Note: The information provided here is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice.  It is provided to assist citizens who are going through the criminal justice system as a victim or witness.

What is the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit?

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit consists of the four counties in the northwest corner of Georgia: Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker Counties.   According to the 2010 census, there are approximately 175,000 people in the circuit.

What is the jurisdiction of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s Office?

In the Superior Courts of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes all felony cases and all misdemeanors cases in Dade County.  Misdemeanors in Catoosa, Chattooga and Walker Counties are prosecuted by three separate prosecuting agencies, the Solicitor Generals, in the State Courts of those three counties.  We also prosecute all criminal offenses in the Juvenile Courts of the judicial circuit.  The District Attorney’s Office represents the people of the State of Georgia in the prosecution of criminal cases.  The District Attorney’s Office does not and cannot represent individuals in civil matters of any kind and cannot give legal advice on any matter to any citizen.

What is the relationship between the local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office?

There is a close working relationship between local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office.  However, the agencies are separate and distinct.  Local law enforcement agencies investigate reports of crimes, arrest offenders and send reports to the District Attorney’s Office for a determination of what, if any, charges will go forward for prosecution.  The district attorney or an assistant district attorney will review the reports provided in each case, apply the appropriate law and make a decision as to the charges.  Depending on the crime, the case may be presented to a Grand Jury for indictment or filed directly in the Superior Court Clerk’s Office on an accusation.

What is the purpose of a Grand Jury in criminal cases?

The Grand Jury is required to hear certain cases under Georgia law and make a decision as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence for the case to go forward.  The Grand Jury is comprised of local citizens selected randomly from the county.   The evidence before a Grand Jury will be presented by the District Attorney’s Office through witnesses, usually the officer who investigated the case from a local law enforcement agency such as the sheriff’s office or a municipal police department.  The ultimate decision as to whether the case goes forward is determined solely by the Grand Jury.

What happens at arraignment?

At arraignment, the defendant is formally notified of the charges and may be given a copy of the indictment or accusation.  Generally, the defendant enters a plea of not guilty and is given ten days to file any motions.

Can a victim ‘drop charges’?

It is a common myth that a victim has the power to “press charges” or “drop charges” after charges are brought.  All criminal actions are prosecuted on behalf of the State of Georgia. The final decision whether to prosecute or not is made by the District Attorney’s Office.  The opinion of the victim is very important and will be taken into consideration.  However, all the facts and circumstances of the incident must be considered including but not limited to the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendant, whether the defendant has other pending charges, and the probability of the defendant committing other offenses in the future.

If I get a subpoena do I have to go to court?

If you are a witness for the State, our office can place you on call until you are needed for court.  However, we can only do this if we have appropriate contact information for you. The subpoena you receive will provide information on how you may do this.  The bottom line answer is that you have to come to court if subpoenaed unless you are excused by the party who issued the subpoena or have a legal excuse for failing to appear.  Otherwise, if you fail to appear, the judge may hold you in contempt of court.  Be sure to bring your subpoena with you to court.

I did not witness any crime but I got a subpoena.  Why am I a witness?

You do not have to be a direct eye witness to a crime to present testimony in court.  It is likely you know something that will assist the judge or jury in reaching a decision.  If you received a subpoena and don’t know why, please call our office and ask for the prosecutor handling the case.

I am afraid of the defendant.  Will the defendant be present when I testify?

Yes, a defendant has a constitutional right to be present in court.  However, all of our courthouses have very good security officers and there is no reason to fear the defendant in the courtroom.

My employer is not happy that I’ll miss work when I have to go to court on my subpoena.  Can I be fired?

Witnesses must go to court to testify when they have relevant information. It is a civic duty imposed upon all citizens in order to insure a just and fair judicial system.  Your employer cannot retaliate against you for appearing in court pursuant to a subpoena.

As a victim, how do I find out when the defendant’s next court date is?

The District Attorney’s Office can provide you with the next court date if we have filed charges against the defendant. To obtain this information, please contact our victim witness advocate in the appropriate county.

How do I report a crime?

All reports of any criminal act should be made to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. The District Attorney’s Office does investigate criminal acts but works with law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal offenders.  If you have an emergency situation, call 911 to be connected to the emergency services you require.

How can I have my criminal record expunged?

As of July 1, 2013, the rules on records restrictions (formerly known as expungements) changed significantly.  An overview of the new law may be found at the Georgia Bureau of Investigations website.  Please go to the links section of this website to find the web address.

I want to file a complaint about a police officer or deputy sheriff. Can the District Attorney help me?

No. You’ll need to report the matter to the officer’s employing agency.

How can I get a restraining order?

In the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, we are fortunate to have the Family Crisis Center which provides assistance to those seeking Temporary Protective Orders.  Their hotline number is 706-375-7630.  For assistance in obtaining a Temporary Protective Order in Walker County or Chattooga County, please call: 706-638-0402.  For assistance in obtaining a Temporary Protective Order in Catoosa County or Dade County, please call: 706-866-1465.

What is a sentence recommendation? And do I as a victim have anything to say about it?

Our office has thirteen prosecutors working in four counties who handle literally thousands of cases each year.  The same is generally true across the country.  Some in the general public believe there should be a jury trial in every case.  To do so would require a tremendous amount of time, resources and, of course, money.  Many defendants are willing to plead guilty and accept responsibility.  To that end, the District Attorney’s Office makes sentence recommendations in many cases.  The most important factor in a sentence recommendation is the victim’s input.  In addition, there is consideration given to the defendant’s prior history, the nature of the crime itself, the strength or weaknesses of the evidence, public safety, the potential for rehabilitation, any potential for deterrence, and any other factors relevant to the circumstances of the particular case.  The vast majority of cases are resolved in this fashion.