Case Type Definitions

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The following information is provided to assist court users in identifying the type of case that they are involved in. The case types are presented as they are used in the Contra Costa County Superior Court for purposes of case processing, scheduling, and trial assignment.


An appeal is a request to a higher court to review a judgment or verdict made in a lower court.

  • Some cases types may be appealed in the Main Courthouse in Contra Costa County:

    • small claims,
    • limited civil cases,
    • landlord/tenant issues,
    • traffic,
    • misdemeanors.
  • Other cases types are to be appealed at the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco:

    • unlimited civil,
    • family law,
    • probate,
    • juvenile,
    • felony.

Civil Cases

A civil case is a lawsuit brought to enforce, redress, or protect private rights. Civil lawsuits include:

  • Unlimited Civil (seeking damages more than $25,000)
  • Limited Civil (seeking damages $25,000 or less)
  • Small Claims (seeking damages less than $10,000)
  • Family Law
  • Probate
  • Unlawful Detainer (landlord/tenant disputes)


A criminal case is a lawsuit brought by the government against a person who has broken penal law – that is, a law enacted to preserve the public order by defining an offense against the public and imposing a penalty for its violation.

Criminal cases are separated into three main categories:

  • Felony
  • Misdemeanors
  • Infractions


Juvenile cases are those involving young people under the age of 18 years. These are separated into two main categories –

  • Juvenile Delinquency, for young people who have broken penal law.
  • Juvenile Dependency, for young people who have been removed from the home and/or care of their parents or guardians.


Traffic cases are those in which citations have been issued for a violation of traffic laws.

If you have a case open in Contra Costa County and would like to know its status, please see the section called Tell Me About My Court Case, click here. Opens new window



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