Sometimes the number of courts in front of which cases are heard in Arizona sound like a Dr. Seuss rhyme. However, you can find out a lot about your case if you know what the differences are.
Justice Courts oversee geographic areas, called precincts, and have elected judges called Justices of the Peace. These judges do not have to be attorneys to preside over cases. Justice Courts can hear two types of criminal cases: (1) misdemeanors and petty offenses, unless the offence is filed in municipal court or if it is consolidated with a felony offense, and (2) felonies, but only for conducting a preliminary hearing.
City and Municipal Courts are those courts established by cities or towns incorporated under the laws of Arizona. Such courts have jurisdiction to hear all cases related to violations of that town’s ordinances, and can also hear any case related to a violation of Arizona law that occurred within the city limits and that a justice court would be allowed to hear. These courts deal with misdemeanors and petty offenses, just like the justice courts do, and with violations of city code which may be crimes in and of themselves.
Superior Court in Arizona has jurisdiction to hear cases in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested by law in another court. For purposes of criminal cases, this means all felonies, as well as any misdemeanor that a justice court would have jurisdiction over. The Superior Court also acts as an appellate court for criminal cases originating in the justice or municipal courts.
The Arizona Court of Appeals is the first appellate court in the State. It is split into two divisions, which cover different counties, but is considered to be one court. The Court of Appeals hears direct and collateral appeals from most superior court cases.
The Arizona Supreme Court is the highest court in Arizona. It hears petitions for review from cases reviewed by the Court of Appeals. Certain appeals, for example cases where the death penalty was imposed, go directly to the Supreme Court.
The Federal District Court for the District of Arizona is Arizona’s federal courts. It hears certain civil cases and criminal violations of Federal law. Appeals from the District Court are taken first to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the United States Supreme Court.
If you or a loved one are charged with a crime the best way to start, regardless of which court your case will be heard in, is by consulting with an attorney. Gurion Legal offers free consultations for Arizona criminal cases, regardless of what court will hear it.