What are the filing fees for the different types of cases?  

The filing fee for all cases is $94.00, and the filing fee for a fi fa is $9.00.

The $50.00 cost of service of process for 1 defendant is included in the filing fee of $94.00.  If more than 1 defendant must be served, the cost for service of process is $50.00 per location.

Do I have to be represented by a lawyer in Magistrate Court?

No, you may represent yourself; however, since no one in the court can give you legal advice, you may want to consult a lawyer about the legal issues involved in your case.

May I represent someone else in Magistrate Court, such as my spouse or parent?

Not unless you are a lawyer.  While you may represent yourself, representing anyone else would be the illegal practice of law.

May I represent my business or company even if I am not a lawyer?

Maybe.  It depends on whether you are the duly appointed agent for the company and whether the company is a legal entity.  Those who consider themselves “agents” of the landlord must comply with Rule 31 of the Uniform Rules of the Magistrate Court.

Rule 31.  Designated Agent for Civil Actions

Any officer or full-time employee of a corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership or unincorporated association may be designated by such entity as agent for purposes of representing it in civil actions to which it is a party in magistrate court. An action on behalf of a corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, or unincorporated association, except affidavits in attachment, may be filed and presented by such designated agent.

Said individual claiming to represent one of the aforementioned entities as its agent shall file with the court a sworn affidavit or otherwise provide supporting documents sufficient to establish to the court that said individual is in fact a bona fide officer or full-time employee of the entity that is a party to the action.

If I am indigent, will the Court appoint a lawyer to represent me in a criminal case?

It depends upon whether you are the accused or the victim.  Only the accused is entitled to Court-appointed counsel.

What is a dispossessory?

A dispossessory action refers to eviction proceedings brought by a landlord against a tenant. The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to hear landlord-tenant disputes which includes dispossessory proceedings.  The dispossessory complaint is filed under oath by the owner (landlord), testifying to the unlawful possession of the owner’s property by a tenant. The relationship between the parties must be Landlord and Tenant. A writ of possession is issued to evict an occupant from the property.

Once a tenant has been served with the Dispossessory Warrant, the tenant has seven (7) days from the date of service to file an answer with Magistrate Court. If the tenant does not file an answer, a writ of possession may be requested on the eighth (8th) day. If the tenant files an answer, a court date will be set and the parties will be mailed a Notice of Hearing to inform them of the date, time, and place of the hearing.  If a writ of possession is issued, an eviction must be requested within thirty (30) days of the date of service or a new dispossessory warrant must be filed.

My tenant refuses to pay rent and refuses to move.  May I put his possessions outside, turn off the utilities, and change the locks?

No.  A landlord may legally remove a tenant and/or tenant’s possessions only by using the dispossessory procedure.  If a landlord uses self-help to evict a tenant without a dispossessory warrant, it is a tort for which the tenant may recover damages in a civil action, and a landlord who cuts off utilities may be subject to misdemeanor prosecution under OCGA 44-7-14.1.

What Is a Garnishment?

A garnishment is a legal procedure by which a creditor can collect what a judgment debtor owes by reaching the debtor’s property when it is in the hands of someone other than the debtor (i.e. debtor’s bank or employer) known as the Garnishee.

What Kinds Of Property Are Subject To Garnishment?

All property, money, or effects of the defendant in the possession or control of the garnishee at the time of service of the summons of garnishment upon the garnishee, or coming into the possession or control of the garnishee at any time from the date of service of the summons of garnishment upon the garnishee up to the date of the garnishee’s answer, shall be subject to the process of garnishment. In the case of collateral securities in the hands of a creditor, such securities shall not be subject to garnishment so long as there is an amount owed on the debt for which the securities were given as collateral.

The most common garnishment actions are for wages and bank accounts. In wage garnishment actions, the defendant’s employer/garnishee can withhold up to 25% (50% in support garnishments) of the defendant’s “disposable income” (earnings less legally-required deductions). However, the law exempts certain kinds of income from garnishment. You should consult the law or an attorney if you are not sure whether the property at issue is subject to garnishment. Information on what kinds of funds are exempt can be found at http://law.ga.gov/garnishment-exemption.

How Can I Contest A Garnishment Filed Against Me?

A garnishment proceeding is an action between the plaintiff and garnishee; provided, however, that at any time before a judgment is entered or before money or other property subject to garnishment is distributed, the defendant may become a party to the garnishment by filing a claim with the clerk of court and may use the form set forth in OCGA 18-4-82.

A defendant’s claim must assert the basis upon which he or she claims that his or her money or other property is exempt from garnishment. A defendant may not attack the validity of the underlying judgment in a garnishment action.  In addition, financial hardship is not a legal defense to garnishment.

The law provides that certain kinds of funds and other property may be exempt from garnishment for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, the limitations on garnishment as provided in OCGA 18-4-5 and 18-4-53, exemptions as provided in OCGA 18-4-6, the plaintiff not having a judgment against the defendant, the amount claimed due by the plaintiff being erroneous, such money or other property being subject to a claim held by a third party that is superior to the judgment described in the affidavit of garnishment, or other legal or statutory defenses. http://law.ga.gov/garnishment-exemption

Even when earnings are held at a financial institution, all or portions of that money may be exempt from garnishment due to the limitations on garnishment as provided in OCGA 18-4-5 and 18-4-53, exemptions as provided in OCGA 18-4-6, or other reasons.

If the defendant files a claim, he or she is required to serve a copy of the claim upon the plaintiff and garnishee. Upon the filing of the defendant’s claim, the Court will schedule a hearing to be held not more than ten days from the date the claim is filed. Defendant has the burden of establishing that the exemption claimed applies.

I Have Received A Bad Check, So What Can I Do?

The issuance of a check on an account which is closed or has insufficient funds may constitute a crime for which the maker of the check may be prosecuted. The issuance of a check which is not honored may also give rise to a civil claim for damages. The way you proceed in your case will depend on the circumstances in your case.

What Is The Deposit Account Fraud (Bad Check) Statute?

OCGA 16-9-20

What Damages Can I Recover In A Bad Check Case?

You may be able to collect the amount of the check, plus damages of twice the amount of the check, but in no case more than $500.00, plus court costs.

How Can I Recover Additional Damages, Such As A Service Charge On The Returned Check?

First, you must attempt to negotiate the check. After you have received notice that the check will not be paid, you must then make a written demand upon the maker of the check for payment in cash of the amount of the check plus a service charge of 5% or $25.00, whichever is greater. The notice must be mailed to the maker of the check by certified or mail. If the maker of the check does not tender to you the amount of the check plus the service charge within ten days of receipt of the letter, you may make a claim for the additional statutory damages set forth above.

What Is A Bad Check Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant is an order of the court directing any duly authorized law enforcement official to arrest the person named in the warrant for the offense charged (in this case the offense of Deposit Account Fraud). The accused will be arrested and, in most instances, allowed to post bond to secure the accused’s appearance at trial.

Can I Pursue Criminal Prosecution Of A Bad Check?

Whether the issuance of a bad check is a crime will depend on several factors. You should review these factors carefully against the particular facts in your case before applying for a warrant. The elements of the criminal offense of Deposit Account Fraud (Bad Check) are contained in OCGA 16-9-20.

Where Are Deposit Account Fraud Cases Tried?

Cases prosecuted by warrant are tried in the State Court if the offense is a misdemeanor or in the Superior Court if the case is a felony.

What If Criminal Prosecution Cannot Be Made On A Bad Check I Have Received?

You may still be able to collect the check, which is a contractual promise by the maker of the instrument that it may be presented for cash at the maker’s bank for cash on demand.