SEEKING A WARRANT
Georgia law provides a method for lay people (those other than law enforcement) and institutions to obtain warrants for the arrest of persons who have committed a crime against them. A victim can go to the magistrate court in the county in which the crime occurred and fill out the appropriate paperwork seeking the issuance of a warrant. Under O.C.G.A. §17-4-40, if the application submitted establishes probable cause, the judge will issue notice for a hearing to be held. The perpetrator of the offense will be given notice of the hearing (they do not have to be served). In some circumstances, the judge can issue a warrant without the need for a hearing such as where a person’s safety is in danger or where the crime involved family violence.
THE WARRANT HEARING
The warrant hearing itself is conducted much like a Preliminary Hearing in that it is like a mini-trial. The applicant (victim) presents evidence first in an effort to establish probable cause. Hearsay evidence is admissible at such hearings which reduces the need to have all witnesses available to testify. The defendant (alleged perpetrator) will have the opportunity to cross examine witnesses and to present evidence on his/her own behalf. The applicant, of course, will have the right to cross examine any witnesses presented by the defense.
WHAT YOU MUST DO IF YOU HAVE A WARRANT HEARING COMING UP
For those who have received notice of a warrant application hearing there are two things that you absolutely should do: first, make sure you appear at the hearing and, second, have a lawyer there to represent you. If you do not appear for the hearing, the chances of a warrant being issued skyrocket. All the applicant has to do is present enough evidence (through hearsay even) that you committed a crime and the judge will issue a warrant. If you appear at the hearing with a lawyer the chances of a warrant being issued decrease dramatically. Don’t balk at the expense of hiring a lawyer. It’s better to spend a little bit of money now than to have to spend a whole lot a money later. A lawyer’s fee for representation at a warrant application hearing is a fraction of the total amount charged to defend against the charge once the warrant is issued.
If you need assistance with a warrant application hearing, please feel free to give me a call at 404-474-2531 for a free and confidential consultation.