Arlington County Courthouse
The Arlington County Courthouse is located at 1425 North Courthouse Road, Arlington, Virginia. The Arlington County Courthouse includes the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, General District Court, and Circuit Court. The courthouse hears both criminal and civil cases.
Arlington County Criminal Process
The criminal justice process generally begins when you are arrested or issued a summons. A summons is simply a piece of paper that commands you to appear at a specific date and time for a hearing at the courthouse. It will also list the criminal offense you are accused of committing. The officer issuing the summons will ask you to sign the summons to acknowledge you received it.
Instead of receiving a summons, you may be arrested and taken in front of a magistrate official at the Arlington Adult Detention Center. The magistrate is a judicial official who issues warrants for arrest and makes the initial determination about whether to release an arrested person pending trial and, if so, what conditions should be imposed upon them.
Depending on the nature of the charge, if you are someone who has not been in trouble before, has a steady job, and has ties to the area you may be released solely on your promise to appear at trial. If you have been in trouble before—especially if you have failed to appear for a court date before—or if the charge is more serious, then you may have to post a cash bond or submit to some other conditions before you will be released.
Finally, if you pose a threat to the community, if you are a flight risk, or if another jurisdiction has a detainer on you, then the magistrate may not release you. If that happens, then you can be released following a bond motion or you may remain in detention until your trial.
What happens after I am arrested or given a summons?
If you are arrested and released or given a summons, you will be given a date to return to court–usually just a few days following your arrest in Arlington. Make sure to show up on that date and time. If you do not, there are several potential consequences. They include losing any bond you posted, an additional charge of Failure to Appear, and a bench warrant for your arrest.
What generally happens at a first appearance in a misdemeanor case?
Yours will not be the only case, as Arlington County is a very busy courthouse. You will be waiting with many others. If you have not hired an attorney at this point, you will have to wait in the courtroom until the judge calls your case. At that point, the judge will inform you of the charges and your right to an attorney.
The judge will then give you a court date at which to appear with your attorney. And often in Arlington County, the judge will give you a separate date prior to the trial date at which time you need to notify the court of who your attorney will be. You should find an attorney right away, do not wait until a week before your next court date. You can also ask for a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.
In order to get a court-appointed attorney, you must be facing charges for which you might receive a jail sentence and you must be unable to afford one. After you make your request, the judge will have you go to court services to fill out forms so that he or she can determine whether you qualify for a court appointed attorney. Note that if you are ultimately found guilty, you will have to repay your attorney fees to the state.
What if my case is a felony case?
Felony cases are more complex. If your case is a felony case, your first court date will usually be an arraignment, which will be similar to a first appearance on a misdemeanor.
After that you will have a preliminary hearing date. You should retain an attorney immediately upon being charged with a felony to allow your counsel sufficient time to prepare your defense.
If you do not waive the preliminary hearing, and you usually should not, the prosecutor will try to put on enough evidence for a judge to find “probable cause” that you committed the felony crime you are charged with. If the judge finds probable cause, the case will then go to a grand jury for indictment. If the grand jury returns an indictment as a “true bill,” then the case will proceed to Circuit Court.
After the case proceeds to a grand jury, and if an indictment is issued, then a trial date will be selected.
Arlington Civil Process
A civil case in Arlington may be started through civil complaint or through a summons or other similar type of civil filing–such as a warrant in debt or an unlawful detainer. The initial paperwork will be served on the opposing party, who then must decide how to respond.
Arlington General District Court
The Arlington General District Court has jurisdiction on civil cases up to $25,000.00 in controversy, civil protective orders, and a range of other civil matters. A civil plaintiff will file a warrant in debt, unlawful detainer, or other civil filing in General District Court to initiate the. This document will include a return date and it will be served on the defendant.
This return date is the date at which the defendant must appear in court and inform the court whether they agree or disagree with the allegations. If the defendant does not show up, then the court may grant default judgment against the judgment. Likewise, if the defendant appears and agrees with the allegation, then the court will grant judgment for the plaintiff.
If the defendant appears at the return date and disagrees with the plaintiff’s allegation, then the court will generally require that each side submit pleadings–a bill of particulars by the plaintiff and answer and defenses by the defendant–by certain dates. Unlike many other jurisdictions, the judge will then usually order an intermediate status date, at which point the parties must appear again to set a trial date.
At the trial date the court will hear testimony, review evidence, and issue a ruling (assuming the defendant appears at the return date and disagrees with the allegations).
Following a trial in General District Court, the losing party has ten days to appeal the matter to Circuit Court.
Arlington County Circuit Court
The Arlington Circuit Court has jurisdiction on civil disputes over $25,000.00, appeals from General District Court, and numerous other civil matters. Most circuit court civil cases are initiated through a civil complaint. This complaint is served on the defendant, at which time a defendant generally has 21 days to file a responsive pleading with the court.
The civil process in Circuit Court may involve in-depth discovery, motions, and procedural requirements that are more complex than general district court. Following this process, if the case is no dismissed, then the case will proceed to a judge or jury.
Whether the case is in General District Court or Circuit Court, there are numerous deadlines and important procedural requirements in each case. In addition, the local procedures and rules change frequently, so always consult with an attorney regarding your rights and obligations.
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If you have a case in Arlington, contact the office today to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney.