Municipal courts have jurisdiction over cases arising under ordinances of the municipality, and over all offenses which are subject to a fine not exceeding $500.00 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both, and which occur within the municipality. In addition, S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-545 provides that municipal courts may hear cases transferred from general sessions, the penalty for which does not exceed one year imprisonment or a fine of $5,000, or both, upon petition by the solicitor and agreement by the defendant. The powers and duties of a municipal judge are the same as those of a magistrate, with regard to criminal matters; however, municipal courts have no civil jurisdiction. The term of a municipal judge is set by the council of the municipality, but cannot exceed four years. Municipal Judges appointed on or after May 24, 2004, must be appointed for a set term of not less than two years but not more than four years. Section 14-25-15(A) states, “Each municipal judge must be appointed by the council to serve for a term set by the council of not less than two years but not more than four years and until his successor is appointed and qualified. His compensation must be fixed by the council.” Approximately 200 municipalities in South Carolina have chosen to create municipal courts.
All municipal judges are required to complete a training program or pass certification or recertification examinations, or both, within one year of taking office. See S.C. Code Ann. § 14-25-15 and Rule 509, SCACR. The examination will be offered three times each year. Members of the South Carolina Bar are exempt from the examination; however, they are required to attend the orientation program.
Each municipal judge must pass a recertification examination within eight years after passing the initial certification examination and at least once every eight years thereafter.