Victims of many types of crimes have rights and responsibilities under a Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 17-17-1) called the Victims' Bill of Rights.
For information call the Victim Assistance Program.
You Have the Right to Be Notified of:
- Arrest of the accused
- Availability of victim service programs
- Availability of compensation for victims of violent crime
- Any court hearings where the release of the accused will be considered
- Release of the accused
- Court proceedings during the prosecution of the case
- Motion for new trial or appeal dates
- Parole or change of status of the defendant, if you request this in writing
You Have the Right to:
- Express your opinion on the release of the accused pending court proceedings
- Express your views on the outcome of the case prior to plea negotiations or sentencing of the accused
- Complete a Victim Impact Statement
If You Need Protection:
- If you are threatened or intimidated by the offender, please immediately contact the Sheriff's Office to make a report. For immediate assistance, dial 911.
- In order for you to be notified of various proceedings, you must provide law enforcement with your address and home and work telephone numbers (not pagers or cellular telephones).
- If your phone number changes from the number you first gave the police, you must notify the Victim Assistance Program, Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office, and/or the State Court Solicitor's Office. If there is an arrest, you can be informed of criminal proceedings.
- If the defendant (accused) is convicted and sent to prison and you want to be notified of parole or want to express your opinions prior to a parole decision, you must contact the Board of Pardons and Parole in Atlanta. Also, if the defendant is sentenced to prison and you want to know of any change in his/her status while in prison (such as furlough, work release, or escape), contact the Department of Corrections in Atlanta. The Victim Assistance Program can assist you with any of this communication.
If you are the victim of a violent (not Property) crime, you may be eligible for victim compensation. You must file a completed application within 180 days after the date of the crime. There does not have to be an arrest in order to apply.
Compensation can help with your out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance, Medicaid, Worker's Compensation, etc. Eligible expenses include medical, counseling, funeral and lost wages. The Victim Assistance Program has compensation applications and can help you apply.
Many defendants (accused) are released on bond from jail before disposition of their case. Bond is guaranteed by the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions, except in certain cases.
Bond is money or property put up to ensure the defendant's appearance in court. The Judge considers several issues in determining the bond amount of the accused: the possibility of fleeing, the threat or danger to the community, the risk of committing another crime, and the possibility of threatening witnesses.
Many defendants will be immediately released because the amount of bond is pre-set. The defendant gets a bonding company or an individual to provide a cash or property bond. This may be done within hours of the defendant's being arrested.
If the defendant has not made bond within 72 hours, most will appear before a Judge. At that time, a bond may be set and the defendant may be released. Usually, victims do not attend these first appearance hearings and will not be notified of them since they are routine in most cases. An exception occurs where the law requires that victims be notified before bond is set. It is the policy of most Judges to restrain defendants in domestic violence from having contact with alleged victims.
There are certain serious crimes in which a bond can only be set by a Superior Court Judge. These hearings are usually at a later time after notice to the District Attorney's Office. The Victim Assistance Program will attempt to notify you prior to these bond hearings.
If the accused is a juvenile (under 17), the proceedings are different. Call Columbia County Juvenile Court at 706-868-3320.
The Victim Assistance Program in the Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office can inform you of your rights, assist you with any questions you may have or refer you to the appropriate agency for help. The hours are 8:30 am until 5 pm, Monday through Friday. The services are free.
Warrant: A warrant is a document issued by the Judge giving police the authority to arrest the accused. Victims may be required to obtain a copy of the police report and go to the County Courthouse for a warrant. If bond can be set and the accused is able to pay, the accused will be released from jail.
Preliminary Hearing: After an arrest, a preliminary hearing may be held. Witnesses and/or police officers are usually subpoenaed to appear at this hearing. At that time the Magistrate Court Judge listens to the testimony to determine whether there is probable cause for the case to go to a higher court; i.e., State or Superior Court.
Grand Jury: (Felony cases only) The 23 citizens on the Grand Jury hear testimony and review evidence relating to the crime. They determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring an indictment to trial. If an indictment is returned (True Bill), the case goes to the Superior Court for trial. If the Grand Jury decides not to return an indictment, the case is "no billed." This hearing is done in private. Neither the defendant nor his/her attorney is present.
Arraignment: Once a defendant has been formally charged (by indictment or accusation) with the crime, the defendant answers to the charges in Superior Court. This hearing is referred to as an "arraignment," at which time the defendant may enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty," in open court. You may attend, although it is not necessary for you to be present.
Plea: A defendant may plead guilty to the charge any time after arrest. If he/she chooses to plead guilty, a plea hearing is held. The Judge may sentence him/her then or at a later date.
Jury Trial: A jury of twelve citizens listens to testimony and determines whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. All 12 must agree beyond a reasonable doubt for there to be a conviction. Witnesses are subpoenaed to a jury trial. The Judge may sentence immediately after conviction or may order a PSI (pre-sentencing investigation).