The jurisdiction of justice courts is much smaller than that of district courts; put simply, the range of cases justice courts are authorized to handle is less than that of district courts. Justice courts are created by cities or counties to handle civil and criminal matters occurring within the city where the court is located. They have jurisdiction “over class B and C misdemeanors, violation of ordinances, and infractions within their territorial jurisdiction by a person 18 years of age or older.” This includes most traffic offenses and many other criminal charges, including DUIs and simple assault. Justice courts also hear small claims matters (civil lawsuits seeking less than $10,000 in damages). It is important to note that while the type of cases these courts handle is restricted, a justice court judge has the same authority as a judge in district court with respect to the cases he or she handles.
District courts of general jurisdiction, meaning that they act as the trial courts for civil and criminal cases arising under Utah State law. There is at least one district court in each county; some districts have several. For example, the main district court in Salt Lake County is in downtown Salt Lake City, and there is also a Salt Lake County courthouse in West Jordan. Having multiple courts helps balance the judges’ caseloads and provides geographic convenience as well. Felonies and Class A misdemeanors are tried in District Court.
Regardless whether you are charged with a crime in justice court or district court, it should be taken very seriously. If you are arrested or receive a citation, contact ADM Legal Defense immediately to help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.