Traffic Court Procedure

Issuance of citation and bonding procedure.     
  In every court in Georgia that has jurisdiction over the violation   of traffic laws or traffic ordinances is authorized to provide for the establishment of a traffic violations bureau for the handling or  disposition of certain traffic cases. This is not to say that any great formality is required in the establishment of these bureaus, but such bureaus are established by a court order. Without a court order these courts may still conduct hearing on traffic offenses in a similar manner even without such an order.

    Typically, in the average non-serious traffic offense where no arrest is made, a citation is issued and the driver is released to go on about his business. The original citation is then sent by the officer issuing it to the traffic violations bureau of the court within 24  hours of the arrest. The defendant named in the citation shall be given the second copy.  The officer issuing the citation and
complaint shall retain one copy for himself or herself. The officer may ask the driver to sign for the citation and sometimes this makes a driver feel uncomfortable. A person who is issued a citation as provided in this chapter or should sign the citation to acknowledge receipt of the citation and of his or her obligation to appear for trial. The officer should let the person know signing the citation is not an admission of guilt. Failure to sign for the citation will result in the person being delayed along the journey and taken to the courthouse or sheriff's office for the purpose of posting a cash bond. If the person refuses to sign the citation, it may constitute reasonable basis for the officer to believe that the person will not appear at trial. The officer may then further delay the journey by making the person physically appear before a judicial officer or traffic violations bureau before
posting a bond as is otherwise provided by law.
 

    If the officer has some  belief that such person will not obey the citation and agreement to appear, such officer may bring such person to the   traffic violations bureau and such person may be allowed to post a  cash bond for his appearance in accordance with the schedule established by the court. Further, If the officer has reason to believe that the person will not obey such citation and agreement to appear, the officer may also require such person to surrender his driver's license in accordance with Code Section 17-6-11.

Administrative Procedures
 

Arraignment -

Arraignment

    Arraignment is a very old tradition in criminal law history. Instead of being held without benefit of charges, legal counsel or other legal benefits until trial, as is still practiced in some countries even today, the advantage of being brought before a judge and having the formal charges the state intends to try one on has distinct advantages. If a person knows the charges, that person can begin to prepare a defense. In this country, people who cannot afford legal counsel may have such counsel appointed to defend them at state expense. This appointment of legal counsel usually comes at or just before arraignment. It is at this same arraignment that a defendant may enter a plea to the charges. This plea is usually "guilty" or "Not guilty" and occasionally a plea of "no contest" may be entered, however for the purposed of a traffic offense, such a plea seldom offers much advantage under current law. There are special circumstances under which such a "no contest" may be valuable to certain people in certain professions.

    The formal process involves a judge or magistrate, sometimes a prosecutor and a court reporter, a defendant and a clerk of court. The prosecutor may use the citation itself or prepare a document called an "accusation" ,and as the case is "called" ,the parties name is called usually walks up to the judge, who is usually on a trial bench. If formal reading of the accusation is not waived by he defendant or the defendant's lawyer, the judge or someone at his direction will read the charges out loud so the defendant can hear the reading . The defendant then answer to the charges by entering an appropriate plea of "guilty" or "Not Guilty", as indicated above. That plea is noted in writing on the accusation and the defendant and the lawyer signs the same document to acknowledge the plea that has been entered. These proceeding are usually taken down by a court reporter, but in lower courts,  these  notations may be entered on the records of the court by the clerk or the judge presiding the arraignment. The clerk is an official witness to all court proceeding and may receive at this arraignment papers the defense lawyer should file in the form of several important motion and demands.

    Included in these important motions might be a Demand for Jury Trial. This will be particularly true in certain areas. There are several different types of "criminal discovery motions" filed, where your lawyer will try to find out what the state's evidence against the client might be. Other motions will include suppression motions if the lawyer believed that some evidence my have been acquired by the state by some unlawful means. The number and type of motions is too numerous to mention and limited only by the lawyers skill and imagination. If this arraignment is held in one of the lower courts, it will be transferred to the appropriate court. This usually involves some delay in the progress of the case. This delay may or may not work to the client's advantage.

     In reality, most of these arraignments are much more informal. However, understand that  the process described above is still going on.  Have arranged for a lawyer well in advance is much to be preferred, so that no excuses need be made for preparing these important motions and demands just mentioned. If they are not filed they may be considered waived by the defendant who probably didn't even know that such motions were supposed to be filed at or before this proceeding.

    Often, if the defendant is still incarcerated, arraignment may offer a time to discuss with the court a bond for the defendant's release. In some lower courts, the defendant may be arraigned and tried immediately thereafter. This is especially true if the plea offered by the defendant is GUILTY, OR THE COURT ACCEPTS A PLEA OF NO CONTEST. In such instance, the court will go through a question and answer session with the defendant to make sure an understanding of the consequences of such a plea can have. if represented by a lawyer issues involving the attorney-client relationship may be addresses by the judge. The voluntariness of the defendant's decision to plead guilty is usually inquired into and the range of sentencing possibilities is discussed with the defendant before the court accepts the plea. Seeing that properly done the judge will pass sentence on the defendant. Sentencing practices, limits and such matters are discussed more fully at another link on this site.

    If the plea is "Not Guilty", and the defendant is already on bond and has no other business with the court, he may be released to leave the courtroom and return to his personal business. Many times the defendant's lawyer will remain to take care of other court business. It will be important for the defendant to stay in close touch with the lawyer.

    At other times, the judge will immediately proceed to try the case or continue it until the arresting officer is available to provide the facts of the arrest to the court.