If you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, you should immediately contact an attorney, and coordinate your immediate surrender to the authorities. In Virginia, you should surrender yourself to the Office of the Magistrate for the locality of the court where the warrant originated. Magistrates are not law enforcement officers like police and sheriffs; instead they are civilian judicial officers similar to court clerks and judges.
Your attorney can accompany you to the Office to the Magistrate and advocate for your release while you standby for the police or sheriff to serve your outstanding warrant. Your attorney can also provide you with the contact information for a bail bondman, if he or she believes your circumstances will require it. You should bring valid government issued identification such as a driver’s license with you. You may also want to bring your current U.S. Passport if you believe your charges are serious (felonies) and you have substantial international contacts (born outside of the U.S.) or you are wealthy.
Magistrates are the judicial authority that issue 99% of arrest warrants, and they make the initial determination on bail for defendants immediately after their arrest. There are three levels to being admitted to bail in Virginia. Personal recognizance, unsecured bond, secured bond and the dreaded, held without bond. A personal recognizance is a promise to appear without any monetary obligations placed on the defendant or a third-party. An unsecured bond places a monetary obligation on the defendant, but it does not have to be backed up with hard collateral like money or property. A secured bond is bail in the traditional understanding, where the defendant must have a third-party like a bail bondsman or a family member provide the court with collateral to ensure the defendant’s future appearance in court. The magistrate may also require you to be supervised by a pretrial services agency if you case or personal history appears to have substance abuse issues.
Magistrates are required by law (Code of Virginia §19.2-120) to consider the following factors in making a decision for pretrial release: 1. The nature and circumstances of the offense charged; 2. The history and characteristics of the person, including his character, physical and mental condition, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, community ties, past conduct, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, membership in a criminal street gang and record concerning appearance at court proceedings; and 3. the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person’s release.
Magistrates look favorably upon individuals who voluntarily surrender because it removes any concerns of whether the defendant is a flight risk – it is very rare for a person to surrender themselves, and then abscond. The magistrate will provide you with a future date to appear in court if you are admitted to release. The magistrate will also provide you with paperwork that provides details on your charges and the time, date and address of the court for your next appearance.