How a Trial de Novo Works

The term “trial de novo” refers to a case being tried again, but in a new court. In legal terms, it is what occurs when a case is heard in District Court but gets appealed to be heard again in Superior Court. The difference between courts can be seen immediately as the case moves higher up the ladder.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect in the courts for a misdemeanor.



District Court

Most cases start at the magistrate level, which is under the District Court. Don’t expect a jury or court reporter to be present in a District Court hearing, but expect the process to guarantee your rights to a fair trial. Asking for a jury trial basically means moving the case to a higher court, namely the Superior Court.

Superior Court

Every person has a right to appeal their case to a higher court if they feel the lower court’s verdict is unsatisfactory. However, you can sometimes expect a harsher sentence in a Superior Court, even if the appellant pled guilty in a District Court.

Normally, the Superior Court is where the appeals journey ends for most criminal cases. Higher courts like the Supreme Court are reserved for very serious crimes, such as first-degree murder, where it has the final say on the matter. That being said, cases are not subject to a “trial de novo” after they leave Superior Court.


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