Kiawah Island’s Municipal Court is one of about 200 municipal courts across South Carolina, and was established in 1996, shortly after the Town of Kiawah Island was created. It is part of the unified judicial system of South Carolina and is therefore separate from, and independent of, Town government, although State law requires that the court be financed by the Town. The court’s geographic jurisdiction encompasses all of Kiawah Island from and including the roundabout at Betsy Kerrison Parkway. Its subject matter jurisdiction is limited to criminal cases involving a violation of state laws or town ordinances, where the penalty is a fine not exceeding $500 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days. In the case of fines, state law requires that there be added to a fine a collection of assessments which, in total, exceed the amount of the fine itself. There are also specific state statutes which grant municipal courts jurisdiction over other cases involving specific crimes for which the punishment can be greater than that allowed generally. The court has many of the same powers as higher courts in South Carolina, including the power to conduct bench trials and jury trials, to issue search warrants and arrest warrants, to set bail, to conduct preliminary hearings, and to cite persons for contempt of court The court does not have jurisdiction over civil cases.
Court sessions are held twice monthly, although additional sessions can be, and are, added from time to time. Cases arising under town ordinances are heard beginning at 9:30 AM, and traffic cases and other cases arising under State law are heard at 10:30 AM. By calling 843-768-9166, interested persons can learn the specific court dates for each month. Court sessions are, of course, open to the public, and visitors are welcome. Available in the courtroom, for each session, is a brochure entitled The Rules of Practice and Procedure in Municipal Court, which sets forth a description of the procedures followed by the court and the rights of defendants appearing before the court. Copies of the brochure are also obtainable at Town Hall from the Clerk of the Kiawah Island Municipal Court. The Judge of the Kiawah Island Municipal Court is appointed by the Mayor and Council for a term of three years.