The justices of the peace are elected for a term of four years from each justice precinct in the county. The justices of the peace are the presiding officers of the justice courts, the small claims courts (up to $10,000.00), and have jurisdiction over minor misdemeanor offenses (Class C). They also have jurisdiction in civil matters where the amount in controversy does not exceed $10,000.00. A variety of civil processes, as well as arrest and search warrants, can be issued by the justices of the peace.
The justices of the peace may also preside over hearings pertaining to suspension of driver licenses and conduct other hearings and inquests. The J.P.'s may conduct marriage ceremonies and serve as ex officio notary publics for the precinct.
Other duties and responsibilities include:
- Rendering judgments;
- Ordering sheriff or constables to summon jurors;
- Administering oaths to the officers;
- Excusing jurors;
- Entering fines against defaulting jurors;
- Issuing writs of sequestration, garnishment, and attachments within the limits of jurisdiction;
- Questioning witnesses or parties;
- Keeping criminal dockets of trials;
- Issuing warrants for arrest for criminal offenses committed in his presence and which he has jurisdiction to try;
- Receiving complaints of offenses which he has jurisdiction to try;
- Issuing writs to summon jurors for criminal matters in which a jury trial is desired;
- Taking sworn statements from witnesses;
- Receiving applications for and issuing distress warrants;
- Conducting marriage ceremonies;
- Ordering autopsies as requested by the district attorney or county attorney; and
- Numerous other tasks.
The justices of the peace also have various other duties related to the judicial function, such as:
- Having jurisdiction over misdemeanor violations of the Cosmetology Act;
- Having jurisdiction to hold hearings to determine if driver's licenses should be revoked or suspended and reports the finding to the Department of Public Safety;
- Conducting hearings to determine whether probable cause existed for the towing and storage of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent;
- Conducting hearings concerning financial responsibility under the Safety Responsibility Law;
- Administering and certifying oaths and affidavits;
- Receiving referrals for inquests into causes of death;
- Permitting the taking of body parts and tissue for transplant or other therapy (Only under certain conditions);
- Receiving complaints from attendance officers for violations of compulsory school attendance laws;
- Ordering the sale of seized perishable goods, when necessary; and
- Numerous other tasks.