General Court Information

To Understand Your Visit to Court You Should Know:

It is the courts wish that you know your rights and duties. We want every person who comes here to receive fair treatment in accordance with the ideals of impartial justice.

By law, the court must apply rules of procedure and evidence to each case it hears.  These procedures are applied uniformly, without regard to personal considerations.  The judge is sworn to enforce without favor the laws of the Commonwealth and community, which are made by the people for the protection of all.

The Code of Virginia defines criminal offenses and sets penalties.

Your Rights in Court

If you are the complainant/victim in a criminal proceeding, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, who represents the Commonwealth, will normally prosecute the case.  In certain cases that you represent yourself then you have the right to have the clerk's office subpoena witnesses to appear on your behalf in court. You may ask for a continuance if you have good cause to have your case put off until a later date, although the judge does not have to grant your request.

If you are charged with a crime you have the right to retain and be represented by your own lawyer in all matters before the court. If the crime for which you are charged carries the penalty which includes the possibility of a jail sentence, and you state that you are indigent and cannot afford a lawyer, the judge will examine your financial status and may then, based on eligibility, assign an attorney to represent you.

When Called to Court

All persons required to appear before the court should arrive 15 minutes prior to the time and place stated on the petition, summons, bail form, or subpoena.  It is important that everyone involved in a case be prepared and ready when the case is called into the courtroom.

The court cannot provide child care services; therefore, the only children who should be brought to court are those children whose presence has been requested/required by the court, an attorney, or court official.

Dress neatly:  The way that you dress and present yourself in court is a direct reflection upon you.  It is to your advantage to dress neatly.  Additionally, the temperature in the courtrooms fluctuates so you may want to wear and/or bring layers.
Be prepared to wait:  Unfortunately, no one can predict how long a hearing or trial will last.  Therefore, you may have to wait for a period of time so please be prepared for this.

Tips on testifying

Be Prepared: Try to have dates, times, places and other details clear in your mind.  Try to recall, what happened and picture the scene and objects there, but don't try to memorize your testimony.  Just be prepared to tell what happened in your own words.

Tell the Truth:  Remember that you are under oath.  Don't try to figure out if your answer will help or hurt the case.  Just answer truthfully, to the best of your memory.

Do Not Guess or Speculate: If you do not know the answer to a question, say so.  Likewise, if you do not remember, say so.  Do not guess.

Answer only the Questions Asked of You: If you can answer the question with a simple "yes" or "no", then do so. If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated or explained.  Do not volunteer information. Remember to stop speaking immediately if the judge interrupts or an attorney objects to a question, and wait for further instruction by the court.

Speak Clearly and Loudly:  When testifying, direct your responses to the judge or jury hearing the case.  Everyone present in your courtroom must be able to hear and understand your testimony.  An inaudible voice can detract from your testimony and may make the court think that you are not certain of what you are saying.

Remember: Do not discuss your testimony with other witnesses in the case.

Legal Advice

In certain matters, if you wish to hire our own attorney for legal advice but do not know an attorney, you can obtain the name and telephone number of a local attorney from the Virginia State Bar Lawyer Referral Services by calling the toll-free number of (800) 552-7977.

Court employees, including advocates, will try to assist you but they are not employed as attorneys and cannot give legal advice.


If you or any other witnesses are threatened by the defendant or anyone else in regard to your testimony immediately call the police and contact this Victim/Witness Assistance Program at 540.965.6366.