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Your Guide to the Court System in Georgia

Authored By: Southern Center for Human Rights
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YOUR GUIDE TO THE COURT SYSTEM IN GEORGIA

Southern Center for Human Rights
June 2002
Tammy Sun

You've Been Arrested

Be respectful to the police.

Ask for a lawyer & shut up! As soon as you ask for a lawyer, the police have to stop asking you questions and get you a lawyer.

Before the police question you about the crime, they have to read you your rights (the ones you hear on TV)!

The police have to tell you:

1) you have the right to remain silent (you can refuse to answer any questions)

2) anything you say will be used against you

3) you have a right to a lawyer (from this moment until the case is over)

4) if you can't afford a lawyer, you'll be given one for free

You do NOT have to answer any questions about your case from the cops.

After you are arrested, you may be held at the police station or taken to the juvenile detention center (RYDC) to wait for your "probable cause" hearing.

You should ask the cops to call your parents or guardians to come be with you.

Having your parents or guardian there does not mean it's safe to answer questions from the police. They will still use your answers against you.

Your Right to a Lawyer

You have a right to a lawyer, even if you cannot pay for one!

You need a lawyer even if you don't think you did anything wrong!

Why Do I Need A Lawyer (aka Attorney)?

A lawyer can help you defend yourself in court

You can tell your lawyer almost anything about your case and she has to keep it a secret

Your lawyer can't keep something a secret if:

  • you tell someone else about your case
  • you say you're going to hurt someone in the future
  • you say you're going to hurt yourself
  • you ask you lawyer to hide evidence
  • you ask about how to commit a crime in the future

Talking To Your Lawyer

Answer all her questions (even the hard ones).

Make sure she understands what you say.

Ask her to explain anything you don't understand.

Find out your lawyer's name, address, and telephone number (call or write to her if you think of more information later).

Things to Tell Your Lawyer:

  • your name
  • your age
  • other past crimes
  • what you were doing before you were arrested
  • if the cops read you your rights
  • whether you talked to the cops before you got an attorney
  • who your witnesses might be (mom, friends, people you were with, etc.)
  • what's been going on in school
  • how you've been acting in detention
  • whether you have any drug or alcohol problems

REMEMBER ! Help yourself by helping your attorney. Your attorney is there to help you, but you have to do your part, too!


Meeting with an Intake Officer

An intake officer works for the court and is there to help the court decide what to do with you.

This person is not your attorney and does not represent you.

You do not have to answer questions about your crime from the intake officer.

The officer's job is to decide whether you should be released to your parents or held in detention.

Probable Cause Hearing (aka dispositional hearing)

A hearing is when you appear before a judge in a courtroom.

At the probable cause hearing, the judge decides whether there are enough facts to show you committed the crime you=re accused of.

You have to be given a probable cause hearing within 48 hours of being arrested

If the cops have a warrant to arrest you, they can wait 72 hour before giving you a hearing

The court must tell your parents about the hearing

You have a right to a lawyer at the court hearing.

If you don't already have a lawyer -- ask for one!

The judge will likely put off the hearing until you can talk to your lawyer.

It's always better to go to court with a lawyer, so ask for one as soon as you can.

To get ready for the probable cause hearing:

Talk to your lawyer.

Tell your lawyer what you were doing when you were arrested.

Tell your lawyer anything good and bad that's happening in your life.

At the hearing:

  • your lawyer will talk to the judge for you
  • let your lawyer know if you want to speak to the judge yourself
  • the judge will hear from the prosecutor (aka district attorney or DA) & the probation officer who investigated your case
  • the judge will decide whether there's enough evidence for you to go to trial
  • if the judge decides you should go to trial, he'll decide whether to release you on bail or send you to the detention center to wait for trial


Informal Adjustment (aka Diversion)

This is something that happens if you've committed a minor crime and it's your first time.

You have to admit to everything they're charging you with.

Getting informal adjustment is like getting probation but not as serious.

You'll have to do certain things that the court orders like write a letter apologizing for what you did, and agree to do some community service.


Juvenile Court

What types of cases go to Juvenile Court?

  • Any traffic violations (if you are under 17)
  • Unruly cases
  • Skipping school
  • Disobeying your parent or guardian
  • Running away
  • Probation violations
  • Using or having alcohol
  • Hanging out in a bar without a parent or guardian
  • If you are out between midnight and five o'clock in the morning
  • Delinquency cases (you're under 17 and you're accused of committing a crime except if you have been accused of one of the seven deadly sins (which is a fast ticket to adult court))

Superior Court = Adult Court

I am being "tried as an adult," what does that mean??

You can be tried as an adult if you are between age 13 and 17 AND you have been accused of committing one of the seven deadly sins:

1. murder

2. rape

3. aggravated child molestation

4. aggravated sexual battery

5. involuntary manslaughter

6. aggravated sodomy

7. armed robbery with a firearm

The prosecutor (aka district attorney) decides whether to charge you with one of the 7 deadly sins.

Once you are charged with one of the 7 deadly sins, your case will go automatically to Superior Court NOT Juvenile Court.

The judge and prosecutor may decide to send you back to Juvenile Court for a trial or sentencing.

Are there other ways I can end up in adult court?

Yes! You can end up in adult court through a TRANSFER HEARING.

A transfer hearing happens if:

  • You are 13 and older
  • You are accused of certain serious offenses

What happens at the transfer hearing?

You'll have a hearing in Juvenile Court. The judge decides if you should be transferred to Superior Court

Bond or Bail

Bond & bail are the same thing -- money you pay to support your promise to come to court when it's time.

There are no time limits for going to trial in Superior Court. So if you're not granted a bond or you can't make bond, you could sit in jail a long time waiting for your case to come to court.

Bond is sometimes very difficult to get in Superior Court because the charge is very serious, or the bond amount is more than your family can pay.

Southern Center for Human Rights
June 2002
Tammy Sun

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Last Review and Update: May 23, 2002