Federal Drug Case Arraignments and Bond Hearings in Virginia

Whether or not a judge will release an individual on bond in a federal drug case is going to depend on the nature of the charges against them. If the charges are serious enough, a judge at an arraignment hearing might hold on to the consideration of bond for a detention hearing where the government makes a case for the individual to be detained pending the outcome of the charges against them.

However, in more minor cases, a judge might release someone on bond right away depending on the nature of the charges and also what the government is asking for. If the government is asking for a detention hearing, in most cases, the judge will grant that request. Either way, it is vital that someone facing federal drug charges in Virginia consult with a Virginia federal drug lawyer before their detention hearing takes place.

Location of Detention Hearings in Virginia

Detention hearings in Virginia take place in the Federal Courthouse in whatever jurisdiction the person is being charged. If an individual is being charged in the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, their hearing will be in Alexandria. If they are being charged in Richmond, their hearing will be in Richmond.

Important Factors in Federal Detention Hearings

There are two main factors that judges look for in a detention hearing. By statute, the first factor they look at is whether the continued freedom of the accused person would generate a danger to the public. That factor is examined in a number of different ways. For example, if a person has been convicted of other crimes, the court would assume that the person is likely going to continue to commit crimes when out on bond for the current charges against him or her.

Additionally, the specifics of the offense that is charged and whether it involves possession of firearms or significant contact with other people who are considered violent are factors weigh against someone in determining whether the court is going to find that they are a danger to the public. The court will consider whether there are any conditions or combination of conditions which will ensure public safety going forward.

Flight Risk

The other main factor is risk of flight. If a person is facing a significant amount of mandatory time in prison for example, the court is going to be cautious about letting them go because the Court is going to be of the opinion that a person facing that much time might think it is in their better interest to try to flee the country or jurisdiction.

Unique Aspects of Detention Hearings

Detention hearings at the state level are called bond hearings. A bond hearing happens in every case against the person who is being held in jail, pending the outcome of their case. The most significant difference is that in State Court defense counsel is required to file a bond motion to get on the docket. That is not true in Federal Court. In many cases, the court will simply order a detention hearing if the government is asking for that person to be held without bond.

That detention hearing will happen at the request of the court, not necessarily of the defendant.

Federal Drug Arraignment

At an arraignment, the individual charged will have the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Very rarely do people plead guilty or no contest at the arraignment level.  Often at a Federal arraignment, a person has not had real time with their attorney and that lawyer has not had time to investigate the merits of the government’s case to determine what, if any, defenses might be present.

Guilty pleas should only take place after extensive negotiations with the government attorneys. By the time the arraignment comes up, the lawyer has not had an opportunity to negotiate with the government. So it makes sense to plead not guilty at the time that someone is arraigned with the full understanding that if a plea agreement can be reached between the parties, a defendant has the right to change their plea to one of guilty if that seems to be the better idea.

Benefits of a Federal Drug Lawyer

A lawyer is needed before the detention hearing as a lawyer will know exactly how to talk to a judge and make the arguments that an individual needs to make sure that they get the best chance for a bond in their case. Additionally, the lawyer can negotiate with the government to try to come to an agreement on bond. Those agreements do not happen unless a lawyer talks to the government. Without a lawyer, there is no negotiation between the charged individual and the government, and a lot of these cases those do not end well for them.