Some Background About Our Court System
The mission of Virginia's judicial system is to assure that disputes are resolved justly, promptly, and economically. The components necessary to discharge this function are a court system unified in its structure and administration, competent, honest judges and court personnel, and uniform rules of practice and procedure. This pamphlet is offered to promote a better understanding of the operation of the Virginia court system and the manner in which its mission is accomplished.

The present system consists of four levels of courts: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Courts, and the District Courts. In addition, magistrates serve as judicial officers with authority to issue various types of processes. The courts are organized into 31 judicial circuits and 32 similar judicial districts. More than 2,600 people, including judges, clerks, and magistrates, work within the judicial branch of government to provide the citizens of the Commonwealth prompt, efficient service.  Carroll County is in the 27th Judicial District

We have three types of courts here in Carroll County at our courthouse:  District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and the Circuit Court.

District Courts

Virginia's unified district court system consists of the general district and the juvenile and domestic relations district courts. Within the 32 districts of the state, there are general district courts and juvenile and domestic relations district courts in every city and county.

The General District Court hears all criminal cases involving misdemeanor under state law and offenses that are violations of ordinances, laws, and by-laws of the county or city where it is located. . A misdemeanor is any charge which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500, or both. 

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court

The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia handles cases involving:
• Juvenile delinquency and status offenses
•Jjuveniles accused of traffic violations
• Children in need of services or supervision
• Children subjected to abuse or neglect
• Children who are abandoned or without parental guardianship
• Foster care and entrustment agreements
• Children for whom relief of custody or termination of parental rights is requested
• Adults accused of child abuse or neglect, or of offenses against family or household members
• Adults involved in disputes concerning the custody, visitation or support of a child
• Spousal support
• Minors seeking emancipation or work permits
• Court-ordered rehabilitation services
• Court consent for certain medical treatments

In Virginia, a juvenile is any person under the age of 18. A juvenile is adjudicated “delinquent” when a court finds that the juvenile has committed an act, which would be a crime if committed by an adult. A “status offender” is a juvenile who has committed a certain action, which, if committed by an adult would not be considered a criminal offense - such as a curfew violation. A “child in need of supervision” is one who habitually and unjustifiably is absent from school or runs away from home. A “child in need of services” needs treatment, rehabilitation or services to keep the child or his family safe, and the intervention of the court is required. “Child abuse and neglect” cases involve the improper care or injurious treatment of juveniles.

Circuit Courts

The only trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia is the circuit court. The Circuit Court has jurisdiction over the following:

Civil Actions:
• Concurrent jurisdiction with general district courts of monetary claims over $4,500 but not exceeding $15,000.
•Exclusive original jurisdiction of monetary claims exceeding $15,000
• Attachments
• Validity of a county or municipal ordinance or corporate bylaw
• Divorce proceedings
•Wills, trusts and estate matters
• Property disputes
• Adoption proceedings Criminal Cases:
• All felonies, offenses that may be punished by imprisonment of more than one year
• Misdemeanor offenses that were appealed from district court or originated from a grand jury indictment
• Transfer or certification of felony offenses committed by juveniles Appeals:
• Appeals from the general district court or juvenile and domestic relations district court (heard de novo)
• Appeals from administrative agencies

The circuit court also handles any case for which jurisdiction is not specified in the Code of Virginia.

At the beginning of each term of the circuit court a grand jury is convened. These juries consider bills of indictment to determine whether there is sufficient probable cause to believe that a person accused of having committed a serious crime did commit such crime and should stand trial. The grand jury does not hear both sides of the case and does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

A special grand jury may be convened to investigate any condition which tends to promote criminal activity in the community or which indicates malfeasance of governmental agencies or officials. This grand jury has subpoena powers and may summon persons, documents, or records needed in its investigation.