Depending upon the type of offense a person is accused of committing in the Tucson area, he or she will be required to work with one of four courts. Low level offenses committed within the city limits will be handled in city (municipal) court. Low level offenses committed in the county will be heard in justice court. State felonies will require a visit to Superior Court. Federal felonies and misdemeanors are heard in Federal court.
Knowing which court you are to appear in and understanding the differences between each court can assist you in explaining your case and finding an attorney with experience representing clients in that court.
What is Federal Court?
Federal Court is a court of the United States, as opposed to a court of the State. Federal Court only handles crimes that are alleged to have occurred on federal lands, or that are based on federal law such as the United States Code and the United States Constitution. Examples of crimes arising out of federal law include the robbing of a bank that is insured by a federal agency, or the importation of illegal drugs into the country, or a person who illegally enters the United States.
What is Municipal or City Court?
City court and municipal court are interchangeable terms – they both refer to the same place. Most people who have a city court will have limited need for an attorney. Municipal court handles misdemeanor offenses committed in the city limits, as well as parking tickets and ordinance violations, among other small offenses typically punished with a fee or fine. Municipal court can also be utilized to enroll in Defensive Driving School, and upon completion, one eligible offense may be removed from your driving record. For many people, Defensive Driving School is a voluntary action they may use to clean up their driving record.
What is Justice Court?
Misdemeanor offenses committed in the county jurisdiction are typically handled in justice court. Pima County Consolidated Justice Court primarily hears misdemeanors, especially those carrying fines not exceeding $2,500 and those punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail. Preliminary hearings for certain lower level felonies may also be heard in justice court prior to the escalation of such cases.
What is Superior Court?
Superior court is the highest trial court of the state. Superior courts handle all felony cases, as well as all cases where no other Pima County court has particular jurisdiction or authority. The superior court may share jurisdiction with justice court for misdemeanors with fines not exceeding $2,500 or jail time not exceeding six months. The Superior Court will often hear appeals of cases seen in lesser courts, like misdemeanor conviction appeals.
Which Court Handles Which Offense?
In certain instances, boundaries and jurisdictions become somewhat complicated to follow. Typically, but not always, for misdemeanor offenses that involve being pulled over in traffic, you will usually go to the corresponding court for which the officer serves. For example, if a Pima County Sheriff pulls you over, your case will go to the justice court. If you were pulled over by a member of city police (Oro Valley, Green Valley, Sahuarita, etc), you will report to city court for that offense.
Justice court will hear cases like misdemeanor DUI or reckless driving. Any escalation above the least severity of the offense could send the case to superior court. Offenses like murder or sexual assault will always go directly to superior court.
Facing Misdemeanor Charges
Misdemeanors will still become a part of your criminal record, and they’ll stay there forever unless you successfully petition to have the charges expunged. Some employers may overlook certain misdemeanors, but the majority of convictions have the potential to negatively impact you for the rest of your life.
If you’re facing misdemeanor charges, you should take them seriously. Don’t take your chances with subpar representation and hope for the best, or worse, plan to have your record expunged at a later date. Seek adequate legal representation immediately after you’ve been arrested on misdemeanor charges to begin preparing an adequate defense.
Facing Felony Charges
Felony charges require immediate attention and intervention. Adequate council must be sought the moment you’ve been arrested for a potential felony. Landlords won’t rent to felons, employers won’t hire felons, and on top of that, felons lose certain rights. You need to act immediately when accused of a felony – don’t rely on inadequate legal representation to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
Any case in the Superior Court is best handled by a competent and experienced attorney who understands how to navigate the court and properly advocate for a client being accused of a serious crime. The earlier you contact an attorney, the better your defense will have the potential to be.
Contact the Damianakos Law Firm
Whether your case is being handled in the justice court or superior court, you still need the best possible representation. Elias Damianakos is a former Tucson prosecutor with fifteen years of experience defending clients in the Tucson courts. The moment you need an attorney, contact us at (520) 222-8270 to schedule a free consultation. We will review the facts of your case and work with you to create the strongest and most aggressive defense possible.