Felony and Misdemeanor Cases Filed in the Magisterial District Courts 

Magisterial District Judges preside over traffic, civil, landlord tenant, and other summary level cases, in addition to serving as the court of initial jurisdiction for all serious criminal offenses, including homicide, which are first filed in the Magisterial District Courts. 

Criminal Cases begin with the issuance of a summons (a notice that is mailed to the person being charged telling them when to appear in court), an arrest warrant, or with the person being directly brought before the court at the time of the incident. 

In 2019 Magisterial District Judges issued 56,235 Criminal Arrest Warrants.

Persons arrested on an arrest warrant are brought before the Magisterial District Judge for a Preliminary Arraignment where:

  • They are informed of the charges against them; 
  • Notified of the date of their preliminary hearing; 
  • Offered the services of an attorney if they cannot afford one; 
  • Given an opportunity to make a phone call and to post bail, when appropriate; 
  • Are either released on bail or incarcerated at the conclusion of the proceeding.

The preliminary hearing serves as the gateway to the higher court, the Court of Common Pleas.  Following review of the case at the Preliminary Hearing, the case may be dismissed, bound over to the higher court, or voluntarily waived to the higher court by the defendant.  Following the preliminary hearing jurisdiction of the case is turned over to the Court of Common Pleas. 

From Traffic Tickets to Felonies

What 2019 brought to PA’S Magisterial District Courts

1,559,652 traffic citations filed in Pennsylvania in 2019 (An Average of 4,273 Per Day/178 Per Hour)

414,741 Arrest Warrants were issued for people who failed to respond to their citations and 388,484 Arrest Warrants were issued for people who failed to pay their traffic fines.

In additional to traffic cases, Magisterial District Judges handled the following:

Additionally there were 7,025 Emergency Protection From Abuse Orders granted.


MDJs rotate 24/7 on-call responsibilities to take care of urgent court business after hours, weekends, and holidays:

  • Issuing Search Warrants;
  • Issuing Arrest Warrants
  • Preliminary Arraignments – criminal arrests;
  • Setting and Posting Bail;
  • Granting Emergency Protection Orders;
  • Granting Elderly Abuse Protective Orders; 
  • Protection Order Violations;
  • Arrests on Out of State Warrants