SUMMARY TRIALS IN MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT COURTS
In Pennsylvania, each county is serviced not just by the county-level court located at the county seat (known as the Court of Common Pleas), but also by numerous Magisterial District Courts located throughout the county. (For example, Montgomery County has 30 district courts, while Berks and Chester Counties each have 18 district courts.) An elected Magisterial District Judge presides over each of the individual district courts.
Magisterial District Courts are sometimes referred to as called “the people’s court”, because they are the first level of the court system that most people deal with in many types of cases. For many types of criminal cases, the case simply begins at the district court for a preliminary hearing and then is sent on to the County Court of Common Pleas for trial.
However, or other types of cases – civil cases at the “small claims” level (claims up to $12,000 in value), most traffic citation cases, and certain lower-level “non-traffic” summary offenses (such as disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, minor harassment accusations, dog leash law violations, etc.) – the cases not only start at the district court, but they can also end at the district court (unless they are appealed), by what is known as a “summary trial”, which is conducted in front of the Magisterial District Judge, who then issues a judgment at the conclusion of the summary trial.
If a person who has been charged (called the “defendant”) is found guilty at a summary trial for a traffic citation or a “non-traffic” summary offense, the judgment becomes final unless the defendant files an appeal of the judgment to the County Court of Common Pleas within 30 days. In a civil “small claims” case, the district court’s judgment becomes final unless any party to the case files an appeal to the county Common Pleas court within 30 days.
The trial attorneys at Rick Stock law have decades of experience representing clients in all types of cases in the Magisterial District Courts. Most of the time, having an attorney represent you at court will greatly increase your chances of having a more favorable result than if you try to represent yourself. If you have a civil claim that you wish to file, or that has been filed against you, or if you have received a citation for either a traffic violation or a “non-traffic” summary offense, give our office a call and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 484-272-5133.