The Virginia Beach Magistrate Office operates under the
supervision of the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Virginia Supreme
Court. Magistrates are judicial officers
of the Commonwealth of Virginia and are not connected with law
enforcement. One of a magistrate’s
principal functions is to provide an independent, unbiased review of complaints
from law enforcement officers and citizens to determine if there is probable
cause for criminal charges. Magistrates may
conduct hearings in person and through designated videoconference systems.
The Virginia Beach Magistrate Office is open twenty-four hours a
day, 365 days a year at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center, Building 7C, across
from the Harris-Teeter Shopping Center off Nimmo Parkway. A second office is located at the Second
Police Precinct, 820 Virginia Beach Blvd., but that office is not always
open. Please call for information on
when the 2nd Precinct Office is open. No appointment is necessary at either office.
In addition to determining probable cause for criminal charges,
magistrates may also:
- Issue search warrants
- Admit to bail or commit to jail following an arrest
- Issue mental health and medical emergency custody orders and temporary
- Issue emergency protective orders
- Accept prepayment of fines and court costs for certain traffic and
misdemeanor offenses; and
- Issue civil warrants and order pre-trial levies and seizures in
Magistrate authority may be exercised within the region in which
the magistrate serves. Virginia Beach is
within Magistrate Region 7, which also includes Portsmouth, Norfolk, and
A magistrate may provide general legal information, but may not
provide legal advice. You should consult
an attorney if you need legal advice.
The Virginia State Bar offers an attorney referral service. You find additional information on the Virginia
State Bar website at http://www.vsb.org/vlrs/
or by calling (800) 552-7977 or (804) 775-0808.
Additional general information is provided below:
and Answers about Arrest Warrants
Question: When does a magistrate have authority to
issue an arrest warrant or summons?
A magistrate issues an arrest warrant or summons if there is probable
cause that the person charged committed a crime. “Probable cause” must be based on specific
facts or evidence to establish a probability or substantial chance of criminal
activity. However, probable cause does
not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
If a complainant is not a law enforcement officer, a magistrate may
issue an arrest warrant for a felony only with prior authorization from the
Commonwealth Attorney. The Virginia
Beach Commonwealth Attorney normally authorizes issuance of a felony warrant
only if there has been a police investigation into the charges. You may contact the Virginia Beach Police
Detective Bureau at 385-4101 to request a police investigation.
Question: How do I request that a magistrate issue an
arrest warrant or summons?
You must appear before a magistrate in person and provide testimony or
other evidence under oath. You must also
submit a sworn, written complaint. You
may be charged with perjury if you willfully provide false information under
oath. Although formal rules of evidence
do not apply, you must provide sufficient evidence for the magistrate to
determine that the evidence is reliable and establishes all elements of the
Question: What is the difference between an arrest
warrant and a summons?
An arrest warrant orders a law enforcement officer to physically arrest
the person charged and take that person into custody. A summons requires the person to appear in
court to answer the charges, but does not require that the person be physically
arrested. A magistrate may also issue an
arrest warrant that permits the arresting officer to execute the warrant as a
summons at his or her discretion.
Question: What happens after a magistrate issues an
arrest warrant or summons?
The warrant or summons is sent to the primary law enforcement agency
where the offense was committed. All
warrants or summonses for offenses committed in Virginia Beach are forwarded to
the Virginia Beach Police Department.
The Magistrate’s Office does not retain copies or keep other
evidence. After service, the warrant or
summons is forwarded to the appropriate court.
The court has no record that a warrant or summons has been issued until
after it is served. Contact the Virginia
Beach Police Department if you believe a warrant or summons may have been
issued for you.
Question: What happens if I change my mind after a
warrant or summons is issued?
Answer: A magistrate does not have authority to
terminate a valid warrant or summons after it is issued. Only a court may formally dismiss the
Question: Will I be required to appear at trial?
Yes. The court will use the
information you provide on a subpoena request form to notify you when a trial
date is set. For cases pending in a
General District or Circuit Court, you may also find case information at www.courts.state.va.us. For most misdemeanor offenses, the
Commonwealth Attorney’s Office is not involved in the prosecution. You may contact the Commonwealth Attorney’s
Office at 385-4401 to ask for prosecution assistance. When the case is called, you will be given an
opportunity to present evidence to the court to prove that the offense was
committed. If you do not appear for
trial, the court may either dismiss the charges or find the defendant not
guilty. If the court dismisses a charge
with prejudice or finds the defendant not guilty, he or she may not be tried
again for the same offense.
Additionally, the person charged may file a lawsuit against you if the
charges are dismissed or he or she is found not guilty, and you may be held
personally liable for damages.
Question: May a magistrate order the person charged to pay
for damages or to return my property?
However, you may ask the court to order restitution if the defendant is
Questions and Answers about
Emergency Protective Orders
does a magistrate have authority to issue an Emergency Protective Order?
Answer: Under Virginia law, a Magistrate has
authority to issue an Emergency Protective Order if:
- A family member or household member battered or physically abused
you or engaged in conduct that created a reasonable apprehension of death,
sexual abuse, or bodily injury, and there is a probable danger of further
- Another person committed an act of violence, force, or threat
against you and there is a probable danger of a further such offense or an
arrest warrant is issued for a crime involving violence, force, or threat.
A Magistrate does not have authority to issue other kinds of
“restraining orders” or injunctions.
Question: Who may request an Emergency Protective Order?
Answer: Only a law enforcement officer or the person
to be protected may petition in person for an Emergency Protective Order. You must also submit a written complaint
under oath. You may not petition for an Emergency
Protective Order on behalf of another person.
Question: What does an Emergency Protective Order require?
Answer: An Emergency Protective Order
prohibits further acts of violence, abuse, or criminal offenses involving
injury to persons or property. It may
also order that the respondent have no contact with you and other members of
your family. A Family Abuse Emergency
Protective Order may also grant exclusion possession of a residence. However, an Emergency Protective Order
does not give child custody or require that the person to whom it is issued
stay a fixed distance away from you.
Question: How long is an Emergency Protective Order in effect?
Answer: An Emergency Protective Order lasts
approximately 3 days. However, it is not
enforceable until it is personally served by law enforcement. After it is issued, an Emergency
Protective Order will be given to the Virginia Beach Police Department for
Question: How can I obtain an order that will be in
effect for more than 3 days?
Answer: You may petition a court for a preliminary
protective order whether or not you requested or received an Emergency
A petition for a preliminary protective order involving a juvenile
or a family or household member may be filed through the Virginia Beach
Court Services Unit on the ground floor of the Courthouse (below the
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court).
The Court Services Unit strongly encourages petitioners to arrive at
8:00 a.m. to get on the court schedule for that day.
A petition for a preliminary protective order for acts of
violence, force, or threat by other than a juvenile or a family or household
member may be filed with the General District Court Clerk’s Office, Civil
Division, on the second floor of the courthouse. You should also arrive early in the day to
get on the court schedule.
A court may issue a preliminary protective order that remains in
effect for approximately 15 days. After
holding a hearing, a court may issue a protective order that will be in effect
for up to 2 years.
Questions and Answers about Bail
Question: What is bail?
Answer: Following an arrest, a magistrate conducts a
hearing to determine if a person will be held in jail or released on bail. Bail is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Question: What factors does a
magistrate consider when determining bail?
Answer: By law, a magistrate must consider: (i) the
nature and circumstances of the offense; (ii) whether a firearm is alleged to
have been used in the offense; (iii) the weight of the evidence; (iv) the
financial resources of the accused and his or her ability to pay bond; (v) the
character of the accused including family ties, employment or involvement in
education; (vi) length of residence in the community; (vii) record of
convictions; (viii) appearance at court proceedings or flight to avoid
prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings; (ix) whether the person
is likely to obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, or threaten, injure, or
intimidate, or attempt to threaten, injure, or intimidate a prospective
witness, juror, or victim; and (x) any other information available which is considered
relevant to whether the accused is unlikely to appear for court proceedings. For certain offenses, a magistrate is
required to presume, subject to rebuttal, that no condition of bail will reasonably
assure the person’s appearance for trial or protect public safety. Additionally, for certain offenses, a
magistrate is required by law to set a secure bond unless the Commonwealth
Attorney agrees otherwise.
Question: What types of bail
may a magistrate set?
Answer: A magistrate may order a person’s release
based solely on the person’s written promise to appear in court for trial, or
may require the person to execute an unsecured bond or a secure bond. A magistrate may also impose other conditions
of release. Additionally, for safety
reasons, a person who is intoxicated may be held in custody until his or her
condition changes or a responsible person is willing to serve as a custodian. A magistrate may also order a person held
Question: What is an unsecured
Answer: An unsecured bond involves the person’s
promise to appear with the possibility that the court may order the person to
forfeit the amount of the bond if he or she fails to appear or violates other
conditions of release. However, it is
not necessary for a person to pay an unsecured bond or demonstrate financial
ability to pay that bond prior to release from custody.
Question: How may a secure bond
Answer: Under § 19.2-123 of
the Code of Virginia, a secure bond may be satisfied by cash, by real
property (land), or by personal property. Real or personal property must be
worth at least the amount of the bond.
You may also make arrangements with a licensed bondsman to post a
bond for you. A licensed bondsman will
charge a fee for posting a bond. By law,
a licensed bondsman must charge not less than 10 percent or more than 15
percent of the amount of the bond. The
Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services regulates licensed bondsmen.
Question: If I satisfy a secure
bond with cash, do I have to pay the full amount?
Answer: Yes. You must pay the full amount of the
bond to satisfy a secure bond with cash.
Question: How do I satisfy a
secure bond with real property?
Answer: You must show that you
own the real property and have equity worth at least the amount of the
bond. You must have the following
deed to the property or a certified copy of the deed;
there is a deed of trust or other mortgage, a statement from the lender showing
that payments are current;
recent appraisal or a current City or County property assessment; and
current tax receipt.
the property is jointly owned by more than one person, each owner
must be present to sign an Affidavit of Surety and other papers.
Question: How do I satisfy a
secure bond with personal property?
Answer: Personal property
includes vehicles; financial interests such as certificates of deposit,
retirement accounts or other bank accounts, mutual funds, and stocks or bonds;
and other property. Again, you must
show that you own the property and that it is worth at least as much as the
amount of the bond. For vehicles, you
must show the vehicle title to establish ownership. Value is based on the current fair market
value of the property, and may be shown by an appraisal, tax assessment,
vehicle “blue book” value, current bank statement, or other information. For bank accounts or other financial
interests, you must show that the minimum available balance in the account is
at least equal to the amount of the bond.
Each owner will also be required to sign an Affidavit of Surety. You are not required to surrender your
property to a magistrate.
Question: What is an Affidavit
Answer: An Affidavit of
Surety is an official form, signed under oath, in which you swear that you are
the legal owner of real or personal property and provide information about its
value. You may be charged with perjury
if you knowingly make a false statement on the Affidavit of Surety.
Question: How long does a bond
remain in effect?
Answer: The bond remains in
effect until final disposition of the charge(s), including any appeals,
unless a court releases you. The court
may order that you forfeit the bond if the person fails to appear for any court
hearing. If you want to be released
after you have posted a bond, you must ask the court to issue a capias
for the arrest of the person for whom the bond is posted. You normally will not be released from the
bond until that person is arrested and placed in jail. The court will refund the full amount of a
cash bond to you following final disposition of the charge(s), including any
appeals, unless you agree to allow the bond to be applied to fines or costs
that may be imposed by the court.
Question: What happens if a
magistrate orders a person held without bail or the person is unable to satisfy
a secure bond?
Answer: He or she will remain in custody and appear
before a court on the next court day. He
or she may appeal the magistrate’s decision to the court.
and Answers on Emergency Custody and Temporary Detention Orders
Question: When may a magistrate
issue an emergency custody order for a person with mental health issues?
Answer: A magistrate may
issue an emergency custody order for an adult or juvenile based on evidence
that the person suffers from a mental illness, that he or she is a danger to
self or others or is likely to suffer serious harm due to an inability to
properly care for self as a result of that mental illness, that hospitalization
or treatment is required, and, for an adult, that he or she is unable or unwilling
to consent to treatment. An emergency
custody order directs a law enforcement officer to take a person into custody
and transport him or her to a specified location so that he or she may be
evaluated to determine if mental health treatment is needed. An emergency custody order normally allows a
4-hour period for an evaluation and to determine a suitable facility if further
treatment is necessary. During that
time, an employee or designee of the Virginia Beach Department of Human
Services conducts an evaluation. A
magistrate may extend that order for 2 additional hours if necessary. If possible, please contact the Virginia Beach
Department of Human Services at (757) 385-0888 to ensure necessary coordination
before contacting the Magistrate Office.
A law enforcement officer also has independent authority to place a
person in custody and transport that person for an evaluation if the officer
believes he or she meets the criteria for emergency custody.
Question: When may a magistrate
issue a temporary detention order for a person with mental health issues?
Answer: A magistrate may
issue a temporary detention order based on evidence that an adult or juvenile
suffers from a mental illness, that he or she is a danger to self or others or
is likely to suffer serious harm due to an inability to properly care for self
as a result of that mental illness, that hospitalization or treatment is
required, and, for an adult, that he or she is unable or unwilling to consent
to treatment. The magistrate must
consider the results of an evaluation conducted by the Virginia Beach
Department of Human Services when determining whether or not to issue a
temporary detention order. If possible,
please contact the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services at (757)
385-0888 to ensure necessary coordination before contacting the Magistrate
Office. A temporary detention order
directs a law enforcement officer to take a person into custody and transport
him or her to a specified facility for further treatment. Unless the medical facility director
determines that treatment isn’t necessary, the person will remain in custody
until a court holds a civil proceeding to determine if involuntary admission is
needed. A hearing is normally held
within 48 to 96 hours.
Question: When may a
magistrate issue an emergency custody order for a person who requires emergency
Answer: A magistrate may
issue a medical emergency custody order if an adult has an illness or injury
that is likely to result in severe and irremediable harm and resists transport
to a hospital or other emergency treatment and, as a result of illness or
injury, is incapable of giving informed consent to medical treatment. Before issuing a medical emergency custody
order, a magistrate must hear evidence from a licensed physician on the
applicable standard of care and that the person is incapable of giving informed
consent. A medical emergency custody
order directs law enforcement to transport the person to a designated medical
facility for further evaluation. A
magistrate has no authority to issue a medical emergency custody order for a
Question: When may a magistrate issue a medical temporary detention
Answer: A magistrate may
issue a medical temporary detention order if an adult has a serious illness or
injury that is likely to result in death, disability, or serious irreversible
injury within 24 hours, and as a result of illness or injury, the person is
unable to give informed consent to necessary medical treatment. Before issuing a medical temporary detention
custody order, a magistrate must hear evidence from a treating physician on the
applicable standard of medical care and that the person is incapable of giving
informed consent. A medical temporary
detention order allows the person to be detained for 24 hours to permit
necessary medical treatment. A
magistrate has no authority to issue a medical temporary detention order for a