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Legal Dictionary

magistrate

Legal Definition of magistrate

Noun

  1. One clothed with public civil authority
  2. An executive or judicial officer
  3. Usually when unqualified, a minor local justice

Related terms


Definition of magistrate

Pronunciation

Noun

magistrate (plural magistrates)

  1. (law) A judicial officer with limited authority to administer and enforce the law. A magistrate's court may have jurisdiction in civil or criminal cases, or both.

Further reading

A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a magistrate has limited law enforcement and administration authority. In civil law systems, a magistrate might be a judge in a superior court; the magistrate's court might have jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. A related, but not always equivalent, term is chief magistrate, which historically can denote a political and administrative officer.

English common law tradition

- United Kingdom (England and Wales)

In the courts of England and Wales, magistrates-also known as justices of the peace (JPs)-hear prosecutions for and dispose of 'summary offences' and some 'triable-either-way offences' by making orders in regard to and placing additional requirements on offenders. Magistrates can only sentence for six months for one offence and twelve months consecutively, they can also give a maximum of a £5,000 fine; community orders which can include curfews, electronic tagging, requirements to perform unpaid work up to 300 hours or supervision up to three years and or various other options. Magistrates hear committal proceedings for certain offences, and can establish whether sufficient evidence exists to pass the case to a higher court for trial and sentencing. In more serious cases, magistrates have power to pass 'either-way' offenders to the Crown Court for sentencing when, in the opinion of the magistrates, a penalty greater than can be given in the magistrates' court is warranted. A wide range of other legal matters are within the remit of magistrates. In the past, magistrates have been responsible for granting licences to sell alcohol, for instance, but this function is now exercised by local councils though there is a right of appeal to the magistrates' court. Magistrates are also responsible for granting search warrants to the police and some other authorities, therefore it used to be a requirement that they live within a 15-mile (24 km) radius of the area they preside over (the commission area) in case they are needed to sign a warrant out-of-hours. However, commission areas were replaced with Local Justice Areas by the Courts Act 2003, meaning magistrates no longer need to live within 15 miles (24 km), although, in practice, many still do. Section 7 of the Courts Act 2003 states that "There shall be a commission of the peace for England and Wales- . . . b) addressed generally, and not by name, to all such persons as may from time to time hold office as justices of the peace for England and Wales". Thus every magistrate in England and Wales may act as a magistrate anywhere in England or Wales.

- United States

Magistrates are somewhat less common in the United States than in Europe, but the position does exist in some jurisdictions.

The term "magistrate" is often used (chiefly in judicial opinions) as a generic term for any independent judge who is capable of issuing warrants, reviewing arrests, etc. When used in this way it does not denote a judge with a particular office. Instead, it denotes (somewhat circularly) a judge or judicial officer who is capable of hearing and deciding a particular matter. That capability is defined by statute or by common law. In Virginia, for example, the Constitution of 1971 created the office of magistrate to replace the use in cities and counties of the justice of the peace, which is common in many states for this function.

As noted above, the terms "magistrate" or "chief magistrate" were sometimes used in the early days of the republic to refer to the President of the United States, as in President John Adams's message to the U.S. Senate upon the death of George Washington: "His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read" (December 19, 1799).

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

Translation of magistrate in Malay

Majistret

Noun

judicial officer

  1. majistret



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