Court Proceedings and Your Rights

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The content below is a general instruction and information guide for your court session.

Plea & Arraignment
What is an Arraignment? It is the process used by Court to advise you of the charges against you. More importantly, for you to tell the Court how you plead to the charges. 

Three pleas are acceptable:

  • Not Guilty: denies guilt, case set for non-jury trial, witnesses subpoenaed, Police Officer appears, your witness appear(s), demonstrative evidence used by either side.
  • Guilty: Admission of guilt, Court enters appropriate fine, probation, or jail sentence.
  • Nolo Contendere: Matter of Court’s discretion, neither an admission nor denial of the charges. States you are not contesting the charges and do not want a trial. Admission that you believe the city could prove the charges, if not rebutted by your evidence. You give up taking sworn testimony. Not used against you as an admission of guilt. Does not effect any civil disqualification of you to hold public office, to vote, to serve upon a jury, or other civil disqualification imposed upon a person convicted of any offense under the laws of the State of Georgia.

You have guaranteed Constitutional rights in this or any other Court.

  • The right to have counsel represent you at every stage of the proceedings.
  • If you cannot afford counsel, counsel will be appointed for you if you are indigent.
  • The Burden of Proof always remains upon the City of Smyrna to prove its case beyond a Reasonable Doubt to the trier of fact.
  • The presumption of innocence remains with you throughout the trial.
  • You have the right to remain silent, and your silence will not be used against you.
  • You also have the right to testify in a trial if you give up your right to remain silent.
  • You have the right to appeal the sentence and judgment of the Court within
    30 days of the judgment to the Superior Court of Cobb County.

Your Right to an Attorney

  • You have a guaranteed right to an Attorney at any stage of proceedings.
  • In the State of Georgia, “Traffic cases fall under the ‘criminal’ umbrella.”
  • An attorney can help you.
  • Understand the charge.
  • Determine whether you have any defense.
  • Prepare and conduct any trial.
  • File motions and make objections.
  • Make strategic decisions as to the calling of witnesses.
  • Properly preserve legal issues.
  • Conduct plea negotiations.
  • Make sure all of your rights as a defendant in a criminal case are protected.
  • It is dangerous to proceed to trial without the assistance of an attorney.
  • If you are indigent, you have the right to Court-appointed counsel if you qualify under the Indigent guidelines of the City of Smyrna.

Do you want to pay your fine and leave?

  • If your fine is a payable offense, you can pay in the following manner
    Cash, Money Order, or Bank Check payable to the City of Smyrna
    Credit or Debit Card.
  • No personal checks are accepted.

What if I don’t have any of the above, but I want to dispose of my case today?

  • You can pay on a Probated sentence.
  • You must pay $39.00 Probation Supervision fee monthly for the term of the Probation.
  • You must pay a pro rata share of your fine monthly.
  • You remain under the jurisdiction of the Court until Probation is complete.
  • You must follow the Court Order while you are on Probation.

What about my right to a Trial by Jury?

  • If your case qualifies, you can transfer your case to Cobb State Court.
  • Your case will be bound over to Cobb State Court and it will give you a trial date.
  • You will be responsible for keeping Cobb State Court informed of your location.

What is a Bench Trial?

  • Trial by only a Judge, no jury.
  • Same rules of evidence apply in a Bench and Jury Trial.
  • Judge is the sole trier of fact.
  • Burden of Proof is beyond a reasonable doubt to rational trier of fact.
  • Judge’s decision is appealable to Cobb Superior Court within 30 days of decision.

Guilty Pleas that must be heard by the Court

  • Any offense that involves loss of driving privilege.
  • Any offense that involves incarceration.

What are those offenses?

  • Driving under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs.
  • Driving on a suspended license.
  • No insurance.
  • Reckless Driving.
  • Aggressive Driving.
  • Possession of less than 1oz. of Marijuana.
  • Fleeing and/or attempting to elude a Police Officer.
  • Shoplifting.

Drivers under 21 years of age
After July 1, 2001, your license shall be suspended for any driving offense of a high and aggravated nature.
For Example: Hit and run; racing: fleeing or attempting to elude; reckless driving: four or more point offense; purchasing alcohol: misrepresenting age to purchase alcohol; false identification, and DUI. 
You should have an attorney and your parents/guardian(s) present before entering a plea. 
Suspensions can be for six months or 12 months, depending upon the severity of the offense.

What if I want to enter a Plea of Guilty?

  • You must read, understand, and sign a Plea Proceeding Agreement & Waiver of Rights form.
  • If you don’t have an Attorney representing you, and you want to proceed by representing yourself, you will have to Waive your Right to have an Attorney represent you, acknowledge you are proceeding Pro se.
  • Tell the Court you are freely, knowingly and voluntarily participating in the Plea and you understand what you are doing.
  • Tell the Court what happened.
  • Admit to the Court that you are guilty of the charge or pleading Nolo Contendere because you know that the City could prove the elements of the charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt to a rational trier of fact.

What is the maximum fine and punishment in this Court?

  • Fines are set by the Mayor and Council for pretrial disposition.
  • At trial the maximum fine that can be imposed is $1,000.00 per citation.
  • At trial the maximum time of incarceration is up to one year per citation.
  • Certain offenses have surcharges imposed by the State of Georgia that are added to the fine payable to the City of Smyrna.

Behavior/Deportment in Court

  • Court treats everyone with equal dignity and respect during proceedings.
  • Public treats Court personnel with equal dignity and respect.
  • Proper dress/attire – no shorts, no tank tops, no halter tops.