What does it mean to bind a case over?
Many state level misdemeanors like traffic citations, driving under the influence (DUIs), and other state level misdemeanor crimes such as Shoplifting, Possession of Marijuana (Less than 1 oz.), Criminal Trespass, and more, originate in the Municipal Court of the city where the alleged offense took place. If someone is charged with state-level offenses, they have a Constitutional right to a “public and speedy trial by an impartial jury.” Georgia Constitution Article I, Section I, Paragraph XI. However, Municipals Courts do not hold jury trials. Therefore, in order for a defendant to obtain a jury trial, he must make a demand for jury trial to Municipal Court. The Municipal Court will then “bind over” the case to the State Court of the county where the alleged offense took place. If there is no State Court in that county, the Municipal Court will bind the case to the county Superior Court.
Is your offense eligible to be bound over?
Not all offenses are eligible to bind over to State or Superior Court. If your case is not eligible to bind over, you do not have a right to a jury trial. Georgia courts distinguish between crimes that are “solely violations of local or municipal ordinances,” and crimes where the offense is a violation of an ordinance as well as a misdemeanor under state law. Geng v. State, 276 Ga. 482 (2002). Where there is an offense of a local ordinance and a state level offense, the State/Superior Court has “concurrent” jurisdiction over the case. O.C.G.A. §15-7-4; See also Clark v. State, 157 Ga. App. 486 (1981).
Generally, if you are charged with a misdemeanor you have the right to bind your case over. For instance, if you are charged with speeding, you have the right to a jury trial which means you have the absolute right to bind your case over to State/ Superior Court. Clark v. State (cited above). Also, as Marijuana is becoming more and more common in America, Georgia has implemented a statute that allows defendants accused of Possession of Marijuana (Less than 1 oz.) to bind their case over to State/ Superior Court. O.C.G.A. §15-7-4.
However, if you are accused of violating a local zoning ordinance, you most likely will not have the right to neither a jury trial or to bind your case over because zoning violations are not state level misdemeanors. Smith v. Greene, 559 S.E.2d 726 (Ga. 2002). Determining what your charges are is the first step in determining whether you should bind your case over.
Should you bind your case over to State court?
Next you must determine, from a strategical standpoint, whether it would be in your best interest to bind your case over. To do this you have to consider where you’re more likely going to get a good plea deal, or a fair trial. There are advantages and disadvantages to Municipal Courts as well as State/Superior Courts. One obvious advantage is that State/ Superior Courts have jury trials. However, one disadvantage is that binding your case over is not a quick process, it can take months or years. Most importantly, when deciding if you should bind your case over you should contact a trained legal professional to help you. The attorney should be well informed with the Court, the Judge, the Prosecutors, and the process. Having a knowledgeable attorney will make this decision easier for you.
If you or someone you know is charged with a crime and would like to bind your case over, don’t hesitate to call Bixon Law at 404-551-5684. Michael Bixon is a dedicated and knowledgeable trial lawyer who cares for his clients.