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Learning the basics of the Alabama court system

By Chesley Payne

A basic understanding of the court system in the state of Alabama is useful information for most individuals. Whether you are involved in a legal action or are simply voting for a particular judicial position, it is important to know these basic facts to allow you to be an informed citizen.

The first court most people are familiar with are the district courts of each county. The district courts usually deal with civil cases in which the amount in dispute is less than $10,000. Those cases in which the amount in dispute is less than $1,500 are called small claims cases. The district courts can also deal with less serious criminal cases, such as misdemeanors or traffic citations. The circuit courts are the courts of general jurisdiction in the state. The circuit courts deal with all controversies in which the amount in dispute is more than $10,000. These courts also deal with most criminal actions, including felonies and appeals from district court. The circuit courts also deal with all jury trials.

In the event you are unhappy with the decision of the circuit court, you may appeal your case to the appellate courts. There are two levels of appellate courts in Alabama. The first appellate level includes the court of criminal appeals and the court of civil appeals. The court of civil hears all appellate cases in which the amount in dispute is less than $50,000. The court of criminal appeals hears all criminal appellate cases. The second level of the appellate courts is the Supreme Court. This court is the highest state court and is responsible for hearing appellate cases and for the administration of the Alabama court system.

While this is not an exhaustive description of every court in Alabama, these are what most citizens will deal with on a regular basis. In the event you find yourself in a situation in which you are to appear before one of these courts, an attorney can ensure you will not run afoul of the various rules and requirements of each court and help secure a just result.

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