The Circuit Court is the trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia, and has the authority to try a full range of both civil and criminal cases.
Civil cases involve disputes essentially private in nature between two or more parties; and involving larger amounts of monetary award. The Circuit Court shares jurisdiction with the General District Court in certain civil cases.
In Circuit Court criminal cases are between the Commonwealth's Attorney and persons charged with a crime, and it has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal felonies cases.
Only in a Circuit Court can a jury be provided for the trial of these cases.
The Circuit Court also hears all civil, criminal, and traffic cases appealed from the district courts. Appeals from these district courts are heard from the beginning as though there had been no prior trial.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court is the custodian of the court’s records, both civil and criminal. The clerk of the Circuit Court is a constitutional officer which handles all administrative matters for this court.
In Circuit Court criminal proceedings, the Commonwealth (Victim) is represented by the Commonwealth’s Attorney who prosecutes the case. Defendant's who wish to hire their own attorney may obtain the names and phone numbers of local lawyers from the Virginia State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service by calling (800) 552-7977. If they cannot afford an attorney they may request to have a lawyer appointed by the court to represent them.
In Circuit Court civil proceedings, all parties may be represented by an attorney, or they may choose to proceed pro se (on their own behalf).
In a criminal case involving a felony:
(A) An accused is arrested on a warrant and brought before a magistrate. The magistrate may either commit the accused to jail pending a hearing or release the accused on bail. A preliminary hearing is then held in District Court to determine if there is probable cause to believe the accused has committed the crime charged. If probable cause is found, the case is certified (sent) to the grand jury. If the grand jury also finds probable cause, an indictment is returned. Following indictment, the accused is: arraigned; counsel decided; and set for trial.
(B) An accused may be first charged with a felony by grand jury indictment; in such cases, no preliminary hearing is held in district court.
The final decision of the Circuit Court may be appealed to either the Supreme Court of Virginia or the Court of Appeals of Virginia, depending upon the type of case involved.
(For more detailed information regarding the Virginia Court System
please visit the Supreme Court of Virginia website at: www.courts.state.va.us)