In Mississippi, defendants charged with minor misdemeanors may have their trial in Justice Court. Minor misdemeanors are charges like resisting arrest, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, malicious mischief, and simple criminal damage to property. Justice Court differs from other Mississippi criminal courts in that the trial is relatively informal and can last as little as 10 minutes up to an hour at the most, depending on the number of witnesses.
Trial in Justice Court
This is how a trial in Justice Court works — the arresting officer will have filed an affidavit accusing the defendant of committing a crime. In Court, the arresting officer or officers says what happened and the defendant gets an opportunity to respond. There is a presentation of witnesses and documentary evidence and then the judge makes a decision. Overall, Justice Court trials are fairly quick and informal.
Trials Are Not Recorded Unless Your Attorney Requests a Record
What is unusual about Justice Court is that the trials are not recorded — there is no documentation of what the officer, defendant and witnesses said during the trial. People unfamiliar with the criminal justice system may not think this is odd, but in most courts there will be a transcript of the hearing so as to facilitate any appellate issues (appeals). Generally speaking, recording trials ensures that the defendant’s rights are protected and that there is a record of why the defendant was convicted or found not guilty.
As a Mississippi criminal defense lawyer, one thing I do to protect my clients is to demand that the Justice Court judge allow me to record the matter. I recently requested a recording and the judge agreed — much to the chagrin of the arresting officers. It is my belief that officers testifying at a Justice Court hearing will be very careful to present an accurate account of what happened if they know their words will be recorded by the defense attorney.
One reason so hire an experienced Mississippi criminal attorney is that he or she will know the quirks of the Mississippi court system. If you need assistance with a misdemeanor criminal matter in Mississippi or Louisiana, please call my law firm at 601-944-1980 or 337-704-2615 for a free consultation.