Virginia Court Records Lookup

The following is for information purposes only

Virginia Court Records

What types of courts are in Virginia?

The court system in Virginia has four branches consisting of trial courts, the court of appeals, the supreme court, and federal courts. All cases heard at the lower level can appeal to the court of appeals, where they have the right to either overturn or dismiss. The last limb of the law is the state supreme court, where they can overturn any decisions on courts in the state and work to make sure that judges and attorneys are ruling on cases lawfully.

There are also federal courts in the state. Each of the two federal courts serves the entire population, hearing cases in the state that violate either civil or criminal law on the federal level. On the federal level, there is also a bankruptcy court, which has jurisdiction over all of the cases dealing with bankruptcy in the state.

How are court cases in Virginia managed?

All of the trial courts are managed by the state supreme court. While they can send appeals to the court of appeals, any decision made in the lower courts could be overturned if the panel of judges sees fit. For all appeals that get approved, the supreme court also has jurisdiction to overrule the court of appeals if they see fit.

The supreme court is the highest power in the state, deciding to hear or overturn cases where the ruling is questionable. Additionally, it is the supreme court that can decide whether judges are acting in a lawful manner and abiding by the law that is expected of them.

On the federal level, there are two different federal courts, both of which have jurisdiction only in their area. Cases heard by federal courts can send appeals to circuit courts at the national level, where the United States federal government can overturn them if they deem necessary.

Which trial courts are in Virginia?

Circuit Courts

Virginia has circuit courts in every city and every county of the state. The judges that sit on the court can hear both civil and criminal cases and can hear appeals from courts such as the district courts. When there is a case that deals with jurisdiction that is not designated by the Code of Virginia, it is the Circuit Courts that hear them. Circuit courts in the state have jurisdiction over civil cases with claims over $25,000.

General District Courts

Just like the circuit courts, there are general district courts in all cities and counties in the state of Virginia. The court hears both civil and criminal cases that involved matters dealing with traffic violations and infractions. All preliminary hearings for felony cases are also heard here, with the court deciding whether or not to pass it on to the grand jury. There are no jury trials here and jurisdiction only includes civil cases with claims below $4500.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations

This court is found in every county and handles court cases that deal with children under the age of 18. When a juvenile is accused of a crime, it is this court that will oversee and ultimately decide what happens. This court doesn't just deal with juveniles that commit crimes but also with crimes that are committed that involved young children like abuse, neglect, and custody. This court does not hold trials and typically only involves the parties, families, and attorneys with a judge overseeing and deciding the outcome.

Magistrate System

Virginia has a total of 32 districts, eight of which have a magistrate system. This part of the court system deals with criminal complaints by law enforcement and issues protective orders. They also can issue warrants and arrests from this court.

What are the federal district courts in Virginia?

There are two federal district courts in Virginia, including:

  • Eastern District of Virginia – The Eastern District of Virginia has jurisdiction in four different divisions divided into the eastern half of the state. 85% of the population lives here, which totals over six million people. The Eastern Division federal court handles all of the criminal and civil cases within their jurisdiction that violate federal law.
  • Western District of Virginia – The Western District of Virginia has jurisdiction over seven districts, including Abingdon, Dickenson, and Nelson counties. The Western District federal courts handle all of the cases both criminal and civil that violate federal law within their jurisdiction.

All of the judges that sit on both of the federal courts in the state are nominated by the president of the United States and voted in by the United States Senate. All appeals from this district go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Additionally, there is a federal court that deals with bankruptcies in the state of Virginia. They have jurisdiction over all of the cases that deal with bankruptcy in the state and are found in both the eastern and western districts.

How to find electronic court records in Virginia?

The state of Virginia does not limit access to the public when it comes to most court cases. However, there are some that are sealed and cannot be accessed, though they either deal with minors or with sensitive information.

Those looking for court records electronically can find them on the Virginia judicial system's website, looking up the case they are interested in with the case number, the name of the parties involved, or the attorneys involved. Finding court records electronically is one way, though those wanting to obtain records can do so in another way too.

Interested parties can also visit the court in which the case was heard, requesting documents there. However, here, those wanting documents will need to know the name of the document they need and know at least the case number or the name of the attorney that was defending either party.