Virginia criminal law is unique in that much of it is based on English common law. In addition, Virginia revamped their criminal code in 1950 and a unified code was created. This unified code encompasses criminal law, civil law, and administrative law. Virginia criminal statutes for the most part can be found at Title 18.2 of Virginia Code, Virginia criminal procedure to be found at Title 19.2.
In Loudoun County, like in many other counties in Virginia, there are distinct levels of criminal courts that one may encounter if charged with a criminal offense.
The lowest level of court is called the General District Court. The General District Court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses for trial purposes and felony offenses for preliminary hearing purposes.
In addition, there is also a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. It is a lateral district court. In other words it’s on the same level as the General District Court but includes misdemeanor offenses involving minors or domestic situations.
Additionally, there is a higher court and that is the Loudoun County Circuit Court. The Loudoun County Circuit Court is where jury trials take place. It is also where misdemeanor appeals or all other matters concerning felonies (except for preliminary hearings) occur. The Circuit Court has appellate jurisdiction over the General District Court and it also has exclusive jurisdiction for felony bench and jury trials.
Some of the most common crimes that can be seen on a regular basis in Loudoun County are misdemeanor offense such as petit (or petty) larceny or marijuana possession, driving offenses that Virginia criminalizes such as DUI, DWI, reckless driving, driving without a license, and other misdemeanor criminal matters including assault or destruction of property.
In addition, the most common felony matters are drug offenses and grand larceny level property offenses. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, most drug offenses involve Schedule I/II controlled substances and simple possession of these substances is a felony.
One of the only times that a drug charge would be a misdemeanor in Virginia would be in the case of a simple possession of marijuana or simple possession of Schedule III or Schedule IV controlled substance.
Well, driving offenses are more common simply because Loudoun County is an area where driving offenses are heavily enforced and regulated. In addition, it does not require a criminal intent to commit many of these misdemeanor driving offenses, such as reckless driving by speed, reckless driving by causing an accident, or driving without a license or under a suspension. Yet it may happen anyway by virtue of their driving conduct.
Other common criminal offenses are impulsive offenses. These are crimes of petit larceny, destruction of property, or even assault. They are not crimes that require a large criminal history and criminal knowledge but rather they are crimes of impulse and opportunity.
In the last category of the common crimes are addiction crimes. Those are the drug offenses, other financial crimes, or larceny offenses in order to earn money to then buy drugs. The addiction is undercurrent that present in all of this criminal behavior.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law