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General District Court
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Civil Cases. The general district court decides civil suits involving amounts of money up to $25,000. However, unlawful detainer (eviction) suits that include a request for rent for commercial or agricultural property can be heard by the general district court even if the amount of rent requested is more than $25,000. A suit is begun by filing a civil warrant or complaint with the clerk of the court and paying a filing fee.
Criminal Cases. The general district court decides cases in which a person is charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is any charge which carries a penalty of no more than one year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500 or both.
The general district court holds preliminary hearings in felony cases. A felony is any charge which may be punishable by more than one year in jail. Preliminary hearings in felony cases are held to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense in order to justify holding the defendant for a grand jury hearing. The grand jury determines whether the accused will be indicted and held for trial by the circuit court.
Each defendant in a criminal case is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Upon consideration of the evidence, the judge decides the question of guilt or innocence and, on a finding of guilt, determines which penalty, if any, is proper and lawful.
Traffic Cases. The general district court hears cases in which a person is charged with a traffic offense. Most traffic offenses are traffic infractions, which are generally punishable by a fine of not more than $250. Cases involving awards to individuals for damages in connection with traffic violations are civil in nature and would be categorized as such. 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.
For detailed information, please read the General District Court Informational Pamphlet. If your questions or concerns are not addressed in this Pamphlet, please contact the Clerk of the General District Court, Ms. Cheryl Lee Phillips at (540) 727-3417.
Additionally, citizens have the ability to look up information and make payments online http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/gd/Culpeper/home.html.