The Lincoln County Magistrate Court is part of the West Virginia Court System. For a summary description of all of our State's courts, see the online article The West Virginia Judicial System, published by the West Virginia State Supreme Court of Appeals.
The Lincoln County Magistrates adjudicate small civil claims of individuals and businesses as provided by the West Virginia Code, Chapter 50, Article 2. You may click on the link: Civil Jurisdiction to read more about the of this part of the Magistrate Court's work. The following paragraphs deal with the Criminal Jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court.
Once a supsect is arrested, that is, detained and placed in the custody of the Sheriff or other Law Enforcement Officer, the suspect is afforded all of the rights, duties and responsibilities guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the West Virginia Consitution, and all Federal and State laws.
An individual enters the criminal justice process at the Magistrate Court, where the accused is arraigned. At the arraignment, the accused may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, or the accused may remain silent and the court will enter a plea of not guilty for the accused. In some plea bargaining arrangements, the accused may enter a plea of nolo contendere, which means that the accused is willing to accept the punishment for the alleged crime but not admit guilt or maintain innocence.
At the arraignment, the Magistrate will set a bond for the accused at the arraignment, unless the crime is a capital offense, in which case the Circuit Court will set the bond. Arraingnments are sometimes conducted by video conferencing, where the accused remains at the Regional Jail for the arraignment.
If the crime is a misdemeanor, the accused will be tried by the Magistrate Court. The burden of proof in any criminal proceeding is "beyond a reasonable doubt". The accused is entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers in all criminal matters, or the accused may elect to be tried by a Magistrate only, in misdemeanor matters. If the accused is found guilty by a Magistrate or a Magistrate jury, the accused may appeal the verdict to Circuit Court.
If the crime is a felony, the Magistrate Court holds a probable cause hearing. If the Magistrate believes that sufficient evidence exists that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the accused committed the crime, the Magistrate will bound the matter over to the Circuit Court where the Grand Jury will decide whether sufficient evidence exists to return an indictment against the accused.
Even if the Magistrate dismisses the matter at the probable cause stage, the Prosecuting Attorney still may present the matter to the Grand Jury for a possible indictment.
If the Grand Jury returns an indictment, the accused will then face a trial in Circuit Court, where again the accused will be entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers or to a trial by the judge.
The following sections of the West Virginia Code outline the criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court:
§50-2-3. Criminal jurisdiction; limitations on bail.
§50-2-3a. Sentencing; probation.
§50-3-2. Costs in criminal proceedings.
Many other provisions of law govern the Magistrate Courts. The information provided here is very general and is not legal advice. The Magistrate Court may furnish you with procedural information but cannot dispense legal advice. For legal advice about the Magistrate Court of Lincoln County, you must obtain the services of a qualified attorney licensed by the West Virginia State Bar to practice law in the State of West Virginia.