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Navigating the Criminal Case

Municipal Courts – Recorder's Courts and City Courts

Most DUI cases start out in municipal, city, or recorders' courts. Many cities have their own courts. For example, if you are arrested for DUI in the City of Lawrenceville, you must appear in the Municipal Court of Lawrenceville. If you were arrested by the Gwinnett County Police Department, your first court appearance will be in the Gwinnett County Recorders Court. These courts allow the municipality to keep more fine money in the City or County where you were arrested. You do not have a right to a jury trial in these courts. If you want a jury trial, we can send your case to a court where you can get one. If you plead not guilty you will receive a “Bench Trial” where a judge decides your guilt or innocence rather than a jury. Although these courts can conduct trials, they rarely do. When lawyers ask for trials in these courts, the prosecutors will usually “bind the case over” to the State Court of that particular county.

Recorder's Courts, City Courts, and Municipal Courts are happy to accept your guilty plea and fine money, but they do not want to spend the resources required in conducting trials. The law allows them to send your case to State Court, and they usually do.

Municipal courts are often friendly courts in which to enter a guilty plea. Accordingly, we can often receive better treatment in municipal courts if you wish to enter a guilty plea to DUI.

If you wish to fight your case in the attempt to avoid a DUI conviction, your case will likely be bound over to the State Court. There, you have a right to a jury trial.

State Courts

We will likely begin fighting your case in State Court. The law allows you (or the prosecutor) to move your case from a municipal court to the State Court of the county in which you were arrested. You can choose between Jury trial or Bench trial in these courts.

State Court prosecutors must prosecute your case and conduct a jury trial, if necessary. As a result, they are generally more willing to acknowledge legal and factual deficiencies in their case than Municipal Court prosecution. Our first goal is always to investigate, discover, and reveal those deficiencies to the prosecutor in an attempt to negotiate a dismissal or reduction in your charges.