Protect Yourself, Protect Your Rights. It Isn’t Just a Misdemeanor.

Criminal Law Blog

Your Guide to the Arizona Court System

July 28, 2023

While court systems across the United States are generally structured in a similar way, each state and municipality can have its own set of unique regulations. When it comes to the court system, understanding how it works, who can pass down sentences, and how a criminal defense attorney fits into the mix are critical to getting you the best outcome possible if you have been accused of a crime. With over 20 years of experience defending clients in Southern Arizona, Janet Altschuler is your expert on the local court system. Here is her guide to the Arizona court system. 

The Court Hierarchy

The Arizona court system is based on a hierarchy that goes from the local municipal courts all the way up to the Arizona Supreme Court. Depending on the offense that has been committed, some cases may start in municipal court and make their way up the ladder, while others may go straight to the top. 

Municipal Courts

A municipal court is the base court level in the Arizona court system. Municipal courts serve a certain township, city, or municipality. They have limited jurisdiction over their cases, and their authority generally extends to minor crimes such as petty offenses or misdemeanors. For a municipal court to preside over a case, the crime would have to have been committed in that municipality. In the state of Arizona, there are municipal courts in each county. 

Justice of the Peace Courts

Justice of the peace courts, or justice courts, are led by an elected justice of the peace. These courts can preside over a variety of both civil and criminal cases. However, the cases heard in these are often limited. For example, a justice court would only cover a civil lawsuit if the disputed amount were under $10,000. Justices of the peace can also address misdemeanor crimes like traffic violations, DUIs, shoplifting, and small claims cases. 

Superior Court

The Arizona Superior Court is one entity, although it has different locations throughout the state. This general jurisdiction court has at least one superior court judge per county. Superior court locations can handle cases that involve felony or misdemeanor criminal cases, forcible entry, probate matters like wills and estates, equity cases, divorces, and other special cases when necessary. 

Court of Appeals

The Arizona Court of Appeals is the last court before a case goes to the Supreme Court. Any cases that are appealed from superior court will usually go before the court of appeals before going to the Supreme Court, if necessary. 

Supreme Court 

The Arizona Supreme Court, also known as the court of last resort, is the highest court level in Arizona. The Supreme Court is meant to review appeals from lower courts, which they have the right to refuse. However, if a judge from a lower court has issued a capital punishment, that case goes to the Supreme Court. 

Build Your Case with Janet Altschuler Today

Whether you are accused of a crime in local or superior court, you need a seasoned criminal defense attorney that can fight for your rights. With over 2 decades of experience as a top criminal defense attorney in Tucson, Janet Altschuler is here to help you build the best case possible. Contact her today to get started on building your case. 

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation to Discuss Your Situation.

Complete our online contact form
or call us at 520-247-1789

(24 hours a day / 7 days a week)