Bad Court Jurisdiction Is An Easy Dismissal In Arizona Criminal Cases

A very basic defense that is often overlooked is regarding the question of whether or not the court even has jurisdiction over your case.

This means does the court have legal power, legal authority to actually handle your case? Or should some other court be responsible for that?

So courts have jurisdiction in Arizona based on geography. Most courts are limited to a very small, geographical location.

So, for example, the city of Scottsdale, the Scottsdale City Court can only handle cases that happen in Scottsdale.

They cannot handle a case in Mesa. They also can’t handle a case that happens on the west side of the valley. And so geographically speaking, the Scottsdale City Court only has the ability to handle cases that happened in Scottsdale. You also have county courts. So these are superior courts. Superior courts handle bigger felony cases.

They have jurisdiction over everything that happens in that county. So Maricopa County has the Maricopa County Superior Court.

So if you have a certain type of crime that’s a felony and it happened within Maricopa County, it’s going to be handled by the Maricopa County Court. So, we could say that is the big Maricopa County Court. It’s the Superior Court. Then within the Superior Court, you’re going to have different cities. So you may have Scottsdale.

You may have Tempe. You may have Mesa. You may have Glendale. These are all different cities. And so the cities have their own city courts. Okay, so we call each one of these a city.

Now, the cities also have jurisdiction over civil tickets and all of those things that happen within the geography, but there are other precincts that are county level precincts that are justice precincts that are called justice courts.

So, you may have heard of them. You may have passed by them many times and never even known about ’em but they’re called justice courts.

So, those are also handled at a county level so the prosecutors’ office is the one that’s prosecuting them from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. But they’re outside of the city. So we see these a lot on freeways when the Department of Public Safety stops somebody. And this happens on a freeway.

Those go into justice courts. And so justice courts can overlap with different cities. They can bounce around between cities.

One city may cover it. One city may not. And so, you have a lot of different justice courts all throughout the entire state of Arizona. And so, it can get a little complicated. You can see here, there’s a lot of overlap.

There’s a lot of things that are on top of one another and so you may not actually have a good idea even though you’re stopped, you could be stopped in one area, where your case is going to be heard. And so sometimes the police will get confused about this.

They’ll be looking at sort of the same thing and they may be writing you a ticket or giving you a DUI or charging you with a crime, right on the border of a jurisdiction where two different jurisdictions meet.

They may cite you into the wrong jurisdiction. So if you start looking at these maps, and you start looking at the lines in between each one of these jurisdictions, and you see that maybe your case that the officer told that you needed to go to this court, but in reality geographically it happened outside of that court’s jurisdiction. It happened over here. The officer should have cited you into this one, but he didn’t. He cited you into that one. And so, if you make that argument that the court doesn’t have any jurisdiction, the court has no choice but to dismiss the case.

Now that doesn’t mean that your case is going to be totally dismissed and never come back. The prosecutor may catch wind of that and they may just take those charges and refile them into the correct jurisdiction. But for the low-level offenses, especially for traffic tickets, for criminal speedings, sometimes reckless drivings, basically anything that’s kind of less than a DUI, the charges may never get refiled. Sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. It kind of breaks their workflow.

They’re used to cases going through their process a certain way. And so if you can get it dismissed out of one court, it may never pop up on someone else’s radar and get filed in the correct court.

This is something that I think a lot of attorneys take for granted. They just take a look at the officer’s citation and believe that he did the right thing, or she did the right thing and filed it into the correct court, when in reality that doesn’t happen a lot. It doesn’t happen always. It does happen most of the time.

They get the correct jurisdiction most of the time, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’ll be off by just a little bit.

They’ll be one side of the street or the other side of the street or they’ll get it on the side street that’s just outside of the jurisdiction. And they won’t check the map.

So they’ll cite you into the wrong jurisdiction and that can be an easy dismissal. There are also rules regarding how quickly they have to file charges.

So, especially for the civil traffic stuff, if they don’t file it within a certain period of time, they may not be able to file it again meaning if they dismiss is out of one jurisdiction, they may not be able to bring it back into another jurisdiction.

But, generally speaking, they do a good job of it. But it is very easy to check. You can just go on– You can type into Google.

Look up Arizona jurisdictions, Arizona judicial jurisdictions, or legislative jurisdictions and you should be able to find a link that takes you right to the government website.

And you can click judicial precincts and it’ll drop all the maps. Different counties have different websites, so depending on what county you’re in, you’re going to want to use that map and that website.

But it’s really easy to do. You can look up, find out where your case happened, where you were stopped. Make sure that you were in the right jurisdiction because if you weren’t, it’s a good basis for a dismissal.

So I hope that helps. If you have any questions about it, if you’ve been charged with a crime and want to speak to our office, give us a call.

We offer free case evaluations and we’re happy to speak with you. Thanks for watching.

It would seem like common sense to take for granted that a case is being handled in the correct court. However, there have been numerous cases in the past that were originally filed in the wrong court. Such situations provide the basis for a defense that is very often overlooked: wrong court jurisdiction. This defense essentially hinges on the fact that the court the citation was filed in lacks the legal authority to handle the case. 

In Arizona, the jurisdiction of the courts is based on geography. Most courts are limited to a small area. As an example, the Scottdale City Court only has jurisdiction to handle cases in the city of Scottsdale. A violation that occurs and is cited in Mesa cannot be handled in the Scottsdale City Court. 

In addition to city courts, there are county courts or superior courts. County courts tend to handle bigger felony cases and have jurisdiction over everything that happens in that particular county. For example, if a felony occurs in Maricopa County, the Maricopa County Court will likely handle the case.  

There are generally multiple city courts within one superior court. For example, the city courts of Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and Glendale are all under the jurisdiction of the Maricopa County Court. The city courts have jurisdiction over civil tickets and other offenses of that nature that happen within their designated area. 

There are other county-level courts that exist between the city courts, called justice courts. Examples of cases that typically go to justice courts are violations on freeways between city court jurisdictions. Therefore, justice courts tend to overlap with different cities. 

Because of the overlap between courts, proper jurisdiction can get somewhat complicated. This complexity can, and has, led to police officers citing people into the wrong jurisdiction. When this error happens, a viable point that can be argued is that the assigned court does not have any jurisdiction over a particular case. If the court does not, in fact, have jurisdiction, they will have no choice but to dismiss the case. 

When a court dismisses a case because they did not have jurisdiction, it does not necessarily mean that the charge will not be filed again in the proper court. Lesser charges, such as traffic tickets, criminal speeding, and reckless driving, are sometimes not re-filed. In other words, if a case can be dismissed due to a court not having jurisdiction, there is a possibility that the case will never be brought up again. 

Many attorneys will often take for granted that police officers write citations in the correct court every time. While police officers to write the citations correctly most of the time, there are occurrences when the citation is filed in the wrong court. 

Additionally, there are restrictions on how much time can transpire between the date of the violation and the date that a citation may be filed. If a case is dismissed because the citation was filed in the wrong court, there may not be enough time for it to be filed in the correct court. 

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an attorney immediately. We offer free case evaluations and will be able to put a plan together that will best suit your case.