Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 19.2. Criminal Procedure
Chapter 15. Trial and Its Incidents
9/20/2021

Article 3. Arraignment; Pleas; Trial without Jury.

§ 19.2-254. Arraignment; pleas; when court may refuse to accept plea; rejection of plea agreement; recusal.

Arraignment shall be conducted in open court. It shall consist of reading to the accused the charge on which he will be tried and calling on him to plead thereto. In a felony case, arraignment is not necessary when waived by the accused. In a misdemeanor case, arraignment is not necessary when waived by the accused or his counsel, or when the accused fails to appear.

An accused may plead not guilty, guilty or nolo contendere. The court may refuse to accept a plea of guilty to any lesser offense included in the charge upon which the accused is arraigned; but, in misdemeanor and felony cases the court shall not refuse to accept a plea of nolo contendere.

With the approval of the court and the consent of the Commonwealth, a defendant may enter a conditional plea of guilty in a misdemeanor or felony case in circuit court, reserving the right, on appeal from the judgment, to a review of the adverse determination of any specified pretrial motion. If the defendant prevails on appeal, he shall be allowed to withdraw his plea.

Upon rejecting a plea agreement in any criminal matter, a judge shall immediately recuse himself from any further proceedings on the same matter unless the parties agree otherwise.

1975, c. 495; 1987, c. 357; 2014, cc. 52, 165.

§ 19.2-254.1. Procedure in traffic infraction cases.

In a traffic infraction case, as defined in § 46.2-100, involving an offense included in the uniform fine schedule established pursuant to § 16.1-69.40:1, a defendant may elect to enter a written appearance and waive court hearing, except in instances in which property damage or personal injury resulted. Arraignment is not necessary when waived by the accused or his counsel, when the accused fails to appear, or when such written appearance has been elected.

An accused may plead not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere; and the court shall not refuse to accept a plea of nolo contendere. A plea of guilty may be entered in writing without court appearance.

When an accused tenders payment without executing a written waiver of court hearing and entry of guilty plea, such tender of payment shall itself be deemed a waiver of court hearing and entry of guilty plea.

In districts with traffic violations bureaus on July 1, 1977, the chief judge of the district may designate the traffic violations bureau for the receipt of a written appearance, waiver of court hearing and guilty plea.

1977, c. 585; 1978, c. 605; 1992, c. 54.

§ 19.2-254.2. Procedure in nontraffic offenses for which prepayment is authorized.

In any prepayable nontraffic offense case as defined in § 16.1-69.40:2 a defendant may elect to enter a written appearance and waive court hearing. Arraignment is not necessary when waived by the accused or his counsel, when the accused fails to appear, or when such written appearance has been elected.

An accused may plead not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere; and the court shall not refuse to accept a plea of nolo contendere. A plea of guilty may be entered in writing without court appearance.

When an accused tenders payment without executing a written waiver of court hearing and entry of guilty plea, such tender of payment shall itself be deemed a waiver of court hearing and entry of guilty plea. Likewise when a person charged with a prepayable nontraffic offense fails to enter a written or court appearance, he shall be deemed to have waived court hearing and the case may be heard in his absence. In all other respects prepayable traffic offenses shall be treated as all other misdemeanors.

1978, c. 605; 1992, c. 54.

§ 19.2-255. Defendant allowed to plead several matters of law or fact.

The defendant in any criminal prosecution may plead as many several matters, whether of law or fact, as he shall think necessary, and he may file pleas in bar at the same time with pleas in abatement, or within a reasonable time thereafter; but the issues on the pleas in abatement shall be first tried.

Code 1950, § 19.1-242; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-256. Approvers.

Approvers shall not be admitted in any case.

Code 1950, § 19.1-244; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-257. Trial without jury in felony cases.

Upon a plea of guilty in a felony case, tendered in person by the accused after being advised by counsel, the court shall hear and determine the case without the intervention of a jury; or if the accused plead not guilty, with his consent after being advised by counsel and the concurrence of the attorney for the Commonwealth and of the court entered of record, the court shall hear and determine the case without the intervention of a jury. In such cases the court shall have and exercise all the powers, privileges and duties given to juries by any statute relating to crimes and punishments.

Code 1950, § 19.1-192; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-258. Trial of misdemeanors by court without jury; failure to appear deemed waiver of jury.

In all cases of a misdemeanor upon a plea of guilty, tendered in person by the accused or his counsel, the court shall hear and determine the case without the intervention of a jury. If the accused plead not guilty, in person or by his counsel, the court, in its discretion, with the concurrence of the accused and the attorney for the Commonwealth, may hear and determine the case without the intervention of a jury. In each instance the court shall have and exercise all the powers and duties vested in juries by any statute relating to crimes and punishments.

When a person charged with a misdemeanor has been admitted to bail or released upon his own recognizance for his appearance before a court of record having jurisdiction of the case, for a hearing thereon and fails to appear in accordance with the condition of his bail or recognizance, he shall be deemed to have waived trial by a jury and the case may be heard in his absence as upon a plea of not guilty.

Code 1950, § 19.1-193; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.

§ 19.2-258.1. Trial of traffic infractions; measure of proof; failure to appear.

For any traffic infraction cases tried in a district court, the court shall hear and determine the case without the intervention of a jury. For any traffic infraction case appealed to a circuit court, the defendant shall have the right to trial by jury. The defendant shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

When a person charged with a traffic infraction fails to enter a written or court appearance, he shall be deemed to have waived court hearing and the case may be heard in his absence, after which he shall be notified of the court's finding; however, the court shall not issue a warrant for his failure to appear pursuant to § 46.2-938.

1977, c. 585; 1978, c. 605; 1989, c. 705; 2001, c. 414; 2020, cc. 964, 965.

§ 19.2-259. On trial for felony, accused to be present; when court may enter plea for him, and trial go on.

A person tried for felony shall be personally present during the trial. If when arraigned he will not plead or answer and does not confess his guilt the court shall have the plea of not guilty entered and the trial shall proceed as if the accused had put in that plea. But for the purposes of this section a motion for a continuance, whether made before or after arraignment, shall not be deemed to be part of the trial.

Code 1950, § 19.1-240; 1960, c. 366; 1975, c. 495.