Most of the incorporated towns and cities of Arizona have a Municipal Court. Sometimes these courts are called magistrate courts. These courts have criminal jurisdiction over petty misdemeanors and other small crimes committed in their city or town. With more state-level serious crimes, Municipal Courts share jurisdiction with Justice Courts for offenses that are committed within their boundaries.
Arizona Municipal Courts hear various misdemeanor criminal traffic cases such as DUIs, reckless driving (with no serious injuries) and hit-and-run accidents. They also resolve civil traffic issues and city ordinance violations. Municipal Courts can also issue protection orders for domestic violence and harassment as well as issue search warrants. However, these courts do not process any civil lawsuits between residents.
Each of the town charters determine the qualifications for Municipal Court judges. In some cities, the Municipal Court judges do not even have to be lawyers. In all the Arizona Municipal Courts, except for Yuma, judges are appointed by the city or town council. In Yuma, the judges are elected by the voters. Terms vary but each must be at least two years. Most judges have court clerks appointed to them to assist with scheduling cases and clerical work. In some larger towns and cities, the judges also have court administrators to help with the workload.
Generally, Municipal Courts hear the most significant number of cases for the year. During the last year calculated, Arizona Municipal Courts tallied 938,500 cases. Of that total, 194,481 were for criminal cases, 651,276 were for traffic-related incidents, and the remaining 92,743 were for other legal matters resolved.
Appeals that initiate in the Municipal Courts travel first up to the Superior Courts and then on to the Court of Appeals after that. If the Court of Appeals cannot resolve the issue the final stop is the Supreme Court.