The Circuit Court hears court cases usually appealed from the GDC (General District Court) and tries them de novo, meaning, the court hears the case from the beginning as if there was no prior trial.
The Appellate Procedure
In Virginia, a party willing to appeal needs to sign and serve a written Notice of Appeal at the trial court. In both civil and criminal cases, the appeal notice must be served within 30 days of the judgment or appealable order.
Appeals to Circuit Court from General District Court are mostly considered demands for new trials of the cases already tried at the General District Court. Essentially, they are more like trial courts instead of appellate courts.
When the court grants a petition for appeal, it is the beginning of a new round of litigation where the appellee and the appellant must file and submit papers to augment the pleas they put forward during the petition.
Traffic And Criminal Cases
To appeal a traffic violation or a criminal suit, the defendant or their lawyer need to make a personal appearance, either at the traffic or criminal division office to sign and serve an appeal notice in writing. The court may also require the defendant to post a bond. If the defendant fails to file the notice of appeal in the General District Court within thirty days, they lose their right to appeal.
The defendant has the right to appeal a civil case to Circuit Court, except in cases where the General District Court awards a judgment of less than $50.00. When the defendant appeals, the court may permit the plaintiff to raise the claim amount above the jurisdictional limit which is $25,000.
As with the criminal and traffic cases, the defendant needs to serve the appeal notice within thirty days of the trial judgment in GDC. They must then contact the office of the civil division to enquire about the bond amount and post the same.
In cases where the plaintiff appeals, the court does not require an appeal bond if there is no counterclaim assertion by the defendant.
The Choice Between a Jury Trial and a Bench Trial?
The United States constitution, by the way of its seventh amendment, bestows the right to trial by jury in court cases involving monetary compensation. However, the seventh amendment is applicable only in federal courts. This unfortunately means that you do not always have the right to choose whether to have a bench trial or a jury trial.
Having said that, most of the states have inculcated this right in their state constitutions in some form. More likely than not, you will have the chance to choose between the two if your trial involves monetary damages.
Almost all personal injury trials do involve financial damages, with the plaintiff demanding compensation for personal injuries and damages from the defendant. The court expects a request at the time of calling the case for trial, and if neither the plaintiff nor the defendant submits a written demand, the court sets a bench trial by default.
Should You Choose a Jury Trial or a Bench Trial?
The choice between a jury and a bench trial is a critical decision that you need to take with the guidance of your attorney after looking at specific facts of your court case. Civil attorneys generally agree with the following beliefs when it comes to selecting between a bench and a jury:
- Juries are likely to have more sympathy towards plaintiffs with injuries than judges
- Juries are likely to award a higher amount in damages and compensation than judges
As a result of the widely-held beliefs discussed above, plaintiffs generally tend to favor a jury trial, especially in personal injury cases. However, there might be situations where a bench trial seems like a better choice strategically. This is true for cases with complicated legal arguments which may be difficult to comprehend for the average jury member.
In Virginia, apart from establishing guilt or innocence, juries also decide on the punishment to award in court cases. A judge considers case precedents and past hearings to sentence an individual, making the case outcome easier to predict. On the other hand, a jury sentence carries with it a high degree of unpredictability owing to their not being well-versed with principles of sentencing and tenets of the law.
Accomplished And Competent Personal Injury Attorneys in Virginia
When an accident results in an unexpected severe injury due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it leaves the injured individual facing substantial monetary, emotional, and other damages that negatively impact their lives and livelihood. Sometimes, the only viable solution to pay for the medical treatment, damages, and loss of earnings, is filing a lawsuit against the negligent individuals.
The trial attorneys of Shapiro, Appleton, & Washburn have represented countless accident victims in general district courts as well as circuit courts and recovered compensatory damages ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars.
You can call us on 800-752-0042 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.