District courts hear cases involving civil, criminal, juvenile, and magistrate matters. District courts are divided into 43 districts across the state and sit in the county seat of each county. They may also preside in certain other cities and towns specifically authorized by the General Assembly. Unlike the superior court, the district court districts are not grouped into larger judicial divisions. Each administrative district court district has a chief district court judge who manages the administrative duties of the court.
CivilCivil cases are heard by a jury if a party requests one, but certain cases are always decided by a judge without a jury, such as child custody disputes. The following types of civil cases are heard in district court:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Cases involving less than $25,000
CriminalThe district court hears criminal cases involving misdemeanors and infractions (non-jury).
JuvenileThe district court also hears juvenile cases (under age 16) that involve delinquency issues, and it has the authority to hear juvenile undisciplined cases (under age 18). It also considers abuse, neglect, and dependency cases involving children younger than 18.
MagistratesIn civil cases, the magistrate is authorized to try:
- Small claims cases ($10,000 or less)
- Landlord eviction cases
- Suits for recovery of personal property and motor vehicle mechanics’ liens
In criminal cases, the magistrate is authorized to:
- Issue warrants for arrest
- Set bail
- Accept guilty pleas for minor misdemeanors and infractions
- Accept waivers of trial for certain worthless check cases
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