Wednesday, July 15, 2015

About the Courts - Virginia

All Virginia and federal courts are bound by law to apply rules of procedures and evidence to each case it hears. These procedures are applied uniformly, without regard to personal considerations. It should be noted that the State and Federal Courts apply different rules. Judges are sworn to enforce without favor the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or federal law. Even minor traffic offenses and criminal charges can have significant consequences for those charged. You as a defendant have rights guaranteed through both the Constitution of Virginia and the United States. Among these are the right to be represented by competent counsel to assist you with advice and to represent you in any proceeding. The laws and procedures of the courts are complicated and penalties can be severe. It is the goal of the Law Office of Michael S. Davis to provide representation that is of the highest professional standard and to protect your rights and avail you of any defenses that may be available to you.

THE JUVENILE AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURT: generally 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 COURT: generally 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 COURT: generally 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 APPEALS: This 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 COURT: This 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 too, the client does not appear directly in this court unless he or she is representing themselves. 

FEDERAL MAGISTRATE COURT: This is the equal of the General District State Court and handles misdemeanors committed on federal property and other crimes charged under federal jurisdiction. It functions very much as the state court. 

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT: The Federal District Court handles federal felony cases after the preliminary hearing stage and is generally the trial court level for most crimes. As with the state court, you are afforded the right to a bench trial (Judge) or a jury trial to decide your case. 

4th FEDERAL CIRCUIT COURT: The Federal District Court is an appeals court and functions very much as the Virginia Court of Appeals. It is the first court to which an unfavorable verdict can be appealed. 

UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: This is the court of last resort. The court decides cases with unfavorable outcomes in the Court of Appeals and only hears about 100 cases a year, and like the 4th Circuit only hears cases it wishes to hear.

At the Law Office of Michael S Davis, we would be happy to discuss your situation at no cost and help you determine your best course of action.

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