Municipal courts are often a base level in state court systems. They are typically courts of limited jurisdiction, with authority over matters such as misdemeanor crimes or petty offenses committed in their city or township. The rules governing the functioning of municipal courts are prescribed by state statutes and thus vary state to state, as demonstrated by two examples:
In Kansas, Section 12-4104 of the Kansas Statutes provides jurisdiction over cases involving violations of city ordinances and concurrent jurisdiction over ordinances who contain the same elements as particular state statutes, including driving under the influence and domestic battery. The statute proscribes the use of search warrants by municipal courts. Related statutes specify the qualifications and means of appointment required for municipal judges and describe the scope of their power and duties.
In Arizona, Section 22-402 of the Arizona Revised Statutes provides jurisdiction for municipal courts over cases arising under the ordinances of their city or town along with concurrent jurisdiction over all violations of state law committed within their city or town limits. Section 22-421 provides that Arizona municipal courts shall issue search warrants and details the process for their issuance. Section 22-403 states that the presiding officer of the municipal court is a magistrate.
In some states, courts that handle matters relating to local and city ordinances are not called municipal courts. For example, Chapter 12A of Title 16 of the South Dakota Codified Laws establishes magistrate courts and defines their scope of authority over the kinds of cases that municipal courts often handle.
[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]