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.
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.
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.
General District Traffic Court
A. Traffic Infractions and Misdemeanors
Because of the large number of traffic matters brought in the General District Court each year (over 25,000), the Commonwealth's Attorney limits resources to the prosecution of the more serious offenses, with an emphasis on matters which carry a possible jail sentence, such as drunk driving, reckless driving and driving on a suspended or revoked license. Traffic court begins daily at 9:30 a.m. Many of the less serious infractions are heard directly by the court without participation of a prosecutor.
B. Parking Tickets
The Commonwealth's Attorney takes no role in the adjudication of contested parking citations.
Citizens desiring to contest a parking citation or a citation for violation of the City tag ordinance may do so by requesting a hearing at the General District Court. Vehicle owners who wish to contest a parking citation must fill out a District Court Affidavit. Hearings must be scheduled in advance and cannot be scheduled by physically appearing at the General District Court. To schedule a hearing for District Court, the vehicle owner must complete a District Court affidavit (one for each citation contested), have it notarized, and mail it with copies of the parking citation and his or her driver's license to City of Alexandria, P.O. Box 1423, Alexandria, VA, 22313-1423. Please note that the affidavit must be signed in the presence of a Notary. (More detailed information about the parking adjudication and General District Court hearing processes is available in the Contesting a Parking Citation F.A.Q. [LINK: https://www.alexandriava.gov/finance/info/default.aspx?id=57722])
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.
Information for Defense Attorneys
- Inquiries regarding the filing of motions or the setting of a hearing or trial date in any Circuit Court case should be directed to the prosecutor assigned to the case. (See Prosecutors and their Assignments).
- In felony cases in Circuit Court, motions, sentencings, pleas, probation violations and short bench trials are scheduled on Thursdays. (Commonwealth Days). In order for a matter to be docketed for a hearing on any Thursday, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office must receive written notice of the matter no later than noon on the preceding Friday.
- Following indictment by a Circuit Court grand jury, trial dates may be set by contacting the assigned prosecutor by telephone. This should be done within the first seven days following indictment by the grand jury, which sits the first Monday of each month.
- Motions to reconsider rulings of the Circuit Court may not be docketed without express permission of the Court. If such motions are filed with the Commonwealth's Attorney, they will not be docketed until the Court has indicated its desire to hear the matter.
- The setting of trial dates for matters in General District Court (both traffic and criminal) may be accomplished by contacting administrative staff in the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. It is not necessary to set such dates with the District Court prosecutors. In setting matters in District Court, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office will make every effort to set the case on a regularly designated court date of the arresting officer.
- Discovery practice in the Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney's Office is designed to reduce litigation and provide material to defense counsel fairly and promptly. Discovery in District Court matters is conducted at regularly scheduled sessions in which prosecutors set aside time to meet with defense counsel in order to discuss cases. Counsel are encouraged to call the designated prosecutors and set up appointments for this process.
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.