Prosecution in Alexandria's Courts
The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office prosecutes cases in all City of Alexandria Courts, which are located in the Courthouse at 520 King Street. The Circuit Court has jurisdiction over all felony offenses and cases appealed from the General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Criminal matters in Circuit Court are heard as scheduled.
The General District Court is the court in which all criminal misdemeanors and traffic offenses are tried. Criminal and traffic dockets are heard Monday through Friday at 9:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11:00 a.m. depending on the type of hearing.
The prosecutors in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court are responsible for the prosecution of all crimes committed by and against juveniles (persons under the age of 18), and all crimes committed by one family or household member against another, including domestic assault. Special emphasis is placed on the prosecution of violent crime by juveniles and on cases of domestic violence.
II. Circuit Court
Each year the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office commences about 1300 felony cases in Circuit Court and, in addition, tries about 700 misdemeanor offenses appealed from lower courts. Before a felony case is set for trial, it is presented to a grand jury, which sits once a month, in order to determine whether there is probable cause to bring an indictment against the defendant. The defendant, the prosecutor, or the court have the option of electing whether the matter will be tried by a jury or heard by a judge sitting without a jury.
Each Thursday is designated as a criminal motions day (Commonwealth day), on which the three Circuit Court Judges hear pleas of guilty, sentencings, motions or short trials in criminal cases. Lengthy trials or cases set with a jury are scheduled and heard on separate days as the docket permits.
Prosecutors assigned to handle felony cases are the more experienced assistants in the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. Circuit Court dockets usually commence at 10:00 a.m. Trials are open to the public. Anyone interested in observing a court event is invited to call the court administrator 703-746-4123 to check the docket, or see Case Updates.
III. General District Court
The daily criminal dockets in General District Court account for over 6,000 cases a year, and consist of cases of trespassing, assault and battery, shoplifting, and other misdemeanor offenses. In addition, this court conducts preliminary hearings in many felony cases, to review evidence in deciding whether to refer the matter to a grand jury for indictment and trial in Circuit Court. Defendants are not entitled to jury trials in District Court. Criminal court begins at 9:00 a.m. daily, and preliminary hearings in felony cases are held daily at 11:00 a.m.
IV. General District Traffic Court
V. Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
Prosecutors in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court place special emphasis on domestic violence and violent juvenile crime. Prosecution of domestic violence cases is carried out with a strong network of support from the Alexandria Police Domestic Violence Unit, the Office on Women, and the Domestic Violence Intervention Project.
Juvenile crime is prosecuted with an eye toward prevention, treatment, and punishment. Serious offenses committed by juveniles over age 14 may be transferred to Circuit Court where the offender may face adult punishment. Such cases are carefully scrutinized by the Commonwealth's Attorney on an individual basis to determine whether transfer is appropriate. Offenders tried under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court face a range of dispositions from probation to confinement in juvenile facilities.
VI. Information for Defensive Attorneys
Discovery in Circuit Court matters is conducted pursuant to written motions. Counsel are encouraged to file motions with prosecutors before docketing them for a hearing, as most requests for discovery can be resolved without litigation.