Court Frequently Asked Questions
The Court is dedicated to providing the highest level of customer service.
All staff desire to help all parties that ask for assistance and will attempt to do so. The clerks are strictly forbidden to practice law by statute and are restricted in what they can give advice about or assistance in preparing. Sound legal advice must only come from a licensed practicing attorney and the court encourages all parties to seek competent legal advice. We ask that you be understanding with our staff as we attempt to assist you, knowing the limitations we face in assisting each individual party to a case.
What options do I have regarding this ticket?
You can pay a fine outside of court for violations that do not require a court appearance. If you wish to plead “Not Guilty” you will have to come to court on your scheduled Arraignment Court date. You will be reset for a Trial Court, the officer will be subpoenaed and you will go before the judge to present your case.
If I plead “Nolo Contendere”, will it affect my insurance?
We do not report anything to your insurance company. Your insurance company has the right to review your driver’s history and will see that you were issued a citation. The “Nolo” plea does not keep the citation off of your record; it just keeps the points off of your license. It’s up to your insurance company as to how it affects your policy.
What is a “Nolo Contendere” plea?
“Nolo” means “No Contest”. This plea means you are not pleading “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”. You are allowed to enter a “Nolo” plea once every 5 years in the state of Georgia.
Will a “Nolo Contendere” plea, Speed Reduction, or court appearance change my fine?
Fines are set by the Judges based on State Law. Only the Judge can adjust your fine. A certain plea or speed reduction does not automatically change your fine. The Judge has the authority to decrease or increase any fines in court.
Is there a way to keep the citation off of my driving record?
A ticket that is dismissed in court by the Judge will not go on your record.
For speeding offenses, you can come to court and request a “Speed Reduction”. This is granted by the Judge and it involves the Judge reducing your alleged speed to 14mph over the posted speed limit. A speeding offense that is 14mph (or less) over the speed limit does not get reported to the Department of Driver Services, and therefore does not go on your record. Speed reductions are granted at the discretion of the Judge.
Can I change my court date or get a continuance?
When a defendant requests that he/she be placed on a plea or arraignment calendar before his/her scheduled plea or arraignment date, the clerk shall do so only with the approval of a judge or solicitor. (For example, if a defendant or an attorney calls the clerk and asks that a case be placed on a calendar before the case has been scheduled, the clerk may advise the requesting party that he/she may appear on the proposed new court date, but that the case will not be heard unless either the solicitor or judge approves. In such an event, the clerk will notify the solicitor and/or judge upon their arrival for court on the proposed new court date of any request to have a case heard before the scheduled court date.)
When is court and how long does it last?
We have court every Monday through Thursday. Court sessions begin at 9:00am. Check-in for court begins at 8:50am. The Solicitor begins calling cases at 9am. The Judge takes the bench after 9:30am.
What happens if I miss my court date and my fine has not been paid?
A failure to pay your fine or to appear in court results in an automatic late fee of $75.00. A license suspension form is also submitted to Department of Driver Services, with a fee of $5.00. For more serious violations, such as DUI, Reckless Driving, No Insurance, Racing, Laying Drags, Open Container, etc., a Failure to Appear Warrant is issued for your arrest, with a fee of $150.00 plus the $5.00 suspension fee.
Can I make payments on my fine?
We do not accept partial payments. If you’re not able to pay the full amount, you will need to come to court and see the Judge. The Judge can elect to either give you an extension to pay or put you on probation to make payments.
Can I speak to the Solicitor or the Judge before my court date?
You will have the opportunity to speak to the Solicitor before the Judge on your court date. The Judge cannot discuss your case outside of the court. We do not provide phone numbers for them at their offices. They are only available during court for discussion of cases.
How are cases presented in court?
Because the City carries the burden of proof, the City gets to present evidence first. The City will call all of its witnesses first. After a witness testifies, the Defendant has an opportunity to cross examine that witness. When all of the City’s witnesses have testified and been examined, the Defendant calls his or her witnesses, who may also be cross examined by the City’s Solicitor.
May I object to evidence?
You can object to the introduction of evidence if it is legally inadmissible under the rules of evidence. You may not object to evidence because you disagree with it or believe it is untrue. If you make an objection, you should stand up, state your objection and its basis as briefly as possible, and allow the Court to consider the objection. For example, “Objection, the testimony is hearsay.” The Court will allow the other side to respond to the objection and then make a ruling as to whether the evidence will be admitted. The fact that the Court has allowed the evidence to be presented does not mean that the evidence will be credited or believed by the Court or that it is considered to be conclusive as to the issues covered by the evidence.
Can I present evidence other than the testimony of witnesses?
Yes, you can present physical evidence, or exhibits. These are physical items, such as photographs, diagrams, etc. that you want the Court to look at before making a decision in the case. The exhibit must be relevant to the issues in your case. You must also allow the other party to examine the exhibit before you present it to the Court. An exhibit is not simply handed to the Court. You, or your witness, must identify the exhibit, which means to explain what the exhibit is and how it is related to the case.
What if I forget to tell the court something, or the opposing party brings up evidence that I did not cover myself?
Provided that the court has not issued its final judgment, the procedure for presenting testimony is generally as follows:
The City presents evidence.
The Defendant presents evidence.
After the Defendant presents evidence, the City will generally be allowed to present what is called rebuttal evidence. That is new evidence dealing with issues that the City did not cover in its initial presentation, called “rebuttal evidence.” It is the City’s opportunity to rebut evidence presented by the Defendant. If the City presents rebuttal evidence, the Defendant will then be allowed to present what is called surrebuttal evidence to answer the new evidence presented in the City’s rebuttal.
Can I tell the court what an absent witness told me?
No, the person actually making the statement must be present to testify.
Can I bring letters or affidavits from witnesses to the court?
No, all testimony must be presented by live witnesses who have direct knowledge of the facts to which they testify. If the witness is not physically present in court, under oath, and subject to cross examination, their statements may not be presented to the Court. To do otherwise would violate the Georgia law against “hearsay” evidence.
How do I cross-examine a witness?
To cross-examine a witness is to ask that witness questions about the testimony they have already given or about other facts and circumstances that are relevant to the case being tried. Please note that cross-examination involves asking questions and allowing the witness to respond. Cross-examination does not allow one to make a speech, argue with a witness, call the witness names, or to tell the witness what you wanted them to say. Your questions may be leading, that is they may suggest the answer you want them to give, but you must ask questions. You may also ask the witness questions aimed at proving the motives of the witness, the witness’ interest in the outcome of the case, any prejudice the witness may have toward any of the parties in the case, prior inconsistent statements made by the witness, and other factors which bear on the credibility of the witness.
Where do I get a blank subpoena?
The Clerk of the Court issues Subpoenas.
How do I serve a subpoena?
A subpoena may be served by any sheriff, by his deputy, or by any other person not less than 18 years of age. Subpoenas may also be served by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, and the return receipt constitutes of proof of service. O.C.G.A. § 24-10-23.
Are there different types of subpoenas?
There are two types of Subpoenas.
A Subpoena requiring a witness to attend court is called a Witness Subpoena. You may use a Witness Subpoena to also list documents that you want that witness to bring to court when they testify. See generally O.C.G.A. § 24-10-21.
A Subpoena requiring someone to bring documents only to Court (no testimony from that person is needed, only the documents are needed) is called a Subpoena for the Production of Documents. Historically, this type of subpoena used to be called a Subpoena Duces Tecum. See generally O.C.G.A. § 24-10-22.
When do I have to pay the witness?
The appearance fee may be paid at the time the witness appears in court. The witness fee is $25.00 per diem, plus mileage of .20 per mile for traveling expenses for going from and returning to the witness’ place of residence. Fees and mileage are payable by U.S. currency, postal money order, cashier’s check, certified check, or an attorney or law firm check.
How can I get a witness to attend court to testify on my behalf?
You can Subpoena them, which means delivering to them a subpoena which orders their attendance. See generally O.C.G.A. § 24-10-21.
You can obtain a Subpoena from the Court Clerk’s Office. There is no charge for a Subpoena, but it must be served upon the witness at least twenty-four (24) hours before the scheduled time for appearance.
You have the responsibility and duty to use the subpoena process to protect your legal interests. The Georgia Supreme Court has said that when people decide to represent themselves in Court, it is their responsibility, not the trial court’s, to ensure the presence of witnesses by the issuance of subpoenas. Please protect your legal interests by properly serving upon all witnesses and filing proof of service of the subpoena with the clerk of court. You should also serve notice on the opposing party. See also Kegler vs. The State, 267 Ga. 147.
What must I do to make sure that the Court can enforce my subpoena to a witness?
The Court can ONLY enforce a Subpoena, and compel the person to attend court WHEN the subpoena is properly served AND the serving party files a timely return of service with the Clerk of Court.
Timely filing the proof of service requires that it be filed with the clerk AT LEAST twenty-four hours before the court date and time and notice has been given to the opposing party.
Should I subpoena a witness who says that they will attend court voluntarily?
That is a personal issue, which only you can decide. There is no right or wrong answer. Your witness may be offended if you subpoena him or her. Alternatively, the witness may not show up when you need them in court if you do not subpoena them to testify. This is why you have to weigh the pros and cons in your unique case and make your own decision. You should think of a subpoena as an insurance policy in case the witness does not come to court on the day of trial. If you have “subpoenaed” the witness and the witness does not appear, the case can be continued, but if you failed to “subpoena” the witness and the witness does not attend the judge is likely to deny your request for a continuance because you did not subpoena the witness to appear in the first place. The Court often observes instances where persons promise to appear in court, and then never show up, or have an unexpected “emergency” come up which prevents their appearance at court. While acquiring and serving subpoenas can be very time consuming, it is usually the safest route.
Should I be Represented by a Lawyer?
Persons appearing in the court without a lawyer are called pro se litigants. In an effort to make the Municipal Court user-friendly, hearings are usually conducted in an informal manner and the judge may intervene to ensure that the merits of the case are fairly presented. So if you feel comfortable speaking in front of people and are able to communicate your ideas well, you may decide that it’s in your best interests to represent yourself. There are, however, many good reasons to seek legal counsel, and you have the right to be represented by counsel in all Court proceedings. If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of presenting your own case, it may be best to consider hiring an attorney. Or perhaps you may decide that there is simply too much at stake to handle the case by yourself. Or the legal issues surrounding your case may be too complex for you to understand or too difficult for you to handle on your own. An attorney can advise you about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, handle the legal requirements and provide you with a large measure of comfort.
How do I communicate with the court?
To make your relations with court personnel go as smoothly as possible, it’s helpful to understand their responsibilities. The Clerk will be happy to assist you with the forms used by the Court. However, by law, the Clerk of Court is not allowed to help develop your case, advise you of what defense or evidence to use, or to offer you any opinions about the strengths or weaknesses of your case. You are not allowed to talk to the Judge about your case outside of court, and the Clerk cannot allow a continuance of your case without the approval of the Judge. Keep in mind that only the Judge can cancel or reschedule a court date.
How do I request a Reasonable Accommodation for Persons with Disabilities?
To request a reasonable accommodation, complete the Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form and return to Ms. Lori Edelkind, Administrative Assistant. If you need assistance completing this form, contact Ms. Lori Edelkind.
- What is an “arraignment”?
When a person that is accused of committing a crime is taken to court, told about the charges, and asked to enter a plea to the charges.
- What does the term “indigent,” mean?
This term usually refers to a person who is needy and poor, and has no one to look to for support.
- What is a “motion”?
A formal request by a party to have the court rule on one or more of the issues involved in a case.
- What does the term “jurisdiction,” mean?
(1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case; (2) The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases; (3) The territory, subject matter, or persons over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court.
- If I am found guilty at trial, can I appeal?
Yes. You have the right to appeal. If you are appealing a judgment in a case involving a traffic violation, the appeal is governed by O.C.G.A. § 40-13-28. If you are appealing a judgment involving a violation of a City Ordinance, the appeal is by petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the Superior Court, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 5-4-3, et. seq. You should carefully review, and be aware of, all legal requirements in pursuing any appeal.