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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Navigating the Various Virginia Courts

Navigating the Various Virginia Courts

Going to court can be an intimidating thing. Those unfamiliar with the system may not know where to go, who to talk to, or how to resolve their case. It is important to know the different courts in Virginia and the types of cases they hear. A Virginia courthouse is typically split up between the following courts: Traffic Court, General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and Circuit Court. In some jurisdictions two or more courts share jurisdiction such as traffic and general district court.

Traffic Court
Traffic offenses fall under the jurisdiction of the General District Court, however some larger cities and counties have a specified courtroom to hear these offenses. If a court has a specified traffic court then that court will only hear traffic violations such as speeding and reckless driving. A DUI is normally heard in the General District Court. A judge will hear from an officer in traffic court and allow for any explanation or mitigating factors from the accused. If the accused wishes there may also be a trial and the accused is free to talk to a prosecutor about the case in order to try and come to an agreement.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court deals with all matters involving juveniles, those under 18, including criminal and traffic matters. Additionally, the court hears other matters involving the family; examples include child custody, child support, and child visitation as well as child abuse, and criminal matters where the accused and victim are family or household members.

General District Court
The General District Court hears traffic violations, misdemeanor crimes, and conducts preliminary hearings for felonies, as well as certain civil matters. Throughout the day the court will hear a variety of matters including trials, continuances, motions, sentencing, or arraignments.

When you arrive at the courthouse you will have to find the courtroom you are required to appear in and wait for the judge to call your case. The prosecutor may talk to you but will want to speak to your attorney, if you have one. It is important to be on time and to listen for your name to be called. If you are not at court when you are commanded to be a judge may order a capias order to bring you to court. Failure to appear at court is a charge in Virginia. There is no jury in General District Court. It is the judge who decides the outcome of the case. However, after a trial in General District Court you can appeal to the Circuit Court and request a bench or jury trial.

Circuit Court
The Circuit Court hears more serious crimes, felonies, misdemeanor appeals, and certain family issues including divorce. In a Circuit Court a trial may be heard by a judge or by a jury. The Circuit Court has the broadest power of any court in a Virginia city or county.

Navigating a courthouse can be a scary thing. It is important to have someone with you who understand the system and where to go and what to do. Having a knowledgeable Leesburg attorney on your side can be helpful not only for advocating for you but in helping you with the emotional challenge that a courthouse presents. At Simms Showers we help you understand the procedure as well as fight for you. We are with you throughout the whole process.

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