A police court is a type of municipal court that existed in some states that handles minor criminal offenses. It also may conduct hearings for more serious criminal cases, to determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to a higher court for trial. A California Supreme Court case from 1929, in re Lovall, outlined the power of a Stockton police court, stating that it has jurisdiction over “all misdemeanors punishable by fine or by imprisonment . . . all actions for the recover of any fines, penalties of forfeitures prescribed for the breach of any ordinance of the city, of all actions founded upon any obligation or liability created by any ordinance, and of all prosecutions for any violation of any ordinance . . . [and] all civil cases, concurrently with the justices' courts of all actions and proceedings arising within the corporate limits of the city and which might be tried in such justices' court.” That is, in California in the early 20th century, police courts served a very similar role to a municipal court. However, such courts are virtually non-existent now, and municipal courts or trial courts largely usurped their roles.
[Last updated in September of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]