The district court is often called the people’s court. More people have contact with the district court than any other court. The district court handles most traffic violations. The district court also hears both criminal and civil cases including small claims and landlord-tenant disputes. Civil disputes seeking money damages cannot exceed $25,000 in district court.
All criminal cases, for persons 17 years or older, begin in the district court. The district court explains to the defendant the charges, his or her rights, and the possible consequences if convicted of the charge. If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable by not more than one year in jail, the district court will conduct a trial and sentence the defendant if found guilty. In felony cases (generally, cases that are punishable by more than one year of confinement) the district court will set the bail amount and hold a preliminary examination to determine if a crime was committed and if there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime. If so, the case is transferred to the circuit court for trial.
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