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.
When is court and how long does it last? Court is typically every Monday - Friday. However, there are days when we do not have court. Check-in for court begins at 8:30am, sessions begin at 9:00am, and the judge takes the bench by 9:30am. All attorney cases go first, and everyone else is called in the order that you checked in.
Can I speak with the solicitor? Everyone will have the opportunity to speak with the solicitor. If you have any questions about points, pleas, conditions, etc., you can ask those when you meet with the solicitor.
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 court date. You will be reset for a Trial calendar, the officer will be subpoenaed, and you will go before the judge to present your case.
How do I get a copy of an Accident/Incident Report? Please contact the Duluth Police Records Department at 770.623.2771 ask for the Police Dept. Records Division. You can also contact them via email at email@example.com.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 five years in the state of Georgia.
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 they will see that you were issued a citation. The “Nolo” plea does not keep the citation off of your record; it may keep the points off of your license. It’s up to your insurance company as to how it affects your policy, or rates.
Will a “Nolo Contendere” plea, Speed Reduction, or court appearance change my fine? Fines are set by the Judge based on Georgia State Law. 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(s) off my driving record? A ticket that is dismissed in court by the Judge will not go on your record. The Court does not report any violations to your insurance company. Your insurance company has the right to review your driving record. If your insurance company reviews your driving history and sees traffic offenses on it, the insurance company then decides how the violation(s) will affect your rates.
Can I change my court date or get a continuance? You may request a continuance of your court date by sending your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your request must contain your name, current physical address, citation number(s), telephone number, e-mail address and a detailed reason as to why you need to change your court date. While every effort is made to accommodate your request, it is not guaranteed that it will be granted. It is your responsibility to follow-up with the court on your request. Your court date may, in fact, be moved to an earlier date.
What happens if I miss my court date and my fine has not been paid? A failure to pay your fine and/or to appear in court, may result in a late fee of $75.00. A license suspension form is also submitted to Department of Driver Services, which adds 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 maybe issued for your arrest, which adds 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. The Judge can elect to either give you an extension to pay or put you on probation to make payments. Payment is expected once the case has been disposed of, with the exception of someone going on probation or any other pre-arranged conditions that have been granted by the Judge.
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. 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.
How do I obtain video evidence? If there is video evidence available, you may submit your request to the Duluth Police Records Department. This request may be submitted online to https://duluthga.justfoia.com/Forms/Launch/04d48cd8-797a-498d-bfb4-1047c485411e. Please note, there may be a fee associated with your open records request. Please refer to O.C.G.A. § 24-13-23 and O.C.G.A §24-13-27 for additional procedures relating to access to this evidence.
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 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 court staff. For the interim, please use the e-mail address of email@example.com
Supreme Court of Georgia Rule 11 and Rule 14
The Supreme Court ordered that approval of Municipal Court Rule 11 (Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms and Recordings of Judicial Proceedings); Rule 14 (Interpreter Notification Form), are amended, effective August 30, 2018.
- 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.