Skip Main Navigation





Magistrate Court Criminal Division

The criminal division handles matters such as search and arrest warrants, warrant applications, first appearance hearings, preliminary hearings, child abandonment warrant applications, and deposit account fraud. Crimes are divided into two main classes either felony or misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor is an offense for which the Defendant may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment not more than one year may be imposed. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include:

  • Battery
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Family Violence Battery
  • Giving a False Name or Date of Birth to a Law Enforcement Officer Engaged in a Lawful Investigation
  • Harassing Phone Calls
  • Possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana
  • Simple Battery
  • Theft of Property valued at $1,500 or less

A felony is an offense for which you can go to jail for more than 12 months and/or be fined. A felony may be punishable by death or imprisonment. Examples of felony crimes include:

  • Aggravated Assault
  • Armed Robbery
  • Child Molestation
  • Forgery - 1st through 3rd degree
  • Murder
  • Property Damage exceeding $500 in value
  • Rape
  • Theft of Property valued at more than $1,500
  • Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act (drug charges other than possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana)

As a general rule, criminal cases are prosecuted where the crime occurred. For felony offenses, it would be the county where the offense occurred. Felony offenses may originate as an arrest warrant in magistrate court, but the trial of these cases is conducted in Superior Court and prosecuted by the District Attorney.

Misdemeanor offenses are also tried in the county where the offense occurred. Many of these offenses, other than traffic citations, may originate as an arrest warrant in Magistrate Court, but the trial of these cases is conducted in State Court by the Solicitor General.

Some misdemeanor offenses, such as deposit account fraud, theft by shoplifting (misdemeanor), VGCSA possession of marijuana less than one ounce, minor in possession of alcohol, may also be tried in Magistrate Court or Municipal Court, if the offense occurred within the jurisdictional boundary of a municipality. These offenses may originate as either a warrant or citation.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • How can I apply for a criminal arrest warrant for an individual's arrest?
    If you believe this is a case you can handle yourself, you would go to the respective Magistrate Court in the county where the alleged crime occurred. Therefore, if the criminal offense occurred in Fulton County, you would come to the Fulton County Magistrate Court. Go to Magistrate Court Hours and Locations for directions. If the crime occurred in another county, you would go to that Magistrate Court.

    You would fill out a criminal arrest warrant application form. There is a $20.00 fee, which must be paid in cash. A judge will administer an oath, read your application and hear your sworn testimony.

    Under Georgia Law,

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40 (b), Most civilian arrest warrant applications are set for a warrant application hearing. There are rare statutory circumstances when an immediate arrest warrant can be issued, but they are rare.

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40. (b) (1) If application is made for a warrant by a person other than a peace officer or law enforcement officer and the application alleges the commission of an offense against the penal laws, the judge or other officer shall schedule a warrant application hearing as provided in this subsection.

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40. (b) (4) At the warrant application hearing, the rules regarding admission of evidence at a commitment hearing shall apply. The person seeking the warrant shall have the customary rights of presentation of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses. The person whose arrest is sought may cross-examine the person or persons applying for the warrant and any other witnesses testifying in support of the application at the hearing. The person whose arrest is sought may present evidence that probable cause does not exist for his or her arrest. The judge ... shall have the right to limit the presentation of evidence and the cross-examination of witnesses to the issue of probable cause.

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40. (b) (5) At the warrant application hearing , a determination shall be made whether or not probable cause exists for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the person whose arrest is sought. If the judge finds that probable cause exists, the warrant may issue instanter.
  • What is a warrant application hearing?
    When a civilian makes a written application for the issuance of a criminal arrest warrant, a Judge makes a determination as to whether the application should be set down for a hearing. If the Judge determines that the application should be set down for a hearing, this form is filled out stating the crime alleged and setting down the time, date, and location of the hearing. The Judge delivers one copy to the applicant at the time of the application. The Clerk of Court mails one copy to the defendant at the address provided by the applicant.

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40. (b) (1) If application is made for a warrant by a person other than a peace officer or law enforcement officer and the application alleges the commission of an offense against the penal laws, the judge or other officer shall schedule a warrant application hearing as provided in this subsection.

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40. (b) (4) At the warrant application hearing, the rules regarding admission of evidence at a commitment hearing shall apply. The person seeking the warrant shall have the customary rights of presentation of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses. The person whose arrest is sought may cross-examine the person or persons applying for the warrant and any other witnesses testifying in support of the application at the hearing. The person whose arrest is sought may present evidence that probable cause does not exist for his or her arrest. The judge ... shall have the right to limit the presentation of evidence and the cross-examination of witnesses to the issue of probable cause.

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-40. (b) (5) At the warrant application hearing , a determination shall be made whether or not probable cause exists for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the person whose arrest is sought. If the judge ... finds that probable cause exists, the warrant my issue instanter.
  • What if I do not know the correct address for the accused in a warrant application hearing?
    You should use your best reasonable efforts to find the correct address. The court is required to give notice to the accused under the provisions of O.C.G.A. 17-4-40(B). The longer it takes to provide the court will a proper address for the accused, the longer the case will take to be heard.

    The court, may, in appropriate circumstances refer you to file your criminal case with a local police agency rather than trying to handle it yourself. Law enforcement officers are exempted by state law from the warrant application hearing statute.

    However, if no one can find the proper address for the accused, it becomes very difficult for the criminal case to proceed and difficult to find and arrest the accused. Getting a correct and current address for the accused is in your best interests.
  • How can I find the correct address for the accused?
    This can take a lot of work, but it is required.

    • You should start with any friends or family who may have information.

    • What leads do you have?

    • Where does the accused work?

    • If you have a good work address, this may be adequate.

    • Check public records, such as criminal and civil dockets in the clerk's office.

    • If you can get a landline telephone number you may be able to cross reference the number to a street address, such as through the Haines Directory.

    • There are also reverse phone directory services on the Internet. You enter a telephone number, and if the number is published, an address will be displayed. See for instance, The Reverse Phone Directory.

    The law requires that the accused be given due process notice of this proceeding. The duty to provide the correct address information lies with the accuser. If a valid address cannot be provided, the case cannot be set for a hearing until a valid address is provided. If the case is set for a hearing and the mail notice is returned as undeliverable, then the case will be dismissed. The accuser can re-apply once a new valid address has been obtained and submitted to the court.
  • I am the victim, can I bring my own attorney to the warrant application hearing?
    That is entirely up to you. Some persons feel more comfortable hiring their own attorney and others simply cannot afford the cost. The judge conducting the hearing will be conducting a court of inquiry. Therefore, the judge will be asking a majority of questions if you do not hire your own attorney.

    If a warrant is issued at this hearing, then a formal charging document will be filed. Thereafter, crime victims are represented by either an attorney with the District Attorney's office for felony offenses or a member of the Solicitor's office for misdemeanor offenses. However, until that charging document is filed, neither the District Attorney's office nor the Solicitor's office is present at a warrant application hearing.
  • I am the victim, and I am indigent, will the court appoint an attorney to represent me?
    No, under our laws AT THIS STAGE OF THE PROCEEDINGS, only the accused is entitled to court appointed counsel. However, you may hire your own attorney.

    If a warrant is issued, then the victim does not need an attorney in a criminal case because the victim will be represented by the State of Georgia. The District Attorney's office represents victims of felony offenses and Solicitor's office represents victims of misdemeanor offenses.
  • What rules and rights apply to the warrant applicant and the accused at a warrant application hearing?
    At the warrant application hearing, the rules regarding admission of evidence at a commitment hearing shall apply. The person seeking the warrant shall have the customary rights of presentation of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses. The person whose arrest is sought may cross-examine the person or persons applying for the warrant and any other witnesses testifying in support of the application at the hearing. The person whose arrest is sought may present evidence that probable cause does not exist for his or her arrest. The judge or other officer shall have the right to limit the presentation of evidence and the cross-examination of witnesses to the issue of probable cause. At the warrant application hearing, a determination shall be made whether or not probable cause exists for the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the person whose arrest is sought. If the judge or other officer finds that probable cause exists, the warrant may issue instanter.
  • Does the accused have any additional rights since this is a criminal case?
    Yes, there are unique rights connected with a defendant in a criminal case. The notice of rights is both a notice and an inquiry which is conducted by the judge. The Court will inquire whether the Defendant is aware of the following:

    • Right to Counsel the Defendant's awareness of his or her right to hire counsel or, if the defendant meets the statutory guidelines, for the appointment of one. The Defendant may choose to waive counsel.

    • the MAXIMUM penalty for each offense for which you are charged?

    • the right to present defense to these charges? Do you know what those defenses are under the law?

    • the right to present any mitigating evidence in regard to these charge?

    • this Court strongly advises you against proceeding without an attorney?

    • If you are indigent, that is you have no funds to hire an attorney and you meet the income guidelines for appointed counsel, that this Court will appoint an attorney to represent you if you wish. This attorney can be appointed before your hearing.

    • This Court cannot assist you in the presentation of your case.

    When the Defendant chooses to proceed without an attorney, the Court will inquire and advise the defendant of the following:

    • If you proceed without an attorney, you will be held to the same legal standards as an attorney in the presentation of your case?

    • Your failure to raise or challenge issues before this court will hurt or even foreclose issues to you in a higher court or on appeal?

    • How far did you go in school? Do you have any legal training, formal or informal?

    • Is your decision to represent yourself made freely and voluntarily?

    • Are you representing to this Court that this decision is made knowingly and intelligently by you?

    These questions should help you analyze whether you should hire an attorney or apply for appointed counsel. Cases will not be continued because of a failure to timely hire an attorney or a failure to timely apply for appointed counsel.

    ADDITIONAL RIGHTS OF PERSONS ACCUSED OF CRIMES

    The Accused has the right to remain silent and any testimony given by the Accused may be used against him or her. The Accused is under no duty to present any evidence tending to prove innocence and is not required to take the stand and testify. If the Accused elects not to testify, no inference hurtful, harmful, or adverse to the Accused shall be drawn by the magistrate, nor shall such fact be held against the Accused in any way.

  • Which witnesses should I bring to the warrant application hearing?
    You should bring all witnesses you wish to have testify. Generally, you cannot testify yourself about what another witness to the case saw or heard. That is "hearsay." So, bring the proper witnesses to court.

    To be on the safe side, you should consider subpoenaing these witnesses. Subpoenas may be obtained in the clerk's office. They must be served by a person over the age of 18 years, not related to the case and an affidavit of service of the subpoena should be filed with the clerk at least 24 hours prior to the hearing date.
  • Can I just bring the police report to show what happened?
    No, the police report is "hearsay." It is not admissible.

    The law permits the opposing side to cross examine and confront witnesses. No one has yet to be able to get a piece of paper to answer questions from the witness stand. Both the court and the opposing side have the right under our laws to see and hear the witness in court.
  • Can I just get the witness to sign an affidavit instead of coming to court?
    No, the affidavit is "hearsay." It is not admissible.

    The law permits the opposing side to cross examine and confront witnesses. No one has yet to be able to get an affidavit to answer questions from the witness stand. You can't use a witnesses affidavit in place of their live testimony. Both the court and the opposing side have the right under our laws to see and hear the witness in court.

 



INFORMATION, NOT LEGAL ADVICE

The forms and information available on this website are not intended as legal advice and should not be considered as such. They are provided for reference. The content and format may require modification to suit the specific facts of your case. To ensure proper use of any of these forms, consult a licensed attorney.

CERTIFICATION

By using the forms on this website, www.magistratefulton.org, you are certifying that you have read, understand, and agree with this DISCLAIMER. The Atlanta Judicial Circuit, its officials, employees, agents and/or anyone contributing to the creation of the forms, instructions, other materials, frequently asked questions, and all other information provided on or by this website assume no responsibility for, and shall be held harmless for, any and all damages (direct, indirect and/or consequential) resulting from your reliance and/or use of any information, forms, and/or materials.