In many instances, a citizen's first contact with Virginia’s Judicial System comes through the office of the Magistrate. A principal function of the magistrate is to provide an independent, unbiased review of complaints of criminal conduct brought to the office by law enforcement or the general public. Magistrate duties include issuing various types of processes such as arrest warrants, summonses, bonds, search warrants, subpoenas, and certain civil warrants. Magistrates also conduct bail hearings in instances in which an individual is arrested on a warrant charging him or her with a criminal offense. Magistrates provide services on an around-the-clock basis, conducting hearings in person or through the use of videoconferencing systems.
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 is comprised of between three and five judicial districts. There are magistrate offices located throughout Virginia, including at least one in each of Virginia’s 32 judicial districts.