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Criminal Case Information
The circuit court has appellate jurisdiction over all appeals from general district court in criminal cases and from juvenile and domestic relations district court in matters originating from that court. Appeals from these district courts are heard de novo, that is, these cases are tried from the beginning as if there had been no previous trial. The circuit court also has appellate jurisdiction over certain administrative agency appeals.
The circuit court has the authority to impanel regular and special grand juries. A regular grand jury is composed of five to seven citizens of the county or city where the circuit court is located. It is convened at each term for the purposes of considering indictments prepared by the Commonwealth’s Attorney and to investigate and report concerning any condition that involves or tends to promote criminal activity. The grand jury only hears the Commonwealth’s side of the case and does not determine guilt or innocence.
Special grand juries are composed of seven to eleven citizens and are summoned by the circuit court to investigate and report any condition that involves or may involve criminal activity in the community, by any governmental authority, agency, or official thereof.
Representation of Counsel
All parties in circuit court cases have the right to be represented by counsel. This right may be waived however. Those who wish to hire their own attorney may do so. A list of local attorneys can be obtained by calling the Virginia State Bar Referral Service at 800-552-7977.
In all felony and misdemeanor cases that involve the possibility of a jail sentence, an indigent defendant may have a lawyer appointed by the Court. If the defendant is indigent and found guilty, the amount of the counsel fee is charged to the defendant as part of the courts costs and a judgment is entered against him or her.
In a criminal case that involves a felony, the accused is usually arrested and brought before a magistrate. The magistrate will normally do one of two things. He or she will either commit the accused to jail pending a hearing or release the accused on bail. A preliminary hearing is then held in the general district court to determine if there is probable cause to determine that the accused committed the crime charged. If probable cause is found, the case is sent to the grand jury.
If the grand jury finds probable cause and returns an indictment, the accused is held for trial in the circuit court. Following the indictment the accused is arraigned on the charges and he or she enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. In misdemeanor cases appealed from district court, the preliminary hearing, the grand jury indictment and arraignment are not necessary. Also, when the accused is initially charged by the grand jury, no preliminary hearing is required. After arrest, the accused is arraigned.
Term begins at 9 a.m. on the 1st Monday in January, March, May, July, September and November of each year, except term days that fall on a federal holiday. If a term day falls on a holiday, then term day will be the first Tuesday of that month.
Criminal attorneys or pro se parties should contact the Commonwealth’s attorney to schedule your case for trial.
Criminal case information can be obtained through the Virginia Judicial System website.
Deferred or Installment Payments Agreements
Pursuant to Virginia Code § 19.2-354 (PDF), the Court authorizes the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Gloucester County to establish and approve the conditions of all deferred or installment payment agreements.