Virginia's Judicial System

Magistrate Services


In many instances, a citizen's first contact with Virginia’s Judicial System is with a magistrate.  A principal function of a magistrate is to provide an independent, unbiased review of complaints of criminal conduct brought by law enforcement or the general public.  Magistrate duties include issuing various types of processes such as arrest warrants, summonses, search warrants, emergency protective orders, emergency custody orders, and certain civil warrants.  Magistrates also conduct bail hearings in instances in which an individual is arrested to determine under what conditions the arrestee should be released from custody prior to trial.  Magistrates provide services on an around-the-clock basis, conducting hearings in person or through the use of videoconferencing systems.

The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia provides administrative supervision and training to magistrates.  The magistrate system for the Commonwealth is divided into eight regions, and each magistrate is authorized to exercise his or her powers throughout the magisterial region for which he or she is appointed.  Each region has between three and five judicial districts.  Each region has a magistrate regional supervisor who assists the Director of Magistrate Services in administering the statewide system.  There are magistrate offices located throughout Virginia, including at least one in each of Virginia’s 32 judicial districts. Chief magistrates assist in the training and supervision of magistrates within each district.