In Arizona, Misdemeanor and Civil Traffic Cases Are Heard in Municipal and Justice Courts
Interviewer: What kinds of offenses are heard in Municipal versus a Justice Court?
Municipal and Justice Courts Do Not Try Felony Cases
Mike Munoz: Municipal courts and Justice Courts have the same jurisdiction. They are allowed to handle all misdemeanor criminal cases and civil traffic cases. Both Municipal and Justice Courts cannot handle felonies; they are only allowed to handle misdemeanors.
In Arizona, Municipal Courts Are City Courts; Justice Courts Are County Courts
Interviewer: Why would a case go to a Justice court versus a Municipal court or vice versa?
Mike Munoz: Municipal courts are really city courts. They are bound to the boundaries of each city. So they have jurisdiction for any crime or any civil case that happens within their city. Justice courts have boundaries that sometimes overlap the cities or multiple cities at one time. Justice courts in Arizona are really county precincts, determined by county boundaries.
Maricopa County and all the other different counties in Arizona have set it up where there are multiple Justice Precincts in each county. A number of these Justice precincts will intersect cities. Their main boundary typically has to do with freeways.
Justice Court Jurisdiction Is Bound by Freeways and They Hear Many DUI Cases
So, most Justice Court cases come from DUI’s that mainly happen on the freeways or traffic violations that happen on the freeways. Those are regulated by the Department of Public Safety, or DPS officers.
What Court a Case Is Heard in Depends on Which Agency Makes the Arrest or Issues the Citation
Interviewer: So what court you end up in depends on who arrests you or who cites you?
Mike Munoz: The police officer who arrests you or cites, yes, they kind of control what court you get placed in. The officer has the right to choose which court and as long as he sends your case to the right jurisdiction, that court will have jurisdiction over you.
Department of Public Safety (DPS) Officers Typically Send Cases to Justice Court; City Police Send Cases to the Municipal Court
The Department of Public Safety, or DPS officer, he is most likely always going to assign your case to the appropriate Justice Court precinct that your case stems from. A city police officer is likely to always send his case to the city that he is employed by as long as it’s within his city’s jurisdiction.