Juveniles in Circuit Court
Consideration for Trial in Circuit Court
A case involving a juvenile 14 years of age or older accused of a felony may be certified or transferred to circuit court where the juvenile would be tried as an adult under one of the following circumstances:
- Mandatory Certification: If a juvenile is charged with capital murder, first or second degree murder, murder by lynching, or aggravated malicious wounding, he or she receives a preliminary hearing in J&DR district court. If probable cause is found, the juvenile will automatically be certified for trial as an adult, and the case is sent to the circuit court. The certification is not appealable.
- Prosecutorial Discretionary Certification: When a juvenile is charged with a violent juvenile felony as defined in § 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia that does not require mandatory certification, the prosecution may request certification. The juvenile will receive a preliminary hearing in J&DR district court. If probable cause is found, the juvenile is certified for trial as an adult, and the case is sent to the circuit court. The certification is not appealable.
- Transfer: When a juvenile is charged with a felony offense, the prosecutor may ask a J&DR district court judge to transfer the case to circuit court for trial as an adult. The judge receives a transfer report documenting each of the factors that the court must consider in the hearing (e.g., age, seriousness and number of alleged offenses, amenability to treatment and rehabilitation, availability of dispositional alternatives, prior juvenile record, mental capacity and emotional maturity, educational record, etc.). The judge decides whether the juvenile is a proper person to remain in the jurisdiction of the J&DR district court. If not, the case goes to the circuit court. The decision to transfer the case may be appealed by either party.
- Direct Indictment: In cases proceeding under mandatory or prosecutorial discretionary certification, if the J&DR district court does not find probable cause, the attorney for the Commonwealth may seek a direct indictment in the circuit court on the instant offense and all ancillary charges. The direct indictment is not appealable.
- Waiver: A juvenile 14 years of age or older charged with a felony may waive the jurisdiction of the J&DR district court with the written consent of counsel and have the case heard in the circuit court.
Trial of Juveniles in Circuit Court
Juveniles whose cases are transferred to circuit court are tried in the same manner as adults, but juveniles may not be sentenced by a jury. A conviction of a juvenile as an adult precludes the J&DR district court from taking jurisdiction of such juvenile for any subsequent offenses committed by that juvenile and any pending allegations of delinquency that had not been disposed of by the J&DR district court at the time of the criminal conviction. If a juvenile is not convicted in circuit court, jurisdiction over that juvenile for any future alleged delinquent behavior is returned to the J&DR district court.
Sentencing of Juveniles in Circuit Court
Circuit court judges may sentence juveniles transferred or certified to their courts to juvenile or adult sentences, including adult prison time, jail time, or both. When a juvenile receives a blended sentence, the court orders the juvenile to serve the beginning of his or her sentence with DJJ and a later portion in an adult correctional facility.