Yes, a defendant has a constitutional right to be present in court. However, all our courthouses have very good security officers and there is no reason to fear the defendant in the courtroom.
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The Augusta Judicial Circuit comprises Burke and Richmond Counties. There are 5 Superior Court Judges who hold court in both counties. The DA’s Office prosecutes felony cases, while misdemeanor cases are handled by the respective Solicitors General for each county.
A Grand Jury is convened regularly by the District Attorney. There are additional court days each month for arraignment and non-jury hearings. The DA’s Office also handles preliminary hearings in Magistrate Court, juvenile proceedings in Juvenile Court, and alternative sentencing in the Accountability Courts. The District Attorney’s Office also regularly appears before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia.
The District Attorney’s Office represents the people of the State of Georgia in the prosecution of criminal cases. The District Attorney’s Office does not and cannot represent individuals in civil matters of any kind and cannot give legal advice on any matter to any citizen.
The working relationship between local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office is independent and cooperative. Local law enforcement agencies investigate reports of crimes, make arrests and send evidence to the District Attorney’s Office for an independent review and determination of what, if any, charges will go forward for prosecution. Attorneys will review the evidence provided in each case, apply the appropriate law and decide if and how to seek justice. The case may be presented to a Grand Jury for indictment or filed directly in the Superior Court Clerk’s Office on an accusation.
The Grand Jury is comprised of local citizens selected randomly from the county. The Grand Jury is tasked with determining if there is sufficient evidence under the law to move forward with an indictment in a criminal matter. The evidence before a Grand Jury will be presented by the District Attorney’s Office through witnesses, usually the officer who investigated the case from a local law enforcement agency such as the sheriff’s office or a municipal police department and other witnesses determined to be critical to the case. In these cases, the ultimate decision as to whether the case goes forward is determined solely by the Grand Jury.
An arraignment is a public hearing in which a defendant is formally notified of the charges against them. Generally, the defendant enters a plea of not guilty and is given ten days to file any motions.
It is a common myth that a victim has the power to “press charges” or “drop charges” after charges are brought against someone. All criminal actions are prosecuted on behalf of the State of Georgia and not on behalf of any individual. The final decision whether to prosecute or not is made by the District Attorney’s Office. The opinion of the victim is very important and will be taken into consideration. However, all the facts and circumstances of the incident must be considered including, but not limited to, the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendant, whether the defendant has other pending charges, and the probability of the defendant committing other offenses in the future.
Witnesses are critical to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system. The state can’t hold a person accountable for committing a crime without the cooperation of the community. If you are a witness for the state, our office can place you “on call” until you are needed for court. However, we can only do this if we have appropriate contact information for you. The subpoena you receive will provide information on how you may provide your contact information. The bottom-line answer is that you have to come to court if subpoenaed unless you are excused by the party who issued the subpoena or have a legal excuse for failing to appear. Otherwise, if you fail to appear, the judge may hold you in contempt of court. Be sure to bring your subpoena with you to court.
You do not have to be a direct eyewitness to a crime to present testimony in court. It is likely you know something that will assist the judge or jury in reaching a decision. If you received a subpoena and don’t know why, please call our office and ask for the prosecutor handling the case.
Witnesses must go to court to testify when they have relevant information. It is a civic duty imposed upon all citizens to insure a just and fair judicial system. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for appearing in court pursuant to a subpoena.
The victim witness staff will keep you apprised of any upcoming court dates if you are a victim in a case. If you are a witness, you should be given a subpoena for an upcoming court date. Make sure to follow the instructions on the subpoena and check out the subpoena information page on this website for more information. If you are a defendant, you will receive a notice to appear. Make sure your address is kept updated with the clerk's office to ensure the notice is sent to the correct address as it is your obligation to notify the court of any change in address.
All reports of any criminal act should be made to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. The District Attorney’s Office does investigate criminal acts but works with law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal offenders. If you have an emergency situation, call 911 to be connected to the emergency services you require.
As of July 1, 2013, the rules on records restrictions (formerly known as expungements) changed significantly. An overview of the new law may be found at the Georgia Bureau of Investigations website. Please go to the expungement section of this website for more information. CLICK HERE.