Established by the Delaware Constitution, the Justice of the Peace Court has jurisdiction over civil cases involving trespass, debt, and reparations of $15,000 or less. This Delaware court handles all landlord/tenant possession disputes. The Justice of the Peace Courts can also hear some misdemeanor cases and most of the motor vehicle cases (not felonies) for the state. They also act as Committing magistrates for all crimes committed in the state.
When cases from the Justice of the Peace Court are appealed, they go to the Court of Common Pleas for both criminal and civil cases. The only exception to this are landlord/tenant possession cases. Those are handled internally by a panel of three Justices of the Peace.
Considered by the state to be “entry-level courts,” the majority of all criminal cases begin in the Justice of the Peace Courts. Some of the types of criminal cases heard here are truancy, Fish and Wildlife violations, DUIs, some juvenile offenses, local ordinance violations, criminal offenses, and Title 21 offenses (that do not result in injury or death). Other civil cases processed in the Justice of the Peace Courts involve contract disputes, recovery of stolen property, negligence cases, and landlord/tenant disputes.
These courts also have the authority to issue summonses and warrants for criminal offenses (based on probable cause). They can issue search warrants and set bond or bail.
For the past year tallied, the Justice of the Peace Courts recorded 385,107 filings. Of that total, 35,500 of them were civil cases, 349,607 were for criminal charges and motor vehicle issues.
The current Justice of the Peace Court system has 16 courts in 14 locations throughout the state and is staffed with 286 employees. The Justice of the Peace Courts offer e-filing to make things easier for patrons.