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Gwinnett County is the second-most populous county in Georgia, after Fulton. Its county seat is Lawrenceville, Georgia. But there are 13 other cities located, either in whole or in part, within the bounds of Gwinnett County. These include:
- Berkeley Lake
- Peachtree Corners
- Sugar Hill
Each of these cities has a 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” (transferred) to the Gwinnett 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 the municipal courts, there are five courts that deal with criminal cases in the Gwinnett County criminal justice system – the Magistrate Court, the Recorder’s Court, the State Court, the Superior Court, and the Juvenile Court.
Gwinnett County Magistrate Court
The Gwinnett County Magistrate Court holds several different types of hearings relevant to criminal matters: Warrant Application Hearings, First Appearance Hearings, Preliminary Hearings, and Child Abandonment Warrant Probable Cause Hearings. For more information about these hearings and where they fit in the grand scheme of a criminal case, click 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. The incident must have happened in Gwinnett County to be heard by the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court. The judge will read a completed application and hear your sworn statement and, if they determine that there is probable cause for an arrest, schedule a hearing.
At this hearing, both parties have the opportunity to present evidence and cross examine witnesses. If the judge believes that probable cause exists after this hearing, they may issue a warrant. They can 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. The Gwinnett County Magistrate Court hears Warrant Applications weekly at the Gwinnett County Detention Center, located at 2900 University Parkway, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.
First Appearance Hearings
It is important to remember that the judge will not consider the 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 they are facing,
- Informs the arrested person of their rights, and
- Considers the issue of release.
Magistrate court judges are not authorized to set bond for certain serious charges. For those charges, bond must instead be set by a Superior Court judge. Read more about those charges here.
For felony cases, the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court holds First Appearance Hearings several times every day, seven days a week. These take place at the Gwinnett County Detention Center. On Mondays through Wednesdays they are held at 1:30 p.m., and Thursdays through Sundays they are held at 8:30 a.m. To contact the on-duty Criminal Division Magistrate, call (770) 619-6700.
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 cannot afford a lawyer.
At a Preliminary Hearing, the Magistrate Court judge determines whether they believe that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant being charged committed the offense for which they have been arrested. If the judge determines that probable cause exists, 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.
You have the right to have an attorney present with you at a preliminary hearing. 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 allows your attorney to learn more about what the State is alleging.
Witnesses also testify under oath at preliminary hearings. This is important because your lawyer can cross-examine them on these inconsistencies if their stories change at later proceedings. 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 critical 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 Gwinnett County Magistrate Court holds Preliminary Hearings at the Gwinnett County Detention Center.
Child Abandonment Warrants
The Gwinnett 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 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.
Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court
Gwinnett County State Court
The Gwinnett County State Court hears cases involving misdemeanor and offenses that occur in unincorporated Gwinnett County. It also hears cases from any of Gwinnett County’s various municipal courts, or from the Recorder’s Court, where a jury trial is requested. It is home to the Gwinnett County Treatment Court Program, which is a program for individuals charged with DUI and felony drug offenses. Click here to learn more about accountability courts (including DUI courts).
There are six State Court judges in Gwinnett County. Cases are assigned at random, so neither you nor your lawyer has any control over which judge will hear your case. State Court Judges are elected in county-wide elections and sit for four-year terms.
Misdemeanor State Court cases are prosecuted by the Solicitor’s Office. The current Solicitor General is Brian Whiteside. The Clerk of Court is Richard T. Alexander. The Solicitor’s Office, in addition to prosecuting cases in State Court, also runs a Crime Victim Assistance Program and several community education programs, including a Teen Victim Impact Panel and a program designed to teach children non-violent conflict resolution skills.
The State Court itself is located at 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30046. There is a free parking lot located adjacent to the courthouse.
Questions about Georgia traffic cases or misdemeanor criminal offenses in Gwinnett State Court? Give me a call today.
Gwinnett County Superior Court
Gwinnett County Juvenile Court
The Gwinnett 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 Gwinnett 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 three judges in the Gwinnett County Juvenile Court. The Gwinnett County Juvenile Court runs both a Drug Treatment Court and a Behavioral Health Court.
In Gwinnett County Juvenile Court, a child’s first court date will be an arraignment. At arraignment, the child can choose to admit to the charges, which will result in the case moving on to disposition (equivalent to sentencing in the adult system) or deny the charges. If charges are denied, the case will be reset for a trial date. It is always recommended that youth speak with an attorney prior to entering an admission, even in traffic cases. This is because there may be consequences that go beyond the disposition that the judge orders at the conclusion of the case. Click here for more information about the potential implications for juveniles in traffic cases.
The Gwinnett County Juvenile Court is located at 115 Stone Mountain Street, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.