The job of the Commonwealth Attorney is to hold people who commit crimes accountable, obtain criminal redress for crime victims, and insure that both victims and defendants receive a fair trial. The trial function includes interviewing witnesses, researching the applicable law, presenting legal and factual arguments to judges, preparing trial exhibits, presenting the testimony of witnesses, and cross-examining defense witnesses.
Prosecution in the General District Court
The Henrico County General District Court has jurisdiction over cases involving traffic charges and criminal misdemeanors such as shoplifting, assault and battery, and trespass. The General District Court tries these cases and can impose various punishments including a fine, jail sentence, and/or restitution to a victim.
Prosecution in the Circuit Court
The Circuit Court tries adults charged with felonies, and is the only court with authority to allow defendants trial by jury. In addition, the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over juveniles aged 15 or over whose felony charges have been certified by the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court for trial in Circuit Court. The Circuit Court hears all misdemeanor appeals from both General District Court and Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court.
Prosecution in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court
The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office also prosecutes cases in the Henrico County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Misdemeanors, as well as some felonies committed by juveniles are prosecuted in Juvenile Court. The Juvenile Court also handles misdemeanors committed by one family or household member against another. Juveniles who commit serious felonies, and juveniles with an extensive prior record who commit felonies, are transferred to Circuit Court for trial. In addition, cases involving adults charged with committing felonies against juveniles begin in Juvenile Court.
Seven Commonwealth’s Attorneys are assigned full-time to Juvenile Court and follow transferred or certified felonies to Circuit Court. The Victim/Witness Program is heavily involved with the type of cases heard in Juvenile Court, and the Victim/Witness advocates spend many hours working with these victims, as well as with the Juvenile Court prosecutors.
In addition to the preparation for and trial of criminal cases, the attorneys assigned to Juvenile Court assist the Henrico County Division of Police investigators on cases involving juveniles, train sexual assault nurses, and lecture at domestic violence seminars.
In an effort to deter delinquency, the Juvenile Court prosecutors help probation officers structure treatment and preventive plans through the Serious Offender Comprehensive Program (SHOCAP), and seek to deter shoplifters through lectures delivered at the juvenile shoplifting diversion program.