Magistrate Court

Magistrate court jurisdiction includes:
  • Arrests
  • Certain minor criminal offenses
  • Civil claims of $15,000 or less
  • County ordinance violations
  • Deposit account fraud (bad checks)
  • Dispossessory writs
  • Distress warrants
  • Preliminary hearings
  • Search warrants
  • Summonses
Bail & Jury Trials
Magistrates may grant bail in cases where the setting of bail is not exclusively reserved to a judge of another court.

No jury trials are held in magistrate court. If a defendant submits a written request for a jury trial, cases may be removed to superior or state court.

Duties of Chief Magistrate

A chief magistrate, who may be assisted by 1 or more magistrates, presides over each of Georgia’s 159 magistrate courts.

The chief magistrate of each county assigns cases, sets court sessions, appoints other magistrates (with the consent of the superior court judges) and sets policy for the magistrate court. The number of magistrates in addition to the chief is usually set by majority vote of the county’s superior court judges.

Election or Appointment

Most chief magistrates are elected in partisan, countywide elections to 4-year terms. The chief magistrate may be appointed, if so provided by local legislation. Terms for other magistrate judges run concurrently with that of the chief magistrate who appointed them.

To qualify as a magistrate, an individual must:
  • Reside in the county for at least 1 year preceding his or her term of office
  • Be 25 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or its equivalent
A magistrate court judge may also serve as a judge of another limited jurisdiction court in the same county.