When someone is charged with a criminal offense in Leesburg their case may originate in any number of different contexts. The most common context is for the case to originate in the Loudoun County General District Court when an individual is charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. Below, a Leesburg criminal defense attorney discusses more about where specific cases are heard and what you should expect.
For more information on where your case is most likely to be heard, call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today.
The Loudoun County General District Court has exclusive jurisdiction of misdemeanors and jurisdiction of preliminary hearings for felony offenses. Practically speaking, the General District Court is the first court for most criminal offenses in Loudoun County. However, if the criminal offense involves a family member or minor, the case may originate in the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. This is another version of a district court but it is specifically suited to handle cases that involve family members or minors.
The General District Court is the first court but it is not necessarily the final court depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, the General District Court cannot find a person guilty or not guilty for a felony offense – only a circuit court can do that. Likewise, if you have an adverse finding in the General District Court, meaning you are found guilty after a trial or after a plea and you did not waive your right to appeal, you may appeal the case to the Loudoun County Circuit Court.
The Loudoun County Circuit Court is a court of record, which meaning there will be proceedings with a court reporter regardless of the case type. Loudoun County Circuit Court is the only court that can adjudicate felony matters to guilt or innocence. It is also the appellate court for misdemeanors. Similarly, the Loudoun County Circuit Court is the only court available which may allow a jury trial. The number of jurors and the type of jury trial depends on if it is a felony case or a misdemeanor appeal.
If the Circuit Court makes an error, the error must be preserved on the record. The individual may have recourse by making an appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals. In the criminal context, the Virginia Court of Appeals is an appellate court, which means they decide the issues so that facts and law are preserved during a circuit court trial.
In order to proceed to the Court of Appeals, a specific procedure must be followed as governed by Rule 5 of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court. If there is a normal issue regarding mistake of law, the Court of Appeals will be able to decide the issue or the party may decide whether the appeals court has ruled on it correctly and the case may continue on to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Virginia Supreme Court is the highest state court and typically hears appellate issues regarding application of Virginia law.
People should know that if they are charged with a criminal offense in Loudoun County that the case is most likely to originate in the Loudoun County General District Court. This is true for most felonies for which a person is arrested as well as misdemeanor offenses. People should know that their preliminary hearing is not a decision of guilt or innocence. They should also know that the majority of negotiations in the context of a criminal case occur at the General District Court level.
Additionally, people should also know that to try their case at the General District Court level they should talk to their attorney to employ a court reporter to preserve their record, should they choose to appeal the case to the circuit court.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law