Bristol Municipal Court – Bristol, RI

Oct 26, 2021

A municipal court is a court with small area of authority over criminal offenses and civil disputes inside its area. These courts can be located at the county or city tier.

Bristol Municipal Court INformation

Court: Bristol Municipal Court
Address: “Burnside Memorial Building 400 Hope Street, Bristol, RI 02809”
Phone: 401-253-7000

City: Bristol
County: Bristol
State: Rhode Island

What is the purpose of the Bristol Municipal Court?

Municipal Courts are routinely called “courts of limited jurisdiction.” Which means that they handle minor crimes, civil cases, and traffic matters. Courts like Bristol Municipal Court are the first level of court for these types of cases.

On the other hand, the purpose of a county court is to deal with a large number of civil disputes within the respective region. Most cases involve family law matters, personal injury cases, more serious criminal charges, or lawsuits.

County courthouses have the jurisdiction to deal with misdemeanors and civil actions that won’t exceed the amount of $15,000, while the circuits courts handle felonies and larger civil matters.

TYPES OF Legal Matters seen IN A MUNICIPAL COURT in Bristol, Rhode Island

Municipal courts are the entry level of courts in the United States. They are usually found within the jurisdiction where they are located, but some jurisdictions share municipal courts with other municipalities.

This can be done to better assist their people or to save money on administrative costs. The cases that will be heard by a municipal court depend on the municipality, but typically include traffic crimes, low level criminal charges and code violations.

There is no set definition for what makes a misdemeanor crime versus a felony charge, but generally speaking felonies would require more time in jail than misdemeanor crimes and fines may also be higher for felonies. Traffic violations usually result in points against your driver’s license as well

how are cases managed in the municipal court in Bristol?

Municipal courts are the lowest level of the court system in the United States. They have jurisdiction over minor crimes, traffic crimes, and other civil matters. Municipal courts are popularly known city courts or town courts. Cases are handled by a magistrate who is usually a lawyer, judge, or retired judge. Magistrates may be appointed by the mayor or city council board to assist for a specific duration.

Magistrates manage hearings to determine:

  • Probable cause for arrest
  • Set bail amounts and the conditions of release
  • Conduct arraignment hearings when charges are filed against individuals by police officers
  • Issue search warrants to police officers in order to protect evidence from crime locations
  • start preliminary examinations to establish if there is enough evidence to issue a charge

The typical process of a Municipal Court matter

The common path of a municipal courthouse case can be difficult to navigate. The next portion is an overview of the common items involved in a typical municipal court case.

First Step: Issuance of Summons

A court summons is given when someone has been charged with violating a city ordinance or state law. The person who has received the summons from the court will need to appear at their assigned time and location, which is usually the municipal courtroom, to respond for the charge(s) against them. If they don’t come, they may be found guilty in absentia and could be fined up to $1k or sentenced to jail time if it’s a serious enough offense.

Second Step: Show Up before Judge or Magistrate

If someone fails to respond after being summoned by the judge, there may be a warrant issued for the individual. 

Municipal Court Penalties in Bristol, RI

Penalties change often, which is why it’s good to speak with licensed attorney near you. The information below represents common penalties, but may not be 100% accurate for the Bristol Municipal Court. 

A violation is an offense that carries a penalty of $500 or below, while a misdemeanor charge can possess penalties up to $1k or one year in jail. A person’s driving privileges may be suspended for six months if they receive three speeding tickets within 12 months.

The penalties for different charges in municipal courthouses vary depending on the severity of an charges. For example, if you are caught with marijuana without having a license for it then you could be fined up to $2,000 or spend up to six months in jail.

Bristol Municipal Court Records

Municipal Court records from a municipal court may be difficult to find because they are not always stored in one area or system. The records that a person might need to depend on the type of case they have before the court, where it’s at in the process, and what kind of of information is required by law to be available.

FAQs ABOUT the Bristol Municipal Court

What is municipal court in Bristol, Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, the municipal court is a lower court with civil and criminal jurisdiction within a town or municipality. Municipal courts thus have a small area of influence and have limited authority as well, dealing only with petty crimes and misdemeanor charges.

What does the municipal court handle in Bristol, Rhode Island?

Depending on the scope of the municipality, a municipal court can handle a civil division (cases with less than  $15,000 at issue), a traffic/criminal division, or a housing and environmental division. Serious cases/crimes are deal with by higher authorities.

How many judges does the Bristol Municipal Court have?

The count of judges depends on the municipality’s population.

How are cases heard in municipal courts in Rhode Island?

A municipal court judge may be either elected or appointed to serve for a set term of years or until retirement. Judges are commonly chosen by the people with each precinct’s results evaluated based on population. Municipal magistrates are often not attorneys but have some legal training and must complete many hours of ongoing courses every period to maintain their licenses.