Courts & Criminal Justice
Welcome to the Courts & Criminal Justice page. Please take a minute to explore these pages and learn more about York County’s role in ensuring civil and criminal justice.
Below you'll find summaries outlining of the judicial process in both criminal and civil cases. If you're looking for a specific court or court-related department, please click here.
Please click here to look up criminal case docket sheets through the state's database. It includes records from the York County Court of Common Please and local magisterial district judges.
Almost all criminal cases (felonies and misdemeanors) begin in the Magisterial District Courts, which issue search warrants, arrest warrants and summonses.
Magisterial District Judges (MDJs) set bail, make referrals to diversionary programs and preside over preliminary hearings. It is during preliminary hearings where MDJs decide if there is enough information to forward a case to the York County Court of Common Pleas for trial.
MDJs for certain minor misdemeanors can accept guilty pleas and impose sentence. They also preside over the following summary charges: minor violations under the crimes code, most traffic violations, violations of city, borough and township ordinances and violations of the fish, game and dog laws. MDJs in summary cases function as both judge and jury. They hear evidence, making a ruling and impose sentence.
Ruling made by MDJs are subject to appeal before the York County Court of Common Pleas.
If the defendant in a felony or misdemeanor case is bound over to County court, the case proceeds before the York County Court of Common Pleas. Criminal cases are generally prosecuted by the York County District Attorney’s Office. Defendants without the means to pay for their own criminal defense may be eligible for representation by the Public Defender’s Office.
Defendants found guilty of a crime and sentenced to incarceration for less than two years are typically housed in the York County Prison. Those sentenced to longer terms are typically housed in state prisons.
Civil cases can be heard by the Magisterial District Courts and the Court of Common Pleas. The jurisdiction of Magisterial District Judges in civil matters includes suits involving as much as $12,000. District Judges also have jurisdiction over matters such as landlord and tenant cases. The Court of Common Pleas hears cases involving more than $12,000. Magisterial District Judge decisions in cases involving smaller amounts are subject to appeal in the Court of Common Pleas.
Matters involving guardianships, marriage licenses, adoptions, birth and death records, and estates of decedents are handled by the York County Clerk of the Orphans’ Court.
All civil and criminal matters, other than matters that by statute are heard by District Judges or in the Orphan's Court Division, are heard in the civil or criminal divisions of the Court of Common Pleas.