How Does the Georgia Recorder’s Court Work?
Under Georgia law, traffic citations or tickets are deemed misdemeanor criminal offenses. Generally, in the Georgia judicial system, the Superior court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. However, counties in Georgia have a Recorder’s Court that handles traffic citations issued by the county’s sheriff’s department, police department, Georgia Department of Transportation, and the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Some of such counties include Gwinnett and Chatham. The city of Columbus also has a Recorder’s Court.
The Recorder’s Court in Georgia has jurisdiction over moving and nonmoving traffic offenses apart from felony offenses. The court may also hear and determine cases involving violations of the county’s ordinances. The jurisdiction of any Georgia Recorder’s Court extends only within the county’s limits. Any aggrieved party may appeal the decision of the Recorder’s Court to the Georgia Superior court.
In some cases, the court requires guilty drivers to take part in driver training courses or alcohol and drug abuse education classes. The Superior court in Georgia handles the more severe traffic violations that result in felony charges. Examples of such offenses are vehicular homicide, habitual violator, and serious injury by vehicle.
In Georgia, traffic violations are considered criminal offenses; hence every accused person has the right to a jury trial. However, the Georgia Recorder’s Court does not conduct jury trials. Therefore, when the defendant requests a jury trial, the case is transferred to the State or Superior Court of the relevant county. On the other hand, if the accused makes no such request, it is taken as a waiver to the right to a jury trial.
The judges of the Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court hear ordinance violations, such as citations written by Gwinnett County Animal Control, the Business License Department, the Planning and Zoning/Inspection Department, and the Environmental Health Department. The judges also have jurisdiction over misdemeanor traffic cases such as reckless driving, attempting to elude a police officer, hit and run, or DUI in Georgia.
For all intents and purposes, the judge of the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court is a Justice of the Peace. Therefore, the judge may issue warrants for crimes committed within the borders of Gwinnett County. Warrants may be issued with or without a hearing. The Recorder’s Court judge may also do this without concern about whether such offense was allegedly committed within or outside any municipality in Gwinnett County. The judge also can punish a person for contempt of court by fine; not above one hundred dollars, imprisonment in the county jail; not more than ten days, or both.
The Gwinnett Recorder’s Court is divided into three offices. The first office is the judicial office, which has three judges and six judicial staff members. The second office is the prosecutorial office, with one Solicitor, three Assistant Solicitors, and two staff members. The third office in the court is the clerk’s office and has one clerk and fifteen court clerks.
The three Recorder’s Court judges are appointed by a majority vote of the Gwinnett State Court judges and serve for a four-year term. The court’s chief judge is the judge that has served the longest in the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court. The chief judge is responsible for administrating and disposing of the business of the court.
The chief judge has the power to make rules for administering the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court, as long as the rules are not in variance with the State’s general laws. These rules are binding on the remaining judges of the court. The Gwinnett Recorder’s Court chief judge may also appoint a practicing attorney having a judge’s qualifications to serve as a judge in the absence, disqualification, or disability of a judge.
To be a judge of the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court, a person must:
- Have been a resident of Gwinnett for three years
- Be at least 25 years old.
- Have been practicing law for at least seven years
- Be a member of and in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia.
A Gwinnett Recorder’s Court judge may be removed in any of the following ways:
- By the judicial qualifications commission. In such cases, the Georgia Supreme Court must review the decision.
- Impeachment by the State’s house of representatives and conviction by a two-thirds vote of the senate
A Gwinnett Recorder’s Court judge may be removed for any of these reasons:
- Willful misconduct while in office
- Persistent and willful failure to perform the duties of the office
- Habitual intemperance
- Conviction of a crime that involves moral turpitude
- An act that is detrimental to the administration of justice and brings the judicial office into disrepute
The chief judge of the Recorder’s Court and the Superior Court chief judge appoints the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court clerk. The clerk keeps the records of all the court’s proceedings. The clerk also collects all fines, costs, and forfeitures, and remits to the director of finance of Gwinnett County for deposit in the county depository.
The clerk is authorized to issue summons, rules to forfeit bonds, subpoenas, and other similar rules. To be eligible for the office of a clerk of the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court, a person must:
- Be a citizen of Gwinnett County.
- Have been a resident of Georgia for at least two years
- Be of good moral character.
- Have reached the age of 25 years of old
- Be a registered voter.
- Have obtained a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent
In the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court, the county’s elected solicitor-general is the court’s prosecuting attorney. As such, the solicitor-general can employ other personnel and employees to serve in the court.
Note, the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court judicial system and structure, including the types of cases the court has jurisdiction over, is similar to that of the Recorder’s Courts in other counties.
Interested persons may find Gwinnett Recorder’s Court case records on the court’s online portal. Provide two of either the case number, citation number, last name, or date of birth. Alternatively, contact the Clerk of Court’s Office by phone on 1–877–794–0988, or fax to (770) 619–6005. Visit or send mails between Monday and Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at:
Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court
115 Stone Mountain Street
Lawrenceville, GA 30046–6900
Note, the Gwinnett Recorder’s Court holds at the county courthouse and may also hold at a facility within the county designated by the chief judge. Usually, a court session at the Recorder’s Court lasts about two hours.
Requests for Columbus Recorder’s Court case records may also be made by mail or in-person at:
702 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia 31901
Chatham Recorder’s Court also has an online portal where interested persons may find court case records. Provide the record number or the name of a party to access the information. Alternatively, contact the Chatham Recorder’s Court by phone on (912) 652–7425, via email to email@example.com, or by mail or in-person at: