Alabama Circuit Courts are trial courts, and most of the court cases take place within Circuit Courts. These courts have general jurisdiction over most criminal and civil matters in the state. Circuit Courts in Alabama also have exclusive jurisdiction over felony cases and proceedings where the damages are more than $10,000. Often Circuit Courts have some authority over juvenile cases where costs or disputed amounts exceed $3,000. The Alabama State Circuit Courts handle many appeals from lower courts such as Municipal and Probate Courts. There are 41 Circuit Courts in Alabama with 146 judges sitting on their benches.
The types of cases that are tried within a Circuit Court are tort cases, both civil and criminal, cases involving real property with damages of more than $10,000 with no maximum. Alabama Circuit Courts also handle domestic relations cases, criminal proceedings for both felonies and misdemeanors, as well as juvenile matters. They also resolve appeals that are brought forth from the Municipal and Probate lower courts that they have jurisdiction over. Juries are used in the Circuit Courts whereas they are not used in both other types of courts in the state.
For the year 2017, Alabama Circuit Courts held a total of 201,975 trials. Of that total, 39,295 were for civil cases, 58,411 for domestic relations cases (marriage, divorce, annulment, paternity, child custody, guardianship, and domestic violence), 87,198 were for criminal matters, and 17,071 of the cases were for juvenile offenders.
Alabama uses a “unified justice system” which means that the state court structure is organized to serve the public best. A unified approach means the courts share information via a single database to make resources readily available to all divisions that need them. This approach results in a more uniform justice across all courts within the state.