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DeKalb County is Georgia's fourth most populous county, and is part of the Atlanta metro area. In addition to containing 10% of the City of Atlanta (the remaining 90% being located in Fulton County), it also contains within it a number of other cities. These include:
- Avondale Estates
- Pine Lake
- Stone Mountain
Each of these cities has its own municipal court, which hears city ordinance and misdemeanor cases that occur within the borders of those cities. Municipal court judges can only hold bench trials, meaning that the judge alone (and not a jury) hears evidence and ultimately decides the defendant's guilt or innocence. If, however, a defendant wishes to have a jury trial on a state law violation, the case may be "bound over," or transferred, to the DeKalb County State Court Jury Trial Division (not the Traffic Division). There can be other good reasons to bind a case over to state court, and you should discuss this with your Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Not including these municipal courts, in the DeKalb County criminal justice system there are four courts that hear criminal cases – the Magistrate Court, the State Court (which includes a Traffic Division), the Superior Court, and the Juvenile Court.
DeKalb County Magistrate Court
The DeKalb County Magistrate Court holds several different types of hearings that are relevant in criminal matters: Midemeanor Warrant Hearings, First Appearance Hearings, Preliminary Hearings, and Child Abandonment Warrant Probable Cause Hearings. It also deals with matters involving bad checks. For more information about these hearings and where they fit in the grand scheme of a criminal case, click here.
Currently, the Chief Magistrate is Judge Berryl A. Anderson, and the Magistrate Court Clerk is Javoyne Hicks. The Criminal Division of the DeKalb County Magistrate Court is located at 3630 Camp Circle, Decatur, GA 30032.
Misdemeanor Warrant Hearings
At a Misdemeanor Warrant Hearing, a private citizen can ask the magistrate court judge to issue an arrest warrant for another person. The citizen must first apply, providing the details of the offense, including where and when it occurred. The DeKalb County Magistrate Court strongly recommends that an individual file a complaint with the police department prior to seeking a warrant. It must have taken place in DeKalb County to be heard by the DeKalb County Magistrate Court, and (as the name suggests) it cannot be a felony offense. The judge will read a completed application and hear your sworn statement and, if he or she determines that there is probable cause for an arrest, a hearing is scheduled. At this hearing, both parties have the opportunity to present evidence and cross examine witnesses. If the judge believes that probable cause exists at the conclusion of this hearing, he or she may issue a warrant for anyone, including the applicant, the respondent, witnesses, or other individuals, whether or not they participated in the hearing. Click here to learn more about these types of hearings.
First Appearance Hearings
It is important to remember that the judge will not consider dismissal of charges at a First Appearance Hearing. It is not a trial. At a First Appearance Hearing, the magistrate court judge does several things:
- Informs the arrested person of the charges he or she is facing,
- Informs the arrest person of his or her rights, and
- Considers the issue of release.
For certain serious charges, magistrate court judges are not authorized to set bond. For those charges, bond must instead be set by a Superior Court judge. Read more about those charges here.
For felony cases, the DeKalb County Magistrate Court holds First Appearance Hearings several times every day, seven days a week. These take place at the DeKalb County Courthouse. Misdemeanor First Appearance Hearings are held once a day at the DeKalb County Jail. These hearings are open to the public in most circumstances. Click here for a map to the jail.
At a Preliminary Hearing, the Magistrate Court judge determines whether he or she believes that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant being charged committed the offense for which he or she has been arrested. If the judge determines that probable cause does exist, the case is then "bound over," or transferred, to Superior Court. Once a case is bound over, the District Attorney's office will determine whether the case warrants further prosecution.
At a preliminary hearing, you have the right to have an attorney present with you. Witnesses testify before the judge, and your attorney gets the opportunity to cross examine them. This can be extremely helpful in later criminal court proceedings, because it gives your attorney an opportunity to learn more about what the State is alleging, and also forces witnesses to testify under oath so that, if their stories change later, that may be used against them. Learn more about what happens at a Preliminary Hearing here.
At preliminary hearings, Magistrate Court judges may also reconsider the issue of bond, which makes it even more important that you hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer who can make a compelling argument on your behalf. Questions about Preliminary Hearings? Call me today.
The DeKalb County Magistrate Court holds Preliminary Hearings twice per day Monday through Friday. These occur at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Child Abandonment Warrants
The DeKalb County Magistrate Court also hears matters of Child Abandonment. A child is considered to be abandoned under Georgia law if its parent fails to provide food, clothing, or shelter for the child during a 30-day period. An individual can file an arrest warrant for Child Abandonment Warrant in the county where the child lives. This is the same procedure that is followed for a Misdemeanor Warrant Application Hearing, discussed above. The applicant must provide the same information, including the first and last name, date of birth, and address of the individual who allegedly abandoned the child, as well as a sworn affidavit containing the allegation. The Magistrate Court judge reads this information and determines whether there is probable cause to believe that the respondent abandoned the child. If the judge finds that there is probable cause, the case is set down for a hearing.
Keep in mind that Magistrate Court judges cannot collect money or order child support. At these hearings, the judge is only deciding whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred and whether an individual should be arrested as a result.
DeKalb County Superior Court
DeKalb County State Court - Jury Division
DeKalb County State Court - Traffic Division
DeKalb County Juvenile Court
The DeKalb County Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over individuals who are 16 years of age or younger and who are alleged to have committed an offense that would be a crime if committed by an adult. This includes traffic matters. It excludes certain very serious offenses. For these serious offenses, a juvenile may be tried as an adult in Superior Court. Typically, juvenile cases are prosecuted in the county where the offense occurred, but the case may be transferred to the child's home county for disposition (disposition is the same as sentencing in the adult system). Unlike in the adult system, where a person may be brought before multiple courts depending on the stage of the proceedings, in the juvenile system, the Juvenile Court handles everything, from the detention and probable cause stage to the ultimate trial and disposition.
The DeKalb County Juvenile Court also handles cases of children in the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), legitimations, guardianships, record sealings, emancipation cases, permission to marry or join the military, and cases where a minor is seeking an abortion without parental notification. There are four judges in the DeKalb County Juvenile Court. Juvenile Court cases are prosecuted by the Juvenile Division of the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office.
The DeKalb County Juvenile Court is located at 4309 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032. There is a parking lot adjacent to the court. The closest MARTA station is Kensington on the blue line.