The Magistrate Court has criminal jurisdiction throughout the county, including all municipalities within the county. Criminal arrest warrants are issued for all crimes, felonies and misdemeanors, alleged to have been committed within the county. Our caseloads have increased dramatically over the past several years owing to the fact that we are the first level of the judicial branch that is responsible for each of the cases made in the county.
The Magistrate Court presides over all first appearance hearings. These hearings are conducted by the court within 48 to 72 hours of arrest and are held each Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. The court conducts these hearings via video-conferencing for each person charged with a criminal offense and who is being held in jail. If bail is warranted, the court sets the bail with any special conditions added to insure the safety of individuals and the county’s citizenry in general.
The court schedules a date for the committal hearing, also known as a preliminary or probable cause hearing. All pending criminal matters, felonies and misdemeanors, are heard by this court. At these hearings, the accused individuals are represented by counsel and a representative of the prosecutor’s offices presents evidence in an effort to establish probable cause that a crime was committed by the accused. If probable cause is established, the issue of bond or bail is again addressed and the court makes a determination.
Private or individual warrants are also issued by this court for misdemeanor offenses. Each person seeking a private warrant must bring an incident report from a law enforcement agency and they will be required to fill out a warrant application regarding the information necessary to establish the name, address and other indentifying information of the accused. State law requires the court to hold what is called a “Pre-Execution” hearing. The accused is notified that a court date has been set for a hearing to determine probable cause. It is important to note that this hearing is not a trial of the issues and this court is not determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. The hearing is to determine whether or not the complaining party can show that all the elements of a particular crime has been committed and whether it is more likely than not that the person accused is the perpetrator of that crime. All defenses to any accusation must be heard in the trial court (State Court) at the time of the trial to determine guilt or innocence. If probable cause is found, the accused is immediately arrested and a bond is established along with any special conditions.
There is a fee to file an application for a private warrant and in the event that a party seeks to dismiss an application for an arrest warrant, that party must pay $100.00 as court costs.