Geographically, a municipal court can hear cases that occur in a specific city or municipal territory. For practical reasons, several local municipalities whose territories are located within the same regional county municipality can have a common municipal court, and share its costs.
Most people show up at municipal court to contest a ticket (parking, speeding, etc.). Municipal courts can make decisions about offenses to the Highway Safety Code. When municipal by-laws or regulations create penalties for a violation, it is also a municipal court that will hear the case.
Some municipal courts, such as those in Montreal and Quebec City, hear criminal matters and violations to federal laws. This occurs when the prosecutor chooses a simpler process. In principle, the maximum sentence that a judge can impose is a fine of $5,000 and a prison sentence of two years less a day.
In civil matters, municipal court judges can hear things such as claims to recover sums of money due to the municipality (e.g.: municipal taxes, cost to obtain a permit). A trial between the municipality and one of its tenants for less than $30,000 can also be held in municipal court.
Like all judges, municipal court judges are selected amongst experienced lawyers. The difference is that outside of Montreal, Quebec, and Laval, a municipal court judge can continue practicing as a lawyer even after having been named as a judge. However, she must never plead before a municipal court or the Court of Quebec. Yes, part-time judges do exist!
Another interesting trait of municipal courts is that they are opened evenings. The law actually obliges them to hold 1 out of every 2 sessions after 6:00 p.m.
Finally, don’t go to the wrong address if you have to show up at the municipal court in your area: its offices are most likely not found in the court house.