Venango County has three magisterial districts and three district justices who preside over the "magisterial courts" in the county. Magisterial courts are courts with limited jurisdiction.
All summary misdemeanor and felony criminal cases originate at the district justice level. A district justice may accept a plea or conduct a full hearing and sentence in all summary matters including game or fish law violations and traffic violations. Pleas and sentencing may occur at the district justice level in all criminal charges classified as misdemeanors of the third degree and on first offense, second degree misdemeanor driving under the influence charges.
In criminal cases where a preliminary hearing is conducted the Commonwealth has the burden of "prima facie" case against the defendant in order for the case to be bound over to Common Pleas court.
Selection of District Judges
Magisterial District Judges are elected to six-year terms in a partisan election. A candidate must be 21 years of age and a legal resident of the magisterial district in which they are seeking election. The Court of Common Pleas is required to submit to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in the year following the decennial census a recommendation on the alignment of the magisterial districts in the County.