Superior Court, State Court, Municipal Court, Probate Court, or Recorders Court?
Traffic citations, or tickets, are considered misdemeanor criminal offenses under Georgia. Every county in Georgia has a Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, in addition to most civil cases. The more populous counties also have a State Court to handle misdemeanor criminal cases and certain civil cases.
Municipalities, or cities, also have their own courts, called municipal courts. These courts handle traffic offenses, some other misdemeanor offenses, and city ordinance violations. If you are ticketed in 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, Fulton, and Cobb, those outside-the-city-limits cases are sent directly to the traffic division of State Court for that county.
Possible Advantages from the Complex Court System
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. While jury trials on traffic citations are rare, sometimes it can be a good tactic to send a case to State or Superior Court. In this way, 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.
The Georgia court system for dealing with traffic violations can be complicated and confusing. An experienced attorney, however, will guide you through it and ensure that you receive all the advantages that the system allows.
Please feel free to call us at (404) 328-7158 or email us for a free consultation about your traffic ticket.