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Rockingham County Criminal Court Records

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Title Criminal Court Records 
Collection Reference Code     Ccr
Inclusive Dates 1813-1971
Document Creator Rockingham County Criminal Court 
Extent  32 Boxes, Two Bound Volumes
Bio/Historical Note  In the pre-revolutionary era, the substantive criminal law of Virginia greatly resembled the laws of England, so far as they were applicable to their situation. English law was supplemented or amended in the general assembly, but the basic laws, including all serious criminal offenses, were English law. Death was the penalty for many serious crimes in the colony, as in the mother country. The Act of 1796 was a bill that abolished the death penalty for all crimes committed by free persons except murder in the first degree. The bill directed the governor to purchase land within the state for the purpose of building a penitentiary, inaugurating imprisonment as the punishment for all other crimes. The bill also established minimum and maximum sentences for each crime, according to the gravity of the offense. The power to set the sentence was also given to the jury, rather than being a judicial decision. These laws focused predominantly on white men and women; the enslaved population was still disproportionately punished with physical violence or death. In the years after 1796, very little changed about the criminal code. The length of sentences might vary according to the times. Seduction, previously a civil case, became criminalized in 1849 and remained so until 1977. Further, several crimes (arson, rape, attempted rape, burglary, attempted robbery, and kidnapping) have since become capital offenses, authorizing the death penalty as a possible sentence. In most cases, however, the punishment remains imprisonment, as it has since 1796.
Archival History All documents have been maintained by the Circuit Court since their creation.
Scope and Content  The collection contains the Criminal Court Records from Rockingham County. The records included are criminal case records, warrants, appeals, summons, register of convicts, prison records, recognizance, bail bonds, jury records, pardons, and complaints. The criminal case records are cases that were tried in front of a jury. Warrants are separated into two subseries, search warrants and arrest warrants. The appeals series contains the records of appeals by people regarding their original conviction. The records contained within the summons series are witness summons, jury summons, and defendant summons. The original summons records may also contain the judge’s verdict for a case, if the criminal case did not go to a jury trial. 
Arrangement The records are grouped into series by type of court record. Within each series the folders are organized chronologically, then alphabetically by surname. 
Processing Information Processed by Kayla Heslin, Jennifer Taylor, and Alex Brooks March, 2020. 
Index Terms Criminal courts—Virginia, Criminal justice history, Criminal law—Virginia—Cases, Criminal records—Virginia 
Conditions Governing Access     This work has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.
Language  English 

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