PORTSMOUTH COURTS

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court

If the victim or the defendant is under the age of 18 or the case involves persons related by blood or marriage, who share a child in common, or who have cohabitated within the past 12 months, the case will be heard in this court. 

Location: First floor of the courthouse

Clerk's Office: 757-393-8851

General District Court

If the victim and the defendant are over the age of eighteen or do not meet the relationship requirements for Juvenile Court, the case will be heard in this court.

Location: First floor of the courthouse

Clerk's Office: 757-393-8681

Circuit Court

Felony cases are heard in this court following the preliminary hearing, which occurs in either Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court or General District Court. Misdemeanor appeals are also tried in this court. The defendant's guilt or innocence is determined by either a jury trial or a bench trial.

Location: Second and third floors of the courthouse

Clerk's Office: 757-393-8671

INFORMATION ABOUT THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

COMMONLY USED TERMS:

Circuit CourtA court of record in which criminal trials take place.

Defendant: The person charged with committing a crime.

Docket: A schedule of cases to be heard on a particular day in a certain court.

Felony: A crime punishable by possible imprisonment for a minimum of one year or more.

General District Court: The court in which most preliminary hearings take place.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court: The court in which all juvenile cases are heard, where either the victim or the defendant is a juvenile, or where the victim or defendant are related, have a child together, or have lived together in the past 12 months.

Misdemeanor: A crime punishable by possible confinement in jail for a maximum of one year, a fine of at most $2500, or both.

Plea Agreement: An agreement between the Commonwealth and defendant as to the charges to which the defendant will plead guilty and/or the time the defendant will receive. If you are a victim, the prosecutor will try to contact you before a plea agreement is formalized in order to give you a full explanation.

Pre-Sentence Report: A background investigation of the defendant prepared for the court prior to sentencing.

Preliminary Hearing: A hearing before a judge to determine if there is probable cause to believe the accused has committed the crime charged.

Probable Cause: Reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person charged committed the crime.

Subpoena: A court order directing you to be present at the time and place stated.

OTHER HELPFUL INFORMATION

Threats

Threatening a victim or witness is a serious crime in Virginia. If you are threatened by a defendant or anyone else in regard to your case, immediately call the Portsmouth Police Department at 911 or the Detective Bureau at 757-393-8536.

Tips on Testifying

  • Dress neatly and be courteous.
  • Be prepared and listen carefully.
  • Speak in a clear, loud voice and look straight at the person asking the questions.
  • Do not guess or make up answers.
  • If one of the lawyers objects to a question, do not answer until the judge has ruled on the objection.
  • Above all never lose your temper.
  • TELL THE TRUTH.

After Hours Docket Information Line

Call 757-393-8581 after 5:00PM on the day before you have to come to court. Follow the prompts to reach Victim Witness. A recorded message will give you an update on Circuit Court cases for the following day. By calling this number, you may save yourself an unnecessary trip to court.

PORTSMOUTH JUDICIAL CENTER: MAP