The District Court is divided into 42 district court districts. The jurisdiction of the District Court is extensive and may be divided into four categories: criminal, civil, juvenile, and magisterial.
The criminal jurisdiction of the District Court Division includes preliminary "probable cause" hearings in felony cases, and virtually all misdemeanor and infraction cases. The District Court also has jurisdiction to accept guilty pleas in certain felony cases. Trials in criminal and infraction cases are by district court judges; no trial by jury is available for such cases. Appeals are to the superior court for trial de novo before a jury.
In addition, the district courts share concurrent jurisdiction with the superior courts in general civil cases. However, the District Court is the "proper" division for general civil cases where the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less. Civil cases in District Court may be tried before a jury; appeals are to the Court of Appeals
All civil cases involving claims for money damages of $15,000 or less are subject to court-ordered, non-binding arbitration. Certain property disputes, family law matters, estates, special proceedings, and class actions are excluded from court-ordered arbitration. If a case is not resolved at arbitration, it may be appealed and heard before a judge or jury.
The court's jurisdiction also extends to all juvenile proceedings, mental health hospital commitments, and domestic relations cases. Juvenile proceedings concern children who are delinquent, undisciplined, abused, neglected, or dependent. These proceedings are initiated by petition, and the hearing conducted by the judge may be less formal than in adult cases. Juveniles alleged to be delinquent are entitled to have the court appoint counsel for them.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court designates a chief district court judge for each district court district. The chief district court judge is responsible for the effective and efficient operation of district court within the district.
Magistrates are also judicial officers of the District Court Division. In criminal cases, magistrates issue arrest and search warrants, conduct initial appearances, and determine conditions of pretrial release. For some relatively minor offenses they may accept guilty pleas, impose punishment and conduct trials. In civil cases, they preside over the trial of small claims ($5,000 or less).
Sampson County is in District Court District 4A. Sampson County's seat of district court is located in Clinton, North Carolina.