The district court is the first court that you will come into contact with in criminal cases. The district court also determines contentious cases (civil law disputes) between private persons, for example family cases. The district court also deals with various kinds of matters, for example, adoptions.
Where are the district courts located?
There are 48 district courts spread out over the whole of Sweden, from Ystad in the south to Gällivare in the north. These vary in size from having several hundred to ten or so employees. The district courts have a local link - the cases that are considered by the district court come from those municipalities that fall within the district of the court (a geographical area that is included in the district court´s catchment area, usually a number of municipalities).
Who do you come into contact with at the district courts?
The officers serving at the district courts include judges - chief judges, senior judges, judges and assistant judges. They are employed as part of the court and prepare cases, make decisions and adjudicate in those matters that are dealt with by the court.
The chief judges are the heads of the district courts and are, together with the judges, the district court's permanent judges.
You may also come into contact with law clerks, assistant judges and associate judges at certain district courts. They are young, non-ordinary judges, who serve at the district court during their training. The court clerks often work with preparing cases and with keeping records, but they may also make decisions in matters and adjudicate in certain simple cases, for example, cases involving fines. Assistant judges and associate judges have the same functions as the ordinary judges. There are also administrative staff at the district court who work with, for example, finance and personnel issues.
In addition to this, there are more than 5,000 lay judges, who are also linked to the district courts. The lay judges are laymen, that is to say, they are not legally qualified but have other professions. They are elected politically and represent the people and are appointed by the municipal assembly. Their function is to participate in the work by adjudicating in various issues and they are appointed for four years at a time. Read more about lay judges.
Typical cases in the district court
Cases in the district court are divided into three categories; contentious cases, criminal cases and matters.
Many disputes relate to matters concerning various kinds of economic relations and may, for example, deal with demands for money, interpretation of a contract or some other financial commitment. Another large group of contentious cases are family law disputes, for example, cases concerning divorce or cases concerning the custody, residence, access and maintenance of a child. Read more about cases relating to the family under the menu 'Matters/Family'.
The district courts also deal with and adjudicate in criminal cases. A criminal case arises when a crime has been committed, that is to say when a penalty can be imposed under the Penal Code or other penal provisions. This may, for example, relate to crimes of violence and theft, narcotics offences, tax offences and traffic offences.
If it is suspected that a crime has been committed, the police are under a duty to investigate the suspicion through a so-called 'preliminary investigation'. The police or the prosecutor is responsible for the preliminary investigation, and will also decide on the issue of whether the case should be pursued further to court. Read more under the menu 'Legal proceedings/Criminal cases'.
Besides contentious cases and criminal cases, the district court also decides on matters such as, for example, adoption, division of marital property, administrators and special representatives.