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The Fairfax Court System

If someone has been charged with a crime in Fairfax County, it is always beneficial to know how their case will proceed. Understanding how the court system works means that the person will be able to prepare for their defense, well before they actually step into court.

Additionally, speaking with a local Fairfax criminal defense lawyer means having additional help in your defense.

Case Process Following a Formal Charge

Cases processes depend on the charge. If someone is charged with a traffic offense, they will get a ticket, or a summons. If it’s a DUI or reckless driving they will be required to appear in court. If they receive a ticket, they’re not going to jail, but they are going to appear in court on a given date. They should have an attorney present and retained prior to that date.

They also could be charged with misdemeanors in which case they do go to jail when they are arrested. Then there is the decision made by the magistrate whether that person is going to be able to get a bail so they can post a bond and be released.

It’s the same situation with a felony as well. The person will get arrested and they will either be able to pay their bail right away, or they’ll be held. If they are held, then there will be a process where their Fairfax criminal lawyer can file bond motions for their release; this way they can also be present for their preliminary hearing without being incarcerated.


The judge determines both in District Court and Circuit Court what the final sentence will be. Both sides can make recommendations to the judge and both sides can agree for a joint recommendation for the judge. However, if the judge is the one who is imposing the sentence, the judge can reject the joint recommendation, which does sometimes happen. Ultimately, it’s the judge that’s presiding in District or Circuit Court deciding sentences.

If You Cannot Pay Your Fine

If you don’t pay your fine within 30 days, then your privilege to drive in Virginia will get suspended. If you continue not to pay, then there could be a civil judgment applied against you, and you could be held in violation of the terms of your probation because you’re required to pay your court cost and fine.

Appealing a Court Decision in Fairfax

For misdemeanors, a person has ten calendar days from the date of conviction to note their appeal with the clerk’s office. It’s very important if they’re even considering appealing, that they note their appeal. If they don’t note their appeal, they lose that right and they will not be able to get it back.

You can always note your appeal even if you’re unsure. People always have the opportunity to withdraw their appeal if they decide to live with the consequences rather than go through the appeal process.

Different Fairfax Courts

The General District Court is the one that hears criminal misdemeanors and traffic cases. Only judges hear those cases. If a person is convicted in the General District Court, then they have a right to an appeal to the Circuit Court.

The Circuit Court is when people have the right to elect for a jury to hear their case. Felonies are heard in the Circuit Court. They start out in the General District Court as preliminary hearings only, but if prosecutors decide to continue the process, they are heard in the Circuit Court. Then, depending on what happens to their case and whether or not there are issues to appeal, they can then appeal to the Court of Appeals followed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

There is also the Juvenile Domestic and Relations Court (JDR), which has jurisdiction over cases or crimes involving family or household members or crimes in which juveniles are victims and/or defendants. In JDR, you have a judge that hears the case. If the person is convicted, then they have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court.

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