A courthouse is a building in which local courts of law conduct trials and other business pertaining to the justice system. The term "courthouse" is most commonly used in North America, and similar terms are used in other parts of the world. Regional and local courts are often housed in a courthouse, and Federal courts are also housed in what are known as Federal courthouses. Most buildings that house the courts are retrofitted with security devices such as metal detectors and x-ray machines as a precaution against violence that has occurred in the recent past at various courthouses throughout the world.
Security personnel are always on site at a courthouse, both at the entrances and exits of the building, and very often in the courtrooms themselves. The security personnel must be trained properly to protect the inhabitants of the building from potential threats, and they must have knowledge of the operation of all security devices. Any violence or threats of violence will be dealt with by security personnel.
There are many reasons why one may need to visit a courthouse. Trials take place regularly in courthouses, and civil and criminal hearings may take place while a judge presides over the proceedings. Several different types of courts exist, and sometimes more than one type of court is housed in a courthouse. Civil courts, for example, hear different types of cases than criminal courts, though the two types of courts may be housed in the same building, especially in smaller towns and regions.
Marriage certificates are also given out at a courthouse. Any couple wishing to get married must go to the courthouse to obtain a license; the couple pays a fee and verifies their identities to court staff. The certificate is then issued, and it must be verified before the marriage is considered valid. Other services that may be offered at courthouses include cashier services at which a person can pay fines such as parking or speeding tickets, legal document services, and passport services.
Courthouses may play host to civil and criminal trials throughout a county as well. County courts will be the location of court proceedings concerning cases that may have taken place hundreds of miles away in the same county, which means the people involved in the case may have to travel great distances. Such courthouses are usually located in the most populous areas of the county to accommodate the biggest concentration of people in that county.