COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA STATE COURTS
SUPREME COURT – Commonwealth of Virginia Constitution - Article VI Chapter 3 - Supreme Court, Sections one through ten. Virginia Code – Title 17.1 Chapter 3. Court of Record.
COURT OF APPEALS – Title 17.1- Chapter 4 - Court of Record.
CIRCUIT COURT – Trial Court – Title 17.1 -Chapter 5 - Court of Record.
GENERAL DISTRICT COURT – Title 16.1 - Court not of Record
JUVENILE AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURT – Title 16.1 - Court not of Record
This article refers primarily to Court System and Kids and Adults charged with crimes which
allegedly occurred when accused was a child
Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts have been established in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is considered
a Court “Not of Record”. At present, as of September 14, 2022 - information regarding this Court can be found online at https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title16.1. This link leads you to The Virginia State Law Portal and addresses issues relating to District Courts, their jurisdictions, civil and criminal procedure, and the Juvenile Justice Information System. This information is provided by giving the public a printout of the Virginia codified law regarding such as has been stated. Much juvenile procedural law is addressed by statutory versus case law. Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court is generally encompassed in Chapters 11 and 16.1 of the Virginia Code.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in The Commonwealth of Virginia
Although the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is primarily statutory regarding procedure, the definition of criminal acts and their defenses often need to be statutorily interpreted on a case-by-case basis to understand legal meanings. Therefore, it is a task that may require much research, experience, knowledge, and expertise. More than a cursory glance will most often be required. It would be best to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer when one is brought into the criminal justice system involving an investigation or charge for criminally breaking the law.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court has a few major characteristics which separates it from the other courts:
- Usually deals with children, families, and household members.
- The procedural track may be quite different from the other courts.
- The goal of this court is that whenever there are alternative courses of action, the court will attempt to use the least intrusive or restrictive alternative if possible.
- The emphasis is on treatment and rehabilitation versus punishment.
- There may be more privacy regarding cases.
JUVENILE AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURTS
Juvenile and Domestic Relation District courts handle cases involving children who commit acts which are deemed a crime if committed by an adult. Cases where alleged victims are minors. Cases involving children who are abused and or neglected. Children in need of supervision, protective orders, and at times cases involving family matters such as custody, visitation, and support. Driving matters may also be addressed.
Children (Minors) – and those charged with adult type Crimes
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over
charges against a juvenile – person who is under age (18) - and deemed to be a “delinquent”. A minor may be deemed to be a delinquent if it is alleged that he or she has committed an act which would be considered a crime if committed by an adult. This covers misdemeanors, felonies, traffic violations (excluding infractions), and refusals to take a blood test. Some examples of crimes for which a juvenile may be charged are:
Larceny type of Crimes:
(VA Code 18.2-95) Grand Larceny – stealing items with a value of $1,000.00 one
thousand dollars of more.
(VA Code 18.2-96) Petty Larceny – theft with value under $1,000.00.
VA Code 18.2-108) Receiving Stolen Goods.
(VA Code 18.2-108.01) Larceny with Intent to sell or distribute – sell stolen Property.
(VA Code 18.2-108.1) Receipt of Stolen Firearm.
(VA Code 18.2-192) Credit Card Theft
(VA Code 18.2-77) Burning or destroying dwelling house.
(VA Code 18.2-80) Burning or destroying any building or structure.
(VA Code 18.2-86) Setting fire to woods, fences grass.
(VA Code 18.2-90) Break & Enter with Intent to commit murder rape robbery,
(VA Code 18.2-91) Enter dwelling with intent to commit larceny, assault and or
battery, other felonies.
(VA Code 18.2-92) Break & Enter to commit misdemeanor.
(VA Code 18.2-94) Possession of burglarious tools.
Other Property Crimes
(VA Code 18.2-90) Intentional Destruction of Property.
(VA Code 18.2-119) Trespass
(VA Code 18.2-130) Peeping
(VA Code 18.2-168) Forging public records
(VA Code 18.2-172) Forging and passing forged documents (usually aid & abetting)
(Va Code 18.2-178) Obtaining money or goods by false pretenses
(Va Code 18.2-250) Drug Possession
(Va Code 18-248) Drug Manufacture and or Drug Distribution
Crimes against Persons:
(VA Code 18.2-51) Shooting, stabbing and other acts with intent to maim and kill
(VA Code 18.2-51.2) Aggravated Malicious wounding
(VA Code 18.2-51.3) Reckless throwing objects from higher elevations
(VA Code 18.2-51.4) Maiming while drunk driving
(VA Code 18.2-51.6) Strangulation
(VA Code 18.2-53) Shooting while attempting to commit felony
(VA Code 18.2-56.1) Reckless handling of firearms.
(VA Code 18.2-57) Assault & Battery.
(VA Code 18.2-57.2) Assault & Battery against family or household member.
(VA Code 18.2-370.01) Indecent liberties by children
(VA Code 18.2-67.3) Aggravated sexual battery
(VA Code 18.2-61) Rape
(VA Code 18.2-67.1) Forcible Sodomy
Other Violent Crimes
(VA Code 18.2-58) Robbery
(VA Code 18.2-53.1) Use or display of firearm while committing a felony
(VA Code 18.2-32) First and Second Degree Murder
(VA Code 18.2-93) Entering bank, armed, with intent to commit larceny
(VA Code 18.2-282) Brandishing a firearm.
(VA Code 18.2-308) Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
(Va Code 18.2-289) Use of Machine Gun for Crime of Violence.
(VA Code 18-290) Use of Machine Gun for Aggressive Purposes.
(VA Code 18.2-308.4) Possession of Firearms along with certain Other Substances.
Some of Basic Juvenile Court Procedure:
Although procedural process for crimes committed by an alleged delinquent begins at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court – the severity of the alleged crime(s), the history and circumstances of the accused and category of the alleged victim(s) will have an effect on how the case proceeds. Misdemeanor crimes – can be resolved at the district court and terminate at The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court with a final disposition. An exception may be an appeal to the Circuit Court if a party is unhappy with this Courts disposition. As to most felonious acts alleged to have been committed by juvenile delinquents, the prosecution has discretion as to whether the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court retains jurisdiction over a case or if he or she is going to request a transfer hearing to have the child certified as an adult. If the case is certified, it will be moved up to the Circuit Court (a court of record) for trial or plea and sentencing. Of course, the Judge makes the final decision. But if the Judge makes an adverse decision to the Commonwealth Attorney regarding jurisdiction and or probable cause, the Commonwealth Attorney may choose to dismiss in some circumstances and direct indict a child defendant up in Circuit Court. This means the prosecutor will begin the process anew at the higher court.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judges:
Juvenile and Domestic Relation District Court Judges (when the case is kept at the lower court) through final disposition maintain power and discretion to sentence and incarcerate a juvenile as a serious offender in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility for up to (7) seven years or until the individual turns (21) twenty-one years old. Exceptions may be developing by case law. When a minor is certified as an adult or direct indicted up to the Circuit Court – adult penalties are likely to apply if the juvenile is found guilty of a crime(s). Punishments may be much harsher and for longer periods of time when a child is punished as an adult at the Circuit Court level.
Serious Criminal Offenders – Juveniles
There are some crimes which if committed by a juvenile - age (16) sixteen years and above – where the charge(s) are so serious – the prosecutor must initiate a transfer hearing and have the minor treated as an adult. If not, the Judge may do on his or her own accord. These cases may involve charges such as: murder, felonious injury by mob, malicious wounding, felonious poisoning, carjacking, rape, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration, some robbery offenses, distribution of drugs and such. The Commonwealth is also mindful to review prior convictions when determining whether a child fits under this category of offender. At times, previous felony conviction may be required to place a juvenile in this category.
Statute of Limitations and Juveniles:
Limitation of prosecution VA Code Ann. 19.2-8: The Commonwealth Attorney (the prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Virginia) is afforded a specific amount of time to prosecute a misdemeanor. If the misdemeanor is not brought in a timely manner – the prosecutor may lose his or her right to move forward.
On the other hand, there is no statute of limitations for criminal cases involving felonies in The Commonwealth of Virginia when dealing at the state level.
- This means a prosecutor can charge a person with a felony at any time during an individual’s lifetime.
- A prosecutor can wait years after an alleged crime to make an arrest.
- If an individual (alleged victim) concocts a story about a crime that happened 30 years ago – and you are named as the accused – your life can be turned upside down! You may be charged for something that allegedly occurred years and years ago. Depending on the type of crime, little evidence may be needed for the prosecution to move forward. How is one to defend oneself from and event that may or may not have occurred so far back.
- You are never safe from being charged with a felony crime – whether or not you are guilty.
- You may be charged as an adult for a crime you allegedly committed when a child and face adult penalties although - if you had been charged right away you could have been afforded juvenile remedies which would have been much less severe.
- When dealing with alleged sex crimes – the accuser does not have to provide specific dates of the offenses nor does he or she need corroboration in most alleged charges. How can one defend against mere allegations? Does an accuser simply need to make a few statements and give some details to have a person arrested?
- What happens when you are an adult and charged for crime which is alleged to have been committed when you were (13) thirteen years old? You were a child at the alleged time. What happens if you are being charged with crimes against another child? Are you afforded the same protections under the law as the alleged victim who was a child? The answer may be “NO” in some circumstances. Shouldn’t everyone have Due Process and Equal protection? What should happen here?
Adult charged with crime he or she allegedly Committed as a Child
The Adult is not the same person he or she was as a child.
How can the accused defend himself or herself covering unspecified dates of crimes covering a multitude of years from long ago? How can one account for every single moment of time relating that far back. Who has a calendar demonstrating where and what they were doing every moment of time many years gone by? How can a defendant gather evidence? Isn’t there something CONSTITUTIONALLY incorrect charging an adult years later for an alleged crime when he or she was a child at the time of alleged offense? How can any individual account for (10) ten, (20) twenty, (30) years back looking at all time which passed from childhood through present? It is an impossible burden. Yet all the prosecution needs to do is produce an accuser. In some situations, an arrest can be made on the alleged victim’s statement. Shouldn’t there be some corroboration required? Is this enough for probable cause or to prove beyond a reasonable doubt? Shouldn’t specific dates be required to prove the crime? Are blanket accusations enough to have someone arrested and or convicted? We need to provide for victims. But the accused also need Constitutional protections. A defendant deserves a right to a fair trial. Especially adults who are being charged with blanket crimes from 10, 20, or 30 years ago when they themselves were children. Whose mind is fully formed at the age of (13) or (14)? Who remembers what happened 365 days of each year from childhood through adulthood? How to refute the mere statement of the alleged accuser?
Basics questions for adults charged for juvenile crimes:
Generally, juveniles are afforded some procedural safeguards when charged as minors at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court so long as done in a timely manner. On the other hand, an untimely reporting can result in years of prison if an adult is convicted of a crime allegedly committed as a child. What if the charges are made simply based upon statements of the alleged victim. There is no other evidence. How should that adult defendant be treated? At this time - there are no simple answers in Virginia. The law seems to state that an alleged victim who sits on allegations for years – even past the age of (18) – can have someone arrested based simply on mere allegations without specificity as to dates. This issue is a difficult road to navigate for an adult who claims innocence of the crime. How to defend oneself for a crime allegedly committed when a child and relating to alleged acts years back! Shouldn’t it be so that an adult being charged as an alleged juvenile perpetrator be afforded rights he or she would have received if charged in a timely manner and when he or she was a juvenile? Why should one face more severe adult penalties due to the inaction of the alleged victim’s failure to report? How do we know the accuser is being truthful or is unknowingly wrong about what did or did not occur so long ago in the past? Both parties were children. Both should be treated accordingly.
General District Court – Adults
Most adults charged with misdemeanor crimes begin the criminal process at the general district court so long as the criminal or traffic charges do not involve family and or household members. Misdemeanors usually resolve at this court level. On the other hand, felony charges will normally begin at the general district court; there will be an arraignment, attorney date, possibly a bond motion or two, and preliminary hearing(s).
Hopefully, the prosecutor and defense can reach an agreement and resolve the matter(s) at this level and avoid certifying the charge(s) and sending up to the Circuit Court.
Circuit Court in the Commonwealth of Virginia
This is the Trial Court. The Circuit Court is a Court of Record and is the place where jury trials may be held. Some bench trials are also heard here. Felony plea(s) and sentencing are heard at Circuit Court. Misdemeanor charges may be heard here alongside felonies. Misdemeanor appeals may be had at the Circuit Court. Here are example of crimes which may be heard at this court:
Crimes of Violence: (Virginia Statutes)
Assault & battery - Statute 18.2-57
Aggravated Malicious Wounding - Statute 18.2-51.2
Malicious Wounding - Statute 18.2-51
Strangulation - Statute 18.2-51.6
Malicious bodily Injury to Police - Statute 18.2-51.1
Domestic violence - Statute 18.2-57.2
Abduction/ Kidnapping - Statute 18.2-47
Petty Larceny - Statute 18.2-86 (Recent changes in law)
Grand Larceny -Statute 18.2-95 (Recent changes in law)
Receiving Stolen Goods - Statute 18.2-108
Larceny with intent to sell or distribute - Statute 18.2-108.01
Embezzlement - Statute 18.2-111
Intentional destruction of Property - Statute. 18.2-137
Robbery. Statute 18.2-58. (Recent changes in law)
Identity theft - Statute 186.3
General Forgery and Uttering - Statute 18.2-172.
Public Forgery - Statute 18.2-168
Obtaining money or goods by False Pretenses - Statute 18.2-178
False Statements to obtain property or Credit - Statute. 18.2-186
Credit Card Theft - Statute 18.2-192
Credit Card Forgery - Statute 18.2-193
Credit Card Fraud - Statute. 18.2-195
Prostitution - Statute 18.2-346
Visiting a Bawdy Place (prostitution house) - Statute 18.2-347
Sexual battery - Statute 18.2-67.4
Aggravated Sexual Battery - Statute 18.2-67.3
Object sexual Penetration - Statute 18.2-67.2
Rape - Statue 18.2-61
Forcible Sodomy - Statute 18.2-67.1
Child pornography - Statute 18.2-374.1:1
Carnal knowledge of a child - Statute 18.2-63
Indecent liberties - Statute 18.2-370
Indecent liberties from custodian or person supervisory position - Statute 18.2-370.1
Use of communication system to facilitate offenses against children - Statute 18.2-374.3
Crimes Involving Weapons:
Possession, transportation of firearms by convicted felon - Statute 18.2-308.2
Use or display of firearm while committing felony - Statute. 18.2-53.1
Shooting in committing felony - Statute 18.2-53
Brandishing firearm - Statute 18.2- 282
Reckless handling of a firearm - Statute. 18.2- 56.1
Discharging firearm within building or dwelling - Statute 18.2-279
Shooting at a car or vehicle - Statute 18.2-154
Shooting from vehicle so as to endanger person - Statute 18.2-286.1
Possession of firearm while in possession of certain substances - Statute 18.2-308.4
Driving – Criminal Charges:
Disregarding/eluding police signal - Statute 46.2-817
Reckless Driving - Statute 18.2-852
Drunk driving/ Driving under the influence - Statute 18.2-266
DWI DUI – drunk driving – persons under the age of twenty-one (21) - Statue 18.2-266.1
Driving after forfeiture of license - Statute 18.2-272
Driving while intoxicated – subsequent offense - Statute 18.2-270
Driving without a license - Statute 46.2-300
Driving on suspended or revoked license - Statute 46.2-301s
Maiming while Drunk Driving or Driving under Influence - Statute 18.2-51.4
Distribution of Drugs - Statute 18.2-248
Illegal Possession of a Controlled Substance - Statute 18.2-250
Burglary/Breaking and Entering:
Burglary – Statute 18.2-89
Burglary w/intent to commit murder rape robbery arson. Statute 18.2-90
Burglary w/intent to commit larceny assault battery, other felony - Statute 18.2-91
Break and enter commit misdemeanor – Statute 18.2-92
Possession of burglary tools – Statute 18.2-94
False ID to law enforcement - Statute 19.2-82.1
Obstruction of Justice/Resisting arrest – Statute 18.2-460
Summary: Children who are charged as juvenile delinquents and facing criminal charges whether it be misdemeanor or felony offenses should be given special consideration and given a chance to rectify without permanent damage which may hurt them for the rest of their lives. Of course there are limited exceptions.
The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court should take into account:
- The offenders age at the time of alleged offense;
- The seriousness of the charge or charges;
- Whether this court can give effective treatment to the individual;
- Determine if services are available to the individual;
- Ask whether the individual has a criminal history;
- Does the child suffer from mental illness or intellectual challenges;
- What is the level of education;
- What is the physical condition and maturity of the child;
- Did the individual have his/her freedom deprived in the past an if so –did the individual attempt to escape confinement.
- Question the alleged victim’s age and competency at time of alleged offense;
Regarding the question addressed earlier – a defendant who allegedly committed a crime as a child and is arrested many years later – what should be considered here for this individual? What about the alleged victim? Why did the alleged victim wait so long to make a claim? Was the alleged victim competent at the time of the alleged offenses to understand the crimes; When should the child have reported the crime to law enforcement; Where are the parents in these situations; What type of settings did these crimes take place; What was the mental, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of the alleged victim and defendant when the alleged acts occurred; If the victim demonstrated no symptoms and years later makes accusations – should the defendant be deprived of a meaningful defense? Is there an individual reading this page who can account for all time during their childhood. Why is the victim credible? Is it because of the nature of the sexual offense that the accused is deemed guilty automatically? Why aren’t alleged juvenile victims and the accused being treated equally?
child or an adult charged with crimes which allegedly occurred from many years past – please feel free to call and arrange a consult - Attorney Sheryl Shane!