The highest judicial body in the commonwealth is the supreme court, consisting of a chief justice and six other justices elected to 12-year terms by the General Assembly. The court of appeals has ten judges serving 8-year terms. The state is divided into 31 judicial circuits/districts. Each city and county has a circuit court, a general district court, and a juvenile and domestic relations district court. Circuit court judges are elected by the legislature for eight-year terms. General district courts hear all misdemeanors, including civil cases involving $1,000 or less, and have concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts in claims involving $1,000 to $15,000. General district courts also hold preliminary hearings concerning felony cases. Each of the 31 judicial districts has a juvenile and a domestic relations court, with judges elected by the general assembly to six-year terms. Each city or county has at least one local magistrate.
Virginia's state and federal prisons had 30,473 inmates in June 2001, an increase of 2.0% over the previous year. The state's incarceration rate stood at 415 per 100,000 population. According to the FBI Crime Index, the state's crime rate was 3,178.3 per 100,000, including a total of 20,939 violent crimes and 207,506 crimes against property in that year. A capital punishment statute providing for death by electrocution or lethal injection is in effect. Between 1930 and 1997, the state executed 138 persons, 88 of whom were put to death between 1977 and 2003. There were 26 prisoners under sentence of death in 2003.