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General District Court Overview
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General District Court
General District Court Overview

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although the Circuit Court Clerk's Office and the General District Court Clerk's Office are both located on the first floor of the Courts Building, the two offices are completely separate. Questions or information requests regarding a General District Court case (e.g., civil suits involving small claims, traffic tickets, etc.) should be directed to the General District Court Clerk's Office. The General District Court Clerk's Office is open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding State holidays.

Civil Court

Types of Cases

The Chesterfield County General District Court, Civil Division handles cases involving monetary claims up to $25,000 and claims for recovery of personal property. Examples of civil cases are landlord and tenant disputes, contract disputes and personal injury claims. If your civil suit is for $5,000 or less, you may be able to file your case under the Small Claims Court .

Small Claims Court

The small claims court has jurisdiction over civil cases in which the plaintiff is seeking a money judgment of up to $5,000.00 or recovery of personal property valued at up to $5,000.00.

All parties shall represent themselves without attorneys. A corporate or partnership plaintiff or defendant may be represented by an owner, general partner, officer or employee of that corporation or partnership.

Filing Your Small Claims Case  

There will be a fee to file your small claims case. To file your small claims case, you will need to come to the clerk's office between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

There are two types of warrants handled by small claims.

  1. Warrant in Debt is filed if you are seeking a money judgment, or
  2. Warrant in Detinue is filed if you are seeking to obtain possession of personal property wrongfully withheld by the defendant.

When filing your claim, you will need the correct name and address of the person(s) or business you are suing. For the Warrant in Debt you will need the amount you are suing for and the reason you are suing. For the Warrant in Detinue you will need a description of the property, its value and the reason for the claim.

With regard to the correct name of a business or corporation, and the correct serving party, you can obtain assistance from such sources as the Better Business Bureau, county business license office and the State Corporation Commission.

When your paperwork is filed, you will be given a court date (return date) to come to court. You will need to be present in the courtroom assigned to you at the time of filing on the date and time assigned.

Criminal Court

Types of Cases  

The Criminal Division of General District Court conducts felony preliminary hearings and misdemeanor trials. A felony is any offense punishable with death or confinement in a state correctional facility. All other offenses are misdemeanors.

The District Court will conduct a preliminary hearing to determine if there is probable cause, sufficient evidence to justify holding the defendant for a grand jury hearing and trial in Chesterfield Circuit Court. Examples of felonies include murder, robbery, rape, burglary, grand larceny, forgery, credit card theft, malicious or unlawful wounding, felonious assault, possession of a controlled substance (such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc.) with intent to distribute and possession of a controlled substance.

A misdemeanor is any county or state offense that carries a penalty of no more than one year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500.00, or both. Examples of non-traffic misdemeanors include assault, trespass, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, prostitution, obstruction of justice, disturbing the peace, illegal dumping, underage possession of alcohol, drinking in public, open alcohol container, animal control violations, health and housing code violations.

There are four (4) classes of misdemeanors and punishment is different for each.

  • Class 1 - confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and/or a fine of not more than $2,500.00.
  • Class 2 - confinement in jail for not more than 6 months and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.
  • Class 3 - a fine of not more than $500.00.
  • Class 4 - a fine of not more than $250.00.

For a listing of prepayable criminal offenses such as hunting, fishing and boating violations, tobacco and alcohol violations go to www.courts.state.va.us  

Your court date  

You must appear in court on all criminal offenses, unless you are charged with one or more pre-payable non-traffic misdemeanor offenses and have paid the correct amount to the clerk, and your payment is received by the clerk before your trial date.

You need to arrive at the courthouse well before your appearance time. You should allow time to walk from the parking lots to the court building. Thereafter, you may encounter a line to pass through the metal detectors before going into the appropriate courtroom. Once in the courtroom, stay in the courtroom until your case is called. The clerks cannot check in the courtroom to see if your case has been called. Depending on the size of the dockets, court can sometimes last all day.

Defendants  

If you are a defendant, listen for your name to be called and then promptly walk to the front of the courtroom to the judge when the clerk calls your case.

Witnesses  

If you are a witness in a case, listen for the names of the defendant(s) in the case to be called and then promptly walk to the front of the courtroom to the judge when the clerk calls your case.

Failure to appear  

In criminal cases, if a defendant fails to pay the fine and court costs and also fails to appear in court, a separate warrant may be issued against the defendant on the new charge of failure to appear. The defendant then will have to stand trial on that charge, as well as the original charge.

Appeals  

You can appeal your conviction to Circuit Court within ten (10) days of the conviction date. The ten day period begins to run on the day following the conviction. If the tenth day falls on a Saturday or Sunday or legal holiday or any day the clerk's office is closed as authorized by statute, the appeal may be noted on the next day the clerk's office is authorized to open. The appeal may be noted by the defendant or his/her attorney.

Traffic Court

The Chesterfield County General District Court, Traffic Division hears cases in which a person is charged with a traffic offense. Many traffic offenses can be prepaid . For those cases, the court appearance can be waived; that is the defendant may choose to pay his/her fine and court costs in person or by mail prior to the court date and does not need to appear in court.

Your Court Date  

You need to arrive at the courthouse well before your appearance time. You should allow time to walk from the parking lots to the court building. Thereafter, you may encounter a line to pass through the metal detectors before going into the appropriate courtroom. Once in the courtroom, stay in the courtroom until your case is called.

Continuances  

All continuances granted by Judge. They can call back the day after their court date to see if the Judge granted their request.

Appeals  

You can appeal your conviction to Circuit Court within ten (10) days of the conviction date. The ten day period begins to run on the day following the conviction. If the tenth day falls on a Saturday or Sunday or legal holiday or any day the clerk's office is closed as authorized by statute, the appeal may be noted on the next day the clerk's office is authorized to open. The appeal may be noted by the defendant or his/her attorney.

HOW AND WHERE TO PAY

To prepay on-line  

You can use the link below and follow the instructions given on the Web site:

http://www.courts.state.va.us/caseinfo/tickets.html  

To prepay in person  

If you decide to prepay your traffic ticket in person, you may pay by cash, Visa, MasterCard, or by check or money order made payable to Chesterfield County General District Court. There is a 4% fee for credit card payments. You may prepay your ticket in person up to the day before your court date by 4:00 p.m. Bring your summons with you.

To prepay by mail  

If you decide to prepay your traffic ticket by mail, you will need to send your traffic ticket (signed that you are waiving your court appearance) and your check or money order made payable to the Chesterfield County General District Court. You can prepay by mail up to eight (8) days before your court date.

For a listing of prepayable traffic offenses go to www.courts.state.va.us 

Please note: Your payment is effective only on the date received by the clerk's office, not the date you mailed it. You assume the risk in using the mail for delivery. If you wish to be mailed a receipt, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your payment.  

The following charges require a mandatory court appearance and are NOT prepayable:  

  • Driving under the influence
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license
  • Reckless driving
  • Reckless driving to wit speeding
  • Hit and run
  • Texting while driving

For more serious traffic offenses, the court appearance may not be waived and prepayment of the fine is not an option. You will need to be in court on your assigned court date. Some, but not all, of these offenses include no insurance, DUI/refusals, suspended permit, no permit, reckless driving, altered or improper use of decals/tags, littering, speeding in a work zone, habitual offender, any drug violation.

If you are convicted of certain traffic violations, the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will assess points against your driver's license. This is an administrative action by DMV and is in addition to any sentence imposed by the Judge. After conviction, DMV determines the amount of demerit points to be assessed according to the severity of the offense. For more information on points, you can contact the DMV Web site at www.dmv.state.va.us . The Judge does not have the authority to adjust or reduce points.