Generally, the City Judge hears cases involving crimes committed within the City limits of Jackson.
The City Judge also hears traffic citation cases where the offense occurs in the Jackson City limits. Highway Patrol cases are heard by Judge Hugh Harvey at the Criminal Justice Complex.
Types of Crimes: Misdemeanors and felonies. A felony is a crime where the punishment is one year or longer. Misdemeanors are crimes where the punishment is less than one year.
Misdemeanor - When a person is charged with a misdemeanor, the City Judge has the authority to conduct a trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. However, before doing so, the judge must obtain permission from both the defendant and the District Attorney. This is because both the defendant and the State of Tennessee have the right to a trial by jury. If the judge conducts the trial, and if the defendant is found guilty, he/she has a right to appeal the judge's decision to the Circuit Court and have an entirely new trial before a jury.
If the City Judge finds the defendant not guilty, the trial is over and the defendant cannot be tried again for that offense. Additionally, the state does not have the right to appeal a judge's decision that the defendant is not guilty.
If it is agreed that the misdemeanor case will be heard on a preliminary hearing basis, the State must prove that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause that the defendant committed that crime. If the State proves such, the case would be bound to the Madison County Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury indicts that individual, the case would proceed to one of the circuit courts divisions located in the Criminal Justice Complex. The defendant also has the option of waiving a preliminary hearing. If so, there is no hearing and the case would go directly to the Grand Jury.
Felony - If one was charged with a felony, the City Judge cannot make a final determination of guilt or innocence. The defendant would have the right to have a preliminary hearing, or the preliminary hearing could be waived. If it is waived, that case would go directly to the Grand Jury.
If the defendant wishes to have a preliminary hearing, the State must prove that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause that the defendant committed the crime. If the state does not prove this, then the judge will dismiss the case; however, the District Attorney General could decide to proceed on its own and present the case to the Grand Jury. If the defendant waives the preliminary hearing, or if the case is bound to the Grand Jury, it would be up to the Grand Jury to determine whether or not the individual is indicted. If he or she is indicted, the case would be heard by one of the circuit court judges at the Criminal Justice Complex.
CITY ORDINANCE VIOLATIONS
The City Judge also hears citations for violations of City Ordinances, such as Property Maintenance Regulations, Building Code Regulations, Land Use Regulations, Animal Control, and City Tree Regulations.