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Fulton County is home to the City of Atlanta and almost a million Georgians. But there are 14 other cities within the bounds of Fulton County. These include:
- Chattahoochee Hills
- College Park
- East Point
- Johns Creek
- Mountain Park
- Sandy Springs
- South Fulton
- Union City
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 Fulton County State Court. 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 Fulton County criminal justice system there are four courts that hear criminal cases – the Magistrate Court, the Superior Court, the State Court, and the Juvenile Court.
Fulton County Magistrate Court
The Fulton County Magistrate Court holds three different types of hearings that are relevant in criminal matters: Warrant Application Hearings, First Appearance Hearings, and Preliminary Hearings. For more information about these hearings and where they fit in the grand scheme of a criminal case, click here. Court records are available here.
Warrant Application Hearings
At a warrant application 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. It must have taken place in Fulton County to be heard by the Fulton County Magistrate Court, and it cannot be a felony offense. Felony offenses must be investigated by law enforcement. A hearing is then scheduled, and both parties have the opportunity to present evidence and cross examine witnesses. If the judge believes that probable cause exists, 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.
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 two things:
- Informs the arrested person of the charges he or she is facing, 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.
The Fulton County Magistrate Court holds First Appearance Hearings Mondays through Saturdays (including holidays). On Monday through Friday, misdemeanor hearings are held at 9 a.m. at the Fulton County Jail at 901 Rice Street, Atlanta, GA 30318 - Click here for a map. Felony First Appearance Hearings are also held at the Fulton County Jail, but at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. On weekends, all First Appearance Hearings (Felony and Misdemeanor) are held at 11 a.m. at the Fulton County Jail. On holidays, hearing times are set by the judge holding the hearing, so contact the jail at 404-613-2000 (or click here on a cell phone to call directly).
At a First Appearance Hearing, individuals will also be notified of their right to an attorney and informed about how to apply for a public defender if they are indigent.
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 the appropriate court (State Court for misdemeanor offenses, and Superior Court for felonies - read more about these courts below).
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 all the 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.
Fulton County Superior Court
Fulton County State Court
Fulton County Juvenile Court
The Fulton 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 Fulton 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 seven judges in the Fulton County Juvenile Court (three full-time and 4 associate judges). Juvenile Court cases are prosecuted by the Juvenile Division of the Fulton County District Attorney's Office. The Fulton County Juvenile Court is also home to the Fulton County Juvenile Drug Court.
The Fulton County Juvenile Court is located at 395 Pryor Street SW, Atlanta, GA 30312 and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is a designated parking lot. The building can also be accessed via MARTA Bus Route 49.