All Vermont counties have a courthouse with a criminal division. The criminal division is also known as criminal court. The court determines the guilt or innocence of a person charged with a crime through jury trials, court trials, and guilty pleas.
In a criminal case, a person is accused by the state of Vermont of breaking a state law. The criminal division handles cases involving felonies, which are the most serious crimes, and misdemeanors, which are less serious. The criminal division may take on the most serious cases from other divisions, such as fish and game and traffic violations. The criminal court judge is also responsible for approving or declining search and arrest warrants.
There are special treatment courts and specialty dockets within the criminal division, including those that handle adult drug, juvenile drug, mental health, and driving-under-the-influence cases.
If you have been detained by a law enforcement officer or charged with a crime, you have the right to legal representation. You can hire your own lawyer or file an application with the state to have a public defender represent you. You can find the application in the Forms section below.
Once you have completed and filed your application, the court clerk reviews it to see if you are eligible for a court-appointed lawyer.
The court clerk uses the financial information you provide to decide the amount that you will owe. You may be asked to pay a minimum fee even if you are receiving public assistance. You may file a written request with the court to reduce the amount you are ordered to pay.
If the clerk turns down your request for a public defender, you can ask the judge to review that decision. If the state is not seeking jail, a probationary sentence, or a fine in excess of $1,000, the state will not typically appoint a public defender. You can, though, still request a public defender and it will be up to the judge to decide whether to grant one.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, you may be able to use a bail bond agent to post bail.
Civil cases in the criminal division include civil suspensions of driver's licenses, cases involving contested fish and wildlife fines, and appeals of decisions involving traffic and municipal ordinance violations.
There are many reasons why you might want to check someone's criminal record. For example, when you hire, loan, or rent property. You may also have personal reasons.
You may be able to have the records of a Vermont conviction or charge expunged, sealed or pardoned under certain circumstances.
Expungement means all the records related to your criminal charge are physically destroyed by court order. This includes all information documenting your contact with the criminal justice system including police reports, records in the prosecutor’s office and court records.
Sealing a record means they are placed in a confidential file, but are not physically destroyed. The entity in possession of a sealed record, such as law enforcement or a prosecutor, can use the records for future criminal investigations.
Pardons are an order from the Governor removing all information about specific charge. Pardons are rare.
Seal or Expunge Your Vermont Criminal Record web page (VermontLawHelp)
Filing a Petition to Expunge or Seal a Criminal Record (Vermont Judiciary)
Expungement-Sealing-Pardon information web page (Vermont Crime Information Center, Department of Public Safety)
Vermont Criminal Records Checks
The Vermont Legislature sets most of the fees charged for services provided by the Judiciary. The Justices of the Supreme Court establish rules to govern the allowance of fees not specified by law. Motions or petitions filed by one party at one time shall be assessed one fee.
Asking to Waive Fees
See the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs web page for information and forms.
Asking for a Public Defender
Asking to Expunge or Seal a Criminal Record
For State Agency Representatives