The District Courts are Alabama trial courts of “limited jurisdiction” meaning they hear misdemeanors and small claims cases and have concurrent jurisdiction with Circuit Court on juvenile cases.
Misdemeanor cases are crimes where the possible punishment is one year in prison or less. Examples of misdemeanors are: theft in the 3rd degree (where the value of the property taken is less than $500); harassment; assault in the 3rd degree; criminal trespassing; criminal non-support; and issuing worthless checks. The District Attorney’s Office prosecutes misdemeanor cases made by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and the Alabama State Troopers. Misdemeanors brought by other municipal agencies such as the Huntsville Police Department or Madison Police Department or any other municipality in the county are typically prosecuted in that agency’s Municipal Court (that is, a misdemeanor case brought by the Huntsville Police Department would be prosecuted in Huntsville City Court by the Huntsville City Prosecutor’s Office.)
District Court cases are divided among the four District Court Judges alphabetically by the defendant's last name, as listed below. The Madison County District Attorney’s Office assigns a prosecutor to each court.
A-D Judge Patrick Tuten - Asst. District Attorney Sara Judah
E-K Judge Patty Demos - Asst. District Attorney Burton Walker
L-Ri Judge Linda Coats - Asst. District Attorney Ben McDaniel
Ro-Z Judge Don Rizzardi - Asst. District Attorney Shea Keller
Preliminary Hearings are held in District Court. These hearings are held in felony cases at the request of the defendant to determine if there is "probable cause" for the case to proceed. These hearings are only held if the case has not yet been presented to the Madison County Grand Jury. By agreement with the District Attorney's Office, many defense attorneys waive Preliminary Hearings when possible and when all "discovery" --- evidence pertaining to the case --- has been delivered to the defendant's attorney. This reduces the number of Preliminary Hearings required and provides the defendant with the information desired.