Magistrates serve as the immediate buffer between law enforcement and citizens and authorize or deny law enforcement the ability to detain individuals suspected of crimes. In addition they provide services in disputes involving citizens versus citizens.
These functions are available 24 hours a day either in person or through electronic audio and video telecommunications systems
Magistrates conduct hearings as the first step in the legal process to determine whether there is probable cause to move forward in one of the following statutory procedures-to issue arrest or search warrants in criminal cases, to issue a temporary detention order in either civil, medical, or criminal cases or to authorize pretrial seizures in civil matters.
When individuals are arrested magistrates conduct bail hearings to determine whether they should be committed to jail or released and if released, the conditions of release.
The magistrate's decision-making process must be in accordance with the requirements established by both the United States and Virginia constitutions, court decisions, and the Code of Virginia.