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What Offenses are Tried in Municipal Court?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Civil infractions and criminal misdemeanors that affect the quality of life in a local community, such as traffic and noise violations, are the types of offenses that are typically tried in a municipal court. A municipal court is a court of limited jurisdiction that is allowed to handle only the offenses assigned to it by local law or ordinance. The scope of authority of a municipal court varies by jurisdiction.

A municipal court is a court established in a local community to administer the laws that the community passes to govern itself. This type of court is sometimes called a city court, provincial court, magistrate, or it is designated by the type of cases it handles, such as a juvenile court or a domestic relations court. Municipal courts are limited in jurisdiction because they are not allowed to take up any issue involving national law or to handle anything except what has been assigned to it by local law. No record of the proceedings in a municipal court hearing is kept, and parties typically have no right to appeal final decisions to a higher court.

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National law would ordinarily not address local day-to-day matters. For instance, a town or a city would reserve the right to establish its own traffic laws designed to meet the particular concerns of the local community. Although the laws might conform to national standards, the compilation of laws, or code, originates at the local level. The traffic code may create or designate a special municipal court, sometimes known as a traffic court, to hear cases about violations of the traffic code.

The types of offenses that can be tried in municipal court are often also limited by scope. Courts that are able to hear certain types of criminal cases might be limited to misdemeanors, where the punishment is a possible jail sentence for a specific length of time or a possible fine of less than a certain amount. Civil case jurisdiction might be limited to disputes under a certain amount of money, and a small claims court, for example, might be limited to disputes of amounts under $5,000 US Dollars (USD).

Although the types of cases assigned to a municipal court may vary by jurisdiction, certain types are more common. Traffic, domestic relations, small claims, juvenile, quality of life, and real property cases are often handled locally. The authority of the local courts can be determined by reading the local code of laws.

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