment?
Brian Geno: Well, the court would tell him the next court date. The court would ask him if he was going to get counsel, and if he thinks he can afford counsel. If he says he is not going to get counsel and he is going to represent himself, then the court would just say, “Okay. Come back on such-and-such day. Whether you have a lawyer or not, we’re going forward.” The court will have him sign a waiver of his 6th amendment right to counsel.
Interviewer: Once you’ve waived counsel, can you get a lawyer later or are you barred from having one?
Brian Geno: You can definitely hire a lawyer at any time and that lawyer will then be given all of the responsibility that he would have had if the person had never waived his rights. It would essentially “unwaive” the right to counsel. Even on the day of trial, a person could hire counsel. Many times the court will give an attorney time to get ready just so that he can do his ethical duty. The court doesn’ want a lawyer to do less than his ethical best.
Any time you want to hire a lawyer, you can. On a DWI, it’s really advisable that you have a lawyer, because the results can be so different with a lawyer than if you go in there alone and just say, “You got me. I did it. What are you going to do to me?” That’s a bad response from a person who’s charged.
Interviewer: What if you were arrested for DUI – would you represent yourself because you’re a lawyer or would even you hire a counsel?
Brian Geno: I would hire a lawyer. I wouldn’t do it myself for myself because you can’t make the arguments in your client’s favor with impartiality if you’re making them about yourself.
Even if you’re making a legal argument that has nothing to do with the facts of the case, the judge is going to be looking at you as if you’re lying with every word you say because you’ve got such a strong motivation to make the thing turn out in your favor. If you go in there alone and you’re just saying your very best and true arguments, and your very best and truthful facts about the case, I think the court will not buy it because it will think you would say anything to get yourself off the hook.