ABOUT THE VIRGINIA COURT SYSTEM
There are several different types of courts in Virginia. This guide explains what each court does and which court you are likely to be in depending on the type of issue you are facing.
THE JUVENILE AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURTGenerally controls cases that involve juvenile offenders in traffic and criminal cases. It handles traffic, misdemeanor and felony charges with defendants under the age of 18 years, and in some cases retains jurisdiction of defendants until the age of 21. In some serious cases this court may turn cases over to the Circuit Court if the juvenile is going to be certified as an adult.
This court also handles cases of crimes involving family members such as domestic assault. These can be adults as well as juveniles and can involve non family members who are living together. Those adults who are charged with felony cases in this court will have their cases transferred to the Circuit Court after the case reaches a certain point.
Cases in this court are handled by a judge. If you require a jury trial these cases must be appealed or transferred to the Circuit Court.
THE GENERAL DISTRICT COURTGenerally controls traffic cases and misdemeanor criminal cases involving individuals 18 years and older. It additionally handles adult felony cases until they have been certified to the Circuit Court for disposition. As with the Juvenile Court these cases are handled by a judge and require an appeal to the Circuit Court for jury trials.
THE CIRCUIT COURTGenerally controls felony cases that have been certified by the General District Court or in cases where there has been an indictment handed down by the Grand Jury. This court can offer clients a trial by a judge (Bench Trial) or a jury trial. This court also handles all misdemeanor appeals and can offer a client a jury trial on those cases as well.
THE VIRGINIA COURT OF APPEALSThis is the first Court in the appellant process for felony criminal cases or for misdemeanor cases that have already been determined by the Circuit Court. This court has the option of whether to hear a given case or not. If the court believes that a case merits an appeal the case may be sent there for a possible reversal of an unfavorable verdict. It has the ability to reverse the conviction or to remand the case back down to the Circuit Court for a new trial or other disposition. Generally the client does not appear directly in this court. Appeals are handled by Petition and Oral Arguments by attorneys unless the client is representing himself or herself
THE VIRGINIA SUPREME COURTThis is the highest court in Virginia. It is the court of last resort that has the final word on a case unless the case is to be appealed to the Federal Courts. This court also has the option of whether it wants to hear a particular case or not. This court has the same options available for disposition as does the Court of Appeals. Here to the client does not appear directly in this court unless he or she is representing themselves.