What can we help you find today?

Municipal Judge, Without Concurrent Jurisdiction, Hearing State Misdemeanor Charges

Print This PagePrint This Page Send by EmailSend by Email
Reviewed Date: June 26, 2017

Original Author: 
Ashburn, Melissa
Date Created: 
Jul 17, 2002


Subjects:
Courts
Courts--Judges
Courts--Municipal
Laws and regulations--State

Municipal Judge, Without Concurrent Jurisdiction, Hearing State Misdemeanor Charges

Summary: 
MTAS researched the ability of a municipal judge, without concurrent jurisdiction, to hear state misdemeanor charges.

Knowledgebase-Municipal Judge, Without Concurrent Jurisdiction, Hearing State Misdemeanor Charges

July 17, 2002


Re: Municipal Court

Dear City Administrator,

Police Consultant Rex Barton has recently advised me of a situation concerning the operation of your municipal court. It is my understanding that the court does not have concurrent, general sessions jurisdiction, and yet state misdemeanor cases are being heard. I have been informed that the misdemeanors which are being adjudicated in the municipal court include public intoxication. I must advise you that this practice is in violation of the law.

Several cases addressing the power of municipal courts make it clear that such courts impose civil penalties rather than criminal penalties. In State v. Barrett, 840 S.W.2d 895 (Tenn. 1992), the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that municipal judges which do not have concurrent jurisdiction, and which are not elected to eight year terms, may not exercise jurisdiction over state criminal offenses committed within the municipal boundaries. A former section of the Tennessee Code which granted municipal judges such powers was declared to be unconstitutional.

Whether or not your city has adopted an ordinance making public intoxication a municipal violation, the Tennessee Code specifically prohibits the enforcement of such ordinances. T.C.A.'33-8-203 provides:

All arrests and court proceedings for public intoxication and
drunkenness in this state shall be under the provisions of
''39-6-925B39-6-928, to the exclusion of any common law
or statutory offense now being enforced. No county, municipality,
or other political subdivision of this state shall adopt any local
law, ordinance, resolution or regulation having the force of law
rendering public intoxication or drunkenness in and of itself or
being a common drunkard or being found in enumerated places
in an intoxicated condition, an offense, a violation of the subject
of criminal or civil penalties of any kind...

It is a well settled rule of law in Tennessee that municipal judges who do not exercise concurrent jurisdiction, and who are not elected to eight year terms pursuant to constitutional requirements, may not preside over cases involving a violation of the state criminal code, including those offenses deemed to be misdemeanors. This rule has been specifically stated in the code section quoted above with regard to offenses relating to public intoxication.

I must therefore advise you to refer the prosecution of all such offenses to your county general sessions court.

I hope this information has been helpful. Please let me know if you need further information or have any questions.

Thank you for consulting with MTAS.

Sincerely,



Melissa A. Ashburn
Legal Consultant


About Our Knowledgebase

MTAS letters and publications were written based upon the law at the time and/or a specific sets of facts. The laws referenced in the letters and publications may have changed and/or the technical advice provided may not be applicable to your city or circumstances. Always consult with your city attorney or an MTAS consultant before taking any action based on information contained in this database.