Understanding Georgia's Court Systems for Your Traffic Ticket
Understanding how the court system in Georgia is structured can be helpful to why your case is where it is and what your options are to resolve your traffic citation.
Traffic citations or tickets are considered misdemeanor criminal offenses under Georgia law. Every county in Georgia has a Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, and most civil cases. The more populated counties in Georgia also have a State Court to handle misdemeanor criminal cases, county ordinances, and certain civil cases.
Municipalities, or cities, also have their own courts, called municipal courts. These courts handle traffic offenses, certain misdemeanor offenses, and city ordinance violations. If you are ticketed within city limits by a police officer from that city or by a Georgia State Trooper, your ticket will be handled in that city’s municipal court.
Many counties also have a Probate Court or Recorders Court. They also handle traffic citations issued by that county’s police department or sheriff’s department. Those county departments patrol the areas of their county that are unincorporated, or not within any city limits. For example, if you receive a traffic citation from a Gwinnett County Officer in an area that is not within the limits of any city in Gwinnett County, then your case will be resolved in Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court. In other counties, such as Dekalb County, Fulton County, and Cobb County, those county cases are sent directly to the traffic division of State Court.
Because traffic citations are considered criminal offenses under Georgia law, you have the right to a jury trial. Therefore, if your case starts in a Municipal Court, Probate Court, or Recorders Court, and you request a jury trial, the case will be sent to the State or Superior Court of that county because State and Superior Courts are the only courts that hold jury trials. Jury trials on traffic citations are rare, but it can sometimes can be a good tactic to send a case to State or Superior Court. You can potentially work out a better deal than the court your case starts in, or delay the disposition of your case.
If you want to contest your case in the court where it originates, you can request a bench trial, where the Judge will hear the evidence and decide if you are guilty or not guilty of the offense(s) for which you are charged.
If you have any questions about your traffic ticket or need representation, contact me.