Magistrate Court

Welcome to the Stephens County Magistrate Court web page. We are pleased to provide the information on this website as a service to our residents to be used as a general guide involving legal matters.

The limited jurisdiction Magistrate Court was constitutionally created in 1983  and has evolved and expanded considerably since its inception 36 years ago. The Court’s purpose, mission and goal is to provide the residents of Stephens County high quality judicial professionalism by providing a litigant-friendly and efficient court system, where everyone can expect a fair and impartial treatment with all aspects of court proceedings and in a timely manner without the necessity of being represented by an attorney. An attorney is not required in this Court, making the Magistrate Court accessible for self-represented parties.

The Civil Division handles matters such as:

Abandoned Motor Vehicles
An abandoned motor vehicle is property over which the owner has given up dominion and control with no intention of recovering it.

Dispossessory (Landlord-Tenant) Actions
The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to hear landlord-tenant disputes which includes dispossessory proceedings.

Small Claims
If you cannot resolve a dispute with a business or a person and the amount in controversy is less than $15,000.00, you may electronically file a case in Magistrate court.

Garnishment is the term of the legal process by which the garnishee pays into court the money, or property, that the garnishee owes to the judgment debtor.

Foreclosure of Personal Property
Personal property foreclosure is an action which allows a secured party, such as a lender, to seek return of tangible, transportable property that secured a debt, i.e., a car, boat, motorcycle, furniture, appliances.

The criminal division handles matters such as:

Pre-warrant applications
An individual who believes he or she has been a victim of a crime and the police have not taken an arrest warrant for the accused may file a complaint requesting a warrant for the arrest of another person.

First appearance hearings
The purpose of a first appearance hearing is to notify arrested persons of the charge(s) being brought against them. Also, the judge will consider bail and whether to impose any conditions of release. If the judge is not authorized to set bail or declines to set bail, the defendant will be notified. The defendant will be provided information regarding the right to legal representation and how to apply for the assistance of appointed counsel if financially unable to hire an attorney.

Preliminary hearings
The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient reason (probable cause) to believe the defendant committed the crime(s) alleged in the warrant(s) that have been issued against the defendant. If probable cause exists the case is sent to either the Superior Court (felony) or the State Court (misdemeanor). The prosecuting attorney (the District Attorney or the Solicitor General) will investigate the case further and decide on further prosecution. The decision of the Magistrate Court does not determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Defendants are entitled to be represented by a private attorney of their own choosing or may be represented by an attorney from the State and Magistrate Court Public Defender’s Office.

During the hearing the State will present evidence they believe shows probable cause. The defendant’s attorney has the right to cross examine any witness called by the State. The defense may also call witnesses, but that is rarely done at a preliminary hearing. The judge may also reconsider the defendant’s bond, as appropriate.

The Magistrate Court also presides over all county ordinances violations, including animal control violations and violations of zoning ordinances. The Stephens County Marshal cites and prosecutes the above listed violations.

Visit the Chief Magistrate Page