The Magistrate Court system in West Virginia has jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in dispute is less than $5,000.00 and crimes that are misdemeanors. A crime is a misdemeanor if the potential penalty of incarceration is less than one year. Crimes that carry the potential penalty of a year or more or incarceration have to proceed to the Circuit Court of the County for disposition.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor crime in the Magistrate Court, you have the same constitutional rights as a person charged in the Circuit Court. The magistrate is responsible for the arraignment, the setting of bond, the trial and sentencing for all misdemeanors.
Every county in West Virginia has at least two magistrate courts, with a total of 158 magistrates throughout the state. The duties of magistrates also include the overseeing of preliminary assessments of felony cases and issue important legal documents such as arrest warrants, search warrants and emergency protective orders in domestic violence cases.
The Wolfe Law Firm has handled thousands of criminal charges in the Magistrate Court system throughout North Central West Virginia. We have defended and stand ready to defend the citizens of West Virginia when facing allegations of the following crimes:
- Drug Offenses
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Assault and Battery
- Petit Larceny
- DUI or Driving Under the Influence
- Driving While License Revoked for DUI
- Domestic Battery and Assault
All of these crimes carry substantial penalties if a person is convicted. Given the current political environment today, citizens who are convicted of a crime often face time in the Regional Jail.
Any criminal charge and its potential convictions is serious, and although you may be only charged with a misdemeanor, the maximum potential penalty for convictions of crimes tried in Magistrate Court can be as much as up to one year in jail. A citizen can be charged with a criminal complaint for a crime that is a felony in Magistrate Court. The magistrate must conduct a preliminary hearing within ten (10) days of being charged if a person is incarcerated and within twenty (20) days if a person is out on bond to determine if probable cause exists to bound the felony charge over to the Grand Jury. The preliminary hearing standard is the lowest in the criminal system that of “probable cause,” which means would a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed.
The preliminary hearing is an essential right of any citizen of West Virginia charged in a criminal complaint of a felony and representation by an attorney is essential. The facts are fresher in the minds of witnesses during a preliminary hearing when compared to a trial that can be as much as a year later. Although the defendant generally does not have the right to discovery, the citizen charged has the right to question and confront witnesses.
If you have been charged with a crime from a magistrate, you will be informed of when you must appear before the court to defend the charges. If charged, a person is always better off having the aid of a lawyer experienced in criminal matters.