Since our DUI Defense firm practices statewide, we very often handle cases in counties that have small populations. The court systems are organized very differently in these counties because of economic realities.
Small communities cannot afford to have multi-level court systems. As a result, the Probate Court Judge doubles as traffic court judge and the judge that has original jurisdiction over misdemeanor traffic offenses such as DUI.
Interestingly, not all Georgia Probate Court Judges are attorneys. That fact stuns many people charged with DUI. However, keep in mind, a Georgia DUI Case does not have to be resolved in Probate Court. You have an absolute right to send your case to Superior Court for trial or some other disposition. In Superior Court, the judge is a licensed attorney with at least seven years experience (usually far more).
I started my career almost 20 years ago in White County. Judge Garrison Baker was the judge then and is still today. He is not an attorney but is an exceptional jurist who understands how to run a traffic courtroom. He recently celebrated 30 years on the bench, and I was there to celebrate with him. He has been my friend and mentor for 20 years.
Fellow Attorneys, you should never under-estimate our non-attorney judges. To begin with, the prosecutor will be an attorney in all instances. So, any legal shenanigans in court will be easily detected.
Secondly, most non-attorney probate court judges limit their roles in contested cases involving misdemeanor traffic offenses such as DUI. As a result, they will allow negotiated dispositions in their courtrooms. However, most will send all trial and motion issues to Superior Court.
Finally, as officers of the court, we have an obligation to keep the non-sense to a minimum. The non-attorney probate court judges have contempt powers, and lawyers need to remember that fact. Most are good people serving small communities in a necessary position. They provide a important service to families who are grieving while also doubling as a traffic court judge.
If the police have ticketed you anywhere in Georgia, call our Georgia Traffic Ticket Lawyers today.