Composition of Local Criminal Justice System
As indicated in the overview, Louisville Metro’s local criminal justice system is comprised of the following:
Jefferson County Sheriff
The Sheriff is an elected official and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is an agency responsible for the collection of taxes, security of the courts, and the service of legal process and orders of the court within the boundaries of Jefferson County.
: Jefferson County Sheriff Office
Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD)
LMPD is a Louisville Metro Government department and is responsible for providing policing services to Metro Louisville. LMPD is the largest local police department in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Department was formed when the Louisville Division of Police and the Jefferson County Police Department merged in early 2003.
: Louisville Metro Police
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The FBI is a law enforcement organization within the U.S. Department of Justice. The FBI’s mission is divided into five functional areas: Criminal Law Enforcement; Foreign Counterintelligence; Investigative and Operational Support; Law Enforcement Services; and Direction, Control and Administration.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
The DEA is a law enforcement organization within the U.S. Department of Justice. Its mission is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)
ATF is a law enforcement organization within the U.S. Department of Treasury with unique responsibilities dedicated to reducing violent crime, collecting revenue, and protecting the public. ATF enforces the federal laws and regulations relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives and arson.
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Jefferson County Attorney
The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office is a county agency responsible for the prosecution of all cases brought before the District Court. The County Attorney is an elected official and serves as legal counsel to Louisville Metro Government and promotes efforts in areas such as education, crime prevention, intervention, and a variety of community services.
: Jefferson County Attorney
The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is a state agency responsible for felony prosecutions. The Jefferson County office is the busiest felony prosecutorial office in Kentucky. It is the advisor to the Grand Jury and provides legal advice to the police, as well as victim services. The Commonwealth’s Attorney is an elected official.
: Commonwealth's Attorney
United States Attorney
The United States Attorney is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice and serves as the nation's principal litigator under the direction of the Attorney General. The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President of the United States and is responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal government and the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party. There are two United States Attorney districts within Kentucky – Eastern and Western. The Western District’s main office is located in Louisville Metro.
: United States Attorney
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Private Defense Bar
All citizens accused of a crime who may be punished upon conviction by loss of liberty or a fine in excess of $500 have a right to counsel under the state and federal constitutions. For those who do not qualify for appointment of a Public Defender, private attorneys are available.
: Louisville Bar Association
Department of Public Advocacy (Jefferson County Public Defender)
If a defendant in a criminal case cannot afford to retain the services of a private attorney, the Court appoints the Public Defender upon a determination of indigence. A similar right to counsel exists for juveniles and for individuals responding to petitions for involuntary hospitalization due to mental illness. Locally, such representation is provided by the Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defender Corporation, the first and longest-serving office of its kind in Kentucky.
: Public Defender
: Department of Public Advocacy
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There are two court systems within the Commonwealth - state and federal. Jefferson County’s state courts include; District
, and Family
. Two levels of appellate courts are also represented locally, the Kentucky Court of Appeals
and the Kentucky Supreme Court
. Information pertaining to the entire Kentucky Courts system can be found here: Kentucky Courts
The local federal court system will not be addressed in this overview; however, its web page provides details addressing all aspects of the federal courts system.
: United States Courts
Jefferson District Court
The Jefferson District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. Ninety percent of all Kentuckians involved in court proceedings appear in District Court. Matters before this court can include; misdemeanors, traffic offenses, felony preliminary hearings, and civil cases involving $4,000 or less. In Jefferson County, there are 17 District Judges who serve 4-year terms.
Jefferson Circuit Court
The Circuit Court is a court of general jurisdiction that hears cases involving civil actions of more than $4,000 and/or felony criminal matters with one or more years of incarceration. It hears appeals from District Courts and administrative agencies. Jefferson Circuit Court cases come before Circuit Court by way of the Grand Jury. In Jefferson County there are 13 Circuit Judges who serve 8-year terms.
Jefferson Family Court
The Jefferson Family Court, which began in 1991 (Kentucky's first), specializes in family law with the assignment of all cases relating to an individual family to a single judge. The project’s success prompted efforts to make Family Court a permanent part of the Kentucky Constitution and was placed on the 2002 General Assembly ballot. The amendment passed in all 120 counties. There are 10 Family Court Judges serving 8-year terms.
Kentucky Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals is exactly what its title implies. Nearly all cases come to it on appeal from a lower court. If a case is tried in District or Circuit court, and the losing parties involved are not satisfied with the outcome, they may ask for a higher court to review the correctness of the trial court's decision. Some cases, like criminal case acquittals and divorces, may not be appealed. In a divorce case, however, child custody and property rights decisions may be appealed. Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.
Kentucky Supreme Court
The Kentucky Supreme Court is the court of last resort and the final interpreter of state law. It hears appeals of decisions from the lower state courts. Cases which involve the death penalty, life imprisonment or imprisonment for 20 years or more go directly from the Circuit Court level where the cases are tried, to the Supreme Court for review. A case which comes before the Supreme Court for review is not retried. There are no witnesses, juries or testimony. The case is presented to the Supreme Court by attorneys with written briefs and oral arguments addressing the legal issues which the Court must decide.
Administrative Office of the Courts
The Administrative Office of the Courts, established in 1976, serves as staff for the Commonwealth's Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It also acts as fiscal agent of the Court of Justice; maintains data processing systems for the courts; disperses and maintains supplies and equipment for the entire court system; and oversees the state pretrial and juvenile services programs.
The Grand Jury is a group of private citizens called to Grand Jury duty for one month. It hears evidence presented by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and in certain circumstances, the defendant. If the evidence presented warrants court action, the Grand Jury votes to issue Indictments - formal charges of wrongdoing.
Jefferson County Pretrial Services
Pretrial Services is a state agency within the Administrative Office of the Courts, created by legislation in 1976. This legislative action required the initiation of a statewide pretrial services program. The pretrial services officer is a neutral information-gathering arm of the court. The data collected is utilized by the trial courts of Kentucky to make informed decisions pertaining to bail.
The Court Administrator serves under the administrative direction of the Chief Judges of District and Circuit Courts. The Administrator acts as general liaison among court officials, the public, and the Central Administrative Office of the Courts system. The Court Administrator is responsible for case flow and jury management, and also compiles statistical reports, assists in the recruitment, selection, and training of specific court personnel and coordinates judicial education programs.
Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk
The Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk is an elected official who serves a 6-year term. The Clerk is supported by state personnel and administration. The Clerk serves both the Circuit and District Courts and is the administrative and clerical officer of the Jefferson County judicial system. The Clerk’s responsibilities include: maintaining court records, files and dockets; collecting fees, fines and bond money; and issuing driver licenses.
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Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (DOC)
The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections is responsible for providing comprehensive correctional services including secure incarceration, community alternatives and self-improvement opportunities for those committed to its care, custody and control.
: Metro Corrections Department
The Department of Youth Detention Services (YDS)
As is Corrections, Youth Detention Services is a department within Louisville Metro Government’s Cabinet for Public Protection. YDS works closely with the Juvenile Session of the Jefferson District Court, in an attempt to place youth offenders in appropriate levels of custody or supervision pending court disposition. Juveniles are placed in the least restrictive environment that may include Community Supervision, Non-Secure Group Home Placement or Secure Detention.
: Youth Detention Services
Probation and Parole
Probation and Parole is a state division of the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Its mission is to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth through the supervision of offenders placed on probation or parole. Officers also provide investigative services to the courts and the Parole Board, rehabilitation services to offenders, and employment and home placement.
: Kentucky Corrections
Home Incarceration Program (HIP)
HIP monitors juveniles (14-17 years old) in the community who the Court determines do not require secure detention.
Designed for 45 juveniles, senior social workers monitor compliance with house arrest guidelines, school attendance and court appearances through electronic equipment and routine visits 24-hours a day.
Juveniles placed on HIP are those alleged to have committed property offenses or Class C or D felonies.
Juveniles alleged to have committed a Class A or B felony or offenses involving a weapon, status offense, trafficking in a controlled substance and all sexual offenses as defined in KRS.510, are not considered appropriate referrals.
Juveniles on HIP may attend school or work, but job search will not be allowed. Youth may also attend religious services once a week, with a parent, not to exceed two and one-half hours including travel.
Juveniles are assigned a daily fee according to an established pay scale ranging from a minimum $1.00 per day up to a maximum $5.00 per day.
Who is not eligible for HIP?:
- Juveniles with no land line phone service in the home
- Juveniles with no electricity in the home
- Juveniles who reside in a home with someone who has a pacemaker
Home Supervision Program (HSP)
HSP is the least restrictive option in the detention continuum and is designed to supervise 30 juveniles pending court disposition.
Social workers monitor compliance through a Behavior Contract which addresses school, curfew, and chores.
Juveniles placed on HSP are those alleged to have committed status, misdemeanor or low level felony offenses.
Youth may be referred from APS, Secure Detention or HIP if he/she demonstrates acceptable behavior and has receptive parent(s) or legal guardian.
HSP will assign cases with a face-to-fact contact within 48-hours of a court referral.
The program provides two levels of supervision. During the first two weeks, there will be two face-to-face contacts per week. During subsequent weeks, there will be one face-to-face contact each week and two phone calls per week.
Youth will be seen at home with the parent/guardian, and at school. Behavior reports are submitted to the Courts.
Failure to abide by the Behavior Contract and program rules will result in possible referrals to Secure Detention, HIP or APS.
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