Misdemeanor offenses are filed in either the District Court or the Family Court depending on the relationship between the defendant and the complainant.
Misdemeanor offenses filed in the District Court are comprised of criminal cases and traffic offenses. For either type of offense, the defendant has a right to have a jury trial. Because of this right, the first court date following your arraignment and plea date is usually designated as the date where you either waive your right to a jury trial or request a jury trial.
It is imperative that you consult with an attorney before deciding on whether to ask for a jury trial. While there are many benefits to requesting a jury trial, a jury trial may not be appropriate for many types of cases. Any attorney you consult with should advise you on whether a jury trial is appropriate for your case.
If you waive your right to a jury trial, your case will be set for trial in the District Court before a judge. Remember, just because you waived your right to a jury trial, it does not mean you cannot contest the charges against you. Essentially, it means is your case will be heard by a judge of the District Court instead of the jury.
If you demand a jury trial, your case will be transferred to the Circuit Court where the arraignment process will begin again. Your first court date after demanding a jury trial will be for arraignment and plea. At arraignment, you will be given a trial date. If you have requested a jury trial and your case has been transferred to the Circuit Court, you should already be represented by an attorney so the process can be further explained to you.
Criminal misdemeanor cases can also be filed in the Family Court. The Family Court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor cases if there some sort of relationship between the complainant and the defendant. For example, for the charge of Abuse of a Family or Household Member, a family or household member is defined as:
“[S]pouses or reciprocal beneficiaries, former spouses or reciprocal beneficiaries, persons who have a child in common, parents, children, persons related by consanguinity, and persons jointly residing or formerly residing in the same dwelling unit,” but “does not include those who are, or were, adult roommates or cohabitants only by virtue of an economic or contractual affiliation.”
Also, in cases involving violations of temporary restraining orders or orders for protection, the criminal charges will likely be filed in the Family Court if the Family Court issued the temporary restraining order or order for protection.
If a charge against you has been filed in the Family Court, your initial arraignment and plea date and any subsequent trial dates will be heard on the 8th floor of the District Court.