Criminal Law in Mississippi’s State Circuit Courts: A Comprehensive Overview


When it comes to handling felony criminal prosecutions, Mississippi’s Circuit Courts play a vital role. In this blog post, we will explore the key aspects of criminal law within the state’s Circuit Courts, shedding light on their jurisdiction, appellate processes, and essential rules and procedures.


Jurisdiction and Appellate Processes:

Mississippi’s eighty-two counties are divided into twenty-two Circuit Court districts, each with a varying number of Circuit Court judges, ranging from one to four. These judges are elected in non-partisan elections to serve four-year terms. Circuit courts have jurisdiction over felony criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits, and appeals from County, Justice, and Municipal courts, as well as from administrative boards and commissions such as the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.


Appeals from lower courts are handled “de novo” (as a new trial) by Circuit Courts. In a de novo appeal, the court reviews the case without considering any findings of guilt by the lower court. While the Circuit Court may refer to the lower court’s record to determine the facts, it makes its ruling on evidence and matters of law independent of the lower court’s findings.


Rules and Procedures:

Mississippi’s Circuit Courts operate under specific rules and procedures to ensure a fair and efficient judicial process. Rule 29.1 of the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure outlines the process for filing a Notice of Appeal in criminal cases adjudged guilty by a justice or municipal court. The citizen appealing his case must file a written notice of appeal, along with a cost bond and an appearance bond (or cash deposit), with the Circuit Court’s clerk within 30 days of the lower court’s judgment. This filing allows the appeal and starts further court proceedings.


Cost bonds, as specified in Rule 29.3, require defendants to post a cash deposit or bond to cover all estimated court costs incurred in both the appellate and lower courts. Failure to post this bond can result in the court dismissing the appeal with costs. Dismissing the appeal means that the lower court’s finding of guilty will stand as the final outcome of the case, and the person will be denied the ability to further defend the case.


Similarly, Rule 29.4 governs appearance bonds. Defendants must provide a cash deposit or bond to ensure their appearance before the Circuit Court until the appeal is finally determined or dismissed. In addition, the defendant’s failure to appear when the case is set for trial may lead to the dismissal of the appeal with prejudice, which means you cannot appeal your case again. Failure to appear will also lead to forfeiting of the appearance bond or cash deposit, which will then be used to pay court costs and fines.


Appealing from County Court to Circuit Court:

Rule 30.1 outlines the process for appealing a criminal conviction from a county court to the Circuit Court. A written notice of appeal must be filed with the Circuit Court clerk within 30 days of the entry of the final County Court judgment. The appeal is considered solely on the testimony in the county court, which means the Circuit Court will take as true the findings of the jury in the lower court. The Circuit Court will give its opinion on written documents and oral arguments of the parties rather than an additional trial. The Circuit Court will adopt and agree with the County Court trial’s judgment if no error is found in the written arguments from the lower court. Meaning the lower court’s decision will stand. When there is any error found that should cause another verdict in the lower court, the Circuit Court reverses that decision or grants a new trial, which is held as a new trial in the Circuit Court.


Release and Crediting Time:

Defendants who appeal a conviction in county court to the Circuit Court are entitled to have the lower court verdict stopped and to be released while this appeal is decided as per Rule 8.3, and any time spent in custody on the present charge is credited against the imposed sentence should the Circuit Court agree with the lower court’s guilty verdict.



Mississippi’s state Circuit Courts are integral to the criminal justice system, handling felony criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits, and appeals from lower courts. This system is mysterious to all citizens who are not in the legal system. Understanding the rules and procedures governing these courts is crucial for defendants, attorneys, and all those involved in the legal process. By following the guidelines provided by the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure, attorneys and their clients can navigate the Circuit Court system effectively, ensuring fair and just outcomes.


What should you do if you face a felony indictment or need to appeal your case?

Felony indictments and criminal appeals are complex matters that a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney should handle. Look no further than to Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Over the years, with our combined experience of almost 100 years practicing criminal law, we have helped numerous people charged with a crime. Being accused of a crime does not mean that you are guilty. We understand the value of rigorous preparation and diligence in every effort and will strive to ensure the best outcome for our clients.


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