Court Jurisdiction: What the location of your hearing reveals about the severity of your criminal charges

It is unwise to go to Phoenix Criminal or DUI court unrepresented by a good Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney. Doing so places your freedom and future at great risk.

If you were arrested or charged with a crime or DUI in Phoenix Arizona, you will need to appear for your Arraignment Phoenix Criminal Court or DUI Court. You should make sure your rights and defenses are protected by retaining effective criminal defense for your Phoenix criminal or DUI charges. The retention of a good proven DUI or criminal defense lawyer will increase your chances of getting a good outcome in your case. If you choose to defend your own charges and have your case heard without an experienced Arizona Criminal or DUI lawyer, you increase your chances of getting a criminal conviction or Arizona DUI conviction. Make sure the DUI attorney or criminal lawyer defends cases regularly in the court which you have been instructed to appear.

Phoenix Criminal Court Jurisdiction

Phoenix Municipal Court, Phoenix Justice Court and Phoenix Superior Court

Many defendants want to know why they have been instructed to appear at a certain court verses another Phoenix criminal court, and why they are different. The primary difference between Municipal, Justice and Superior Courts are the types of cases that are heard in them. Some courts have been granted authority by Arizona Constitution to handle certain types of cases. Some of the lower courts are limited as to what types of cases they are authorized to hear. In this context, the difference involves what is known as “Limited Jurisdiction” Courts verses “General Jurisdiction” Courts:

A) Municipal or City Courts (used interchangeably) are Limited Jurisdiction Courts. This is considered a lower court. The City courts have limited jurisdiction and have authority to hear only limited types of criminal cases. The majority of the cases heard in Phoenix City Court are Misdemeanor charges. Under certain circumstances, preliminary hearings for felonies can be heard in Phoenix City Court.

B) Justice Courts are Limited Jurisdiction Courts. Similar to City Courts, the Justice Courts have limited jurisdiction over what types of cases can be tried or heard in them. The Justice courts in Arizona, usually hear Phoenix Misdemeanor cases. However, some preliminary hearings for felonies can be heard in Phoenix Justice Court.

C) Superior Court is considered to be a General Jurisdiction Court. The Arizona Superior Court is state wide trial court. It has authority under the Arizona Constitution to hear wide variety of criminal cases. The types of cases tried in this court are primarily Felony cases. Although the Arizona Superior Court is a single entity, it has multiple locations in each county in Arizona. Each county in Arizona, including Maricopa County, has at least one Superior Court Judge.

Types of Criminal & DUI Cases heard in Arizona Municipal/City Courts, and Arizona Justice Courts

1. Phoenix Municipal & City Courts: Municipal courts & City Courts, in Arizona hear the following types of criminal cases:
• Misdemeanors:
• Misdemeanor DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol); as long as no injuries were involved;
• Misdemeanor hit-and-run; without injuries involved;
• Misdemeanor reckless driving without injuries involved.
• Petty offenses; committed in Phoenix AZ.
• Municipal or City courts also share jurisdiction with justice courts over certain types of violations relating to Arizona law, if the crime was committed in Phoenix AZ.

2. Justice Courts – Arizona Justice Courts hear criminal cases of these types:
• Misdemeanors;
• Some felony preliminary hearings; and
• Misdemeanors criminal offenses punishable by a fine of less than $2,500 or less than six months in county jail.

3. Superior Courts – The Arizona Constitution provides the Arizona Superior Court jurisdiction over the following types of criminal cases:
• Superior Courts in Arizona have exclusive jurisdiction over felony cases;
• Superior Courts share jurisdiction with Justice Courts over misdemeanors when the potential penalty does not exceed $2,500 or imprisonment for six months;
• If no other court has jurisdiction or authority to handle a particular case, Superior Courts may have jurisdiction over that case.

As soon as you learn which court your are required to appear, you should consult an experienced AZ criminal defense attorney or DUI lawyer in that jurisdiction as soon as possible to discuss your charges and defense options.


If you face active Arizona criminal or DUI charges, or an outstanding warrant for arrest in Arizona or have been arrested in Maricopa County for AZ DUI, DWI, Drunk Driving or any other criminal charges contact the Law Office of James Novak, for your Free Consultation at (480) 413-1499. Speak directly with experienced Arizona criminal Defense and DUI & Criminal defense Attorney, James Novak (Former Prosecutor). The Law Office of James Novak is devoted 100% to defending DUI, Drug & criminal charges in valley wide within Maricopa County including Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert Arizona, East Valley, AZ and surrounding cities within the Phoenix metro and Maricopa County Areas.

This blog has been posted for general public informational purposes only. All articles by this author are intended to raise awareness and generate discussion on a variety of Arizona State Law issues and topics. Note that Arizona legislation, laws, criminal code and AZ DUI & criminal laws and penalties frequently change. If you have any active criminal or DUI or criminal defense matters related to this topic, it is important that you consult or hire an Arizona criminal or AZ DUI or criminal defense law firm in the jurisdiction of Arizona where you received your charges of up to date information on the laws, penalties and defense options.

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