Municipal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over ordinance violations. If a municipality does not have a municipal court, ordinance violations are heard in circuit court. Cities, villages and towns are authorized to establish municipal courts.
In municipal court, there are no jury trials; all cases are decided by a judge. However, a person charged with a first drunken driving offense may seek a jury trial in circuit court within ten days of an initial municipal court appearance on OWI/PAC (operating while intoxicated/ prohibited alcohol content); all other defendants must wait until the municipal court renders judgment. An appeal to circuit court will be a review of the record unless either party requests a new trial before a judge. The appealing party may also request a six-person jury trial.
In 1996, the Legislature passed a law that raised the costs associated with a citation for a municipal ordinance violation that is written to circuit court. As a result, such a citation cost $48 to $55 more than a citation to municipal court. Therefore, an individual who is ticketed for a municipal ordinance violation in a community that does not have a municipal court will have to pay about $50 more because the case will be heard in circuit court. The forfeiture amount that the municipality receives is the same regardless of which level of court hears the violation. When there is no municipal court, the municipality pays a $5 fee per citation to the circuit court to hear its ordinance violations.