A justice of the peace is a government official who is generally only authorized to preside over low-level judicial proceedings such as traffic violations, shoplifting offenses or permit and license violations. His or her duties and job restrictions vary significantly depending on the region and country in which he or she works. He or she may work as a full-time or part-time employee, and the position may be one that is elected or appointed.
Typical responsibilities of a justice of the peace include witnessing or notarizing signatures and oaths on legal forms and documents; he or she also may issue warrants, subpoenas or other court documents required by attorneys and judges. The scope of duties sometimes gives this person the power to arrest minor law offenders who have infractions related to the good or safety of the public as well. In some areas, he or she is sanctioned to preside over misdemeanor trials or act as the judge in small claims court procedures.
In the United States (U.S.), a justice of the peace job is typically associated with performing civil union and marriage ceremonies, for which he or she is commonly authorized in most states. This person is typically certified to legally join couples in civil services at any location or to serve as a bona fide witness if necessary. Lawfully joining couples is frequently considered this official's most performed job.
Many other countries have governments that include justice of the peace positions whose duties differ considerably. In Wales and England, for example, crimes that have maximum jail terms of less than six months as penalties are tried in a magistrate’s court and presided over by three such justices. Asia and India’s justice of the peace positions are considered mainly for show, as they do not invoke any power or influence in legal matters. In Australia, this person is chosen based mainly on his or her reputation for being a respected community member. The duties are normally confined to authenticating documents and signing proclamations and legal statements.
The prerequisites for becoming a justice of the peace are frequently as varied as the job duties. Many regions and countries have no educational or work experience requirements to apply for the job. Some areas require applicants to have a juris doctorate degree as well as professional experience as a lawyer or a judge. Most positions in this category demand a background free of felony convictions. In the majority of jurisdictions, the position has term limit restrictions.