In the Criminal Division of the DeKalb County Magistrate Court, first appearance hearings are held several times each day, seven days a week. At the first appearance hearing defendants are advised of the charges brought against them. In felony cases, defendant’s rights are explained to them, including the right to counsel, and the right to remain silent. Defendant’s options concerning whether or not to schedule a preliminary hearing, also referred to as a commitment hearing or probable cause hearing, are explained. The judge sets a bond when authorized by law; by state law there are a limited number of offenses where only a Superior Court judge can set bond. If the Magistrate judge is not authorized to set a bond, the defendant is notified of the process for securing a bond hearing in Superior Court. The defendant is provided information regarding their right to legal representation and how to apply for the assistance of appointed counsel if financially unable to hire an attorney.
The first appearance hearing is not a preliminary hearing or trial on the merits of the charges. The judge will not consider dismissal of any of the charges at this hearing. The defendant will not be asked any questions about the facts of the case.
All court hearings are open to the public except in extraordinary circumstances. Misdemeanor first appearance hearings are held once each day in a small courtroom in the DeKalb County Jail. The public may view misdemeanor first appearance hearing held in the jail from the Criminal Division by video conference. In some misdemeanor cases a bond is preset based upon a bond schedule authorized by the Chief Magistrate Judge. Persons charged with crimes of domestic violence are required to appear before a judge.
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