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Policies / FAQs

April 2021

Lookout Mountain District Attorney’s Office Officer Involved Shootings Protocol

 

All officer involved shooting incidents are investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). The Special Agent in Charge notifies the District Attorney when any such incident occurs. The District Attorney’s Office provides legal advice and support to the GBI during the course of the investigation. Once the investigation is completed, the GBI sends the file to the District Attorney for review. 

 

The District Attorney has three (3) options after reviewing the case file.

  1. The evidence clearly establishes that the shooting was legally justified and the officer involved acted properly within the law. In this instance, the case is closed and a letter is sent to the respective Law Enforcement Agency and the officer. In addition, a press release is generally issued detailing the reasons for the decision and the evidence supporting it. 

  2. The evidence clearly establishes that the officer has not followed the law and has engaged in criminal conduct.  In this instance, the District Attorney will present an indictment to the Grand Jury, which will present an indictment. 

  3. If the evidence is unclear, then the District Attorney may present the evidence to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury will hear the evidence and make recommendations to the District Attorney.  The District Attorney will consider the recommendation of the Grand Jury and either close the case or seek an indictment.

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What is the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit?

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit consists of the four counties in the northwest corner of Georgia: Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker Counties. There are approximately 180,000 people in the Circuit.

What is the jurisdiction of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s Office?

In the Superior Courts of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, the District Attorney’s Office is responsible for seeking justice in felony cases for Catoosa, Chattooga, Walker and Dade Counties and misdemeanors in Dade County. We also seek justice in all criminal offenses in the Juvenile Courts of the Judicial Circuit.

 

The District Attorney’s Office represents the people of the State of Georgia in the prosecution of criminal cases. The District Attorney’s Office does not and cannot represent individuals in civil matters of any kind and cannot give legal advice on any matter to any citizen.

What is the relationship between the local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office?

The working relationship between local law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office is independent and cooperative. Local law enforcement agencies investigate reports of crimes, make arrests and send evidence to the District Attorney’s Office for an independent review and determination of what, if any, charges will go forward for prosecution. Attorneys will review the evidence provided in each case, apply the appropriate law and decide if and how to seek justice. The case may be presented to a Grand Jury for indictment or filed directly in the Superior Court Clerk’s Office on an accusation.

What is the purpose of a Grand Jury in criminal cases?

The Grand Jury is comprised of local citizens selected randomly from the county.  The Grand Jury is tasked with determining if there is sufficient evidence under the law to move forward with an indictment in a criminal matter. The evidence before a Grand Jury will be presented by the District Attorney’s Office through witnesses, usually the officer who investigated the case from a local law enforcement agency such as the sheriff’s office or a municipal police department and other witnesses determined to be critical to the case. In these cases, the ultimate decision as to whether the case goes forward is determined solely by the Grand Jury.

What happens at arraignment?

An arraignment is a public hearing in which a defendant is formally notified of the charges against them. Generally, the defendant enters a plea of not guilty and is given ten days to file any motions.

 

Can a victim drop charges or decide not to press charges?

It is a common myth that a victim has the power to “press charges” or “drop charges” after charges are brought against someone.  All criminal actions are prosecuted on behalf of the State of Georgia and not on behalf of any individual. The final decision whether to prosecute or not is made by the District Attorney’s Office. The opinion of the victim is very important and will be taken into consideration. However, all the facts and circumstances of the incident must be considered including, but not limited to, the severity of the crime, the criminal history of the defendant, whether the defendant has other pending charges, and the probability of the defendant committing other offenses in the future.

If I get a subpoena do I have to go to court?

Witnesses are critical to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system. The state can’t hold a person accountable for committing a crime without the cooperation of the community.  If you are a witness for the state, our office can place you “on call” until you are needed for court. However, we can only do this if we have appropriate contact information for you. The subpoena you receive will provide information on how you may provide your contact information. The bottom-line answer is that you have to come to court if subpoenaed unless you are excused by the party who issued the subpoena or have a legal excuse for failing to appear. Otherwise, if you fail to appear, the judge may hold you in contempt of court. Be sure to bring your subpoena with you to court. Click here for more information.

 

I did not witness any crime but I got a subpoena.  Why am I a witness?

You do not have to be a direct eyewitness to a crime to present testimony in court. It is likely you know something that will assist the judge or jury in reaching a decision. If you received a subpoena and don’t know why, please call our office and ask for the prosecutor handling the case.

 

I am afraid of the defendant.  Will the defendant be present when I testify?

Yes, a defendant has a constitutional right to be present in court. However, all of our courthouses have very good security officers and there is no reason to fear the defendant in the courtroom.

 

My employer is not happy that I’ll miss work when I have to go to court on my subpoena.  Can I be fired?

Witnesses must go to court to testify when they have relevant information. It is a civic duty imposed upon all citizens to insure a just and fair judicial system. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for appearing in court pursuant to a subpoena.

As a victim, how do I find out the defendant’s next court date?

The victim witness staff will keep you appraised of any upcoming court dates if you are a victim in a case. If you are a witness, you should be given a subpoena for an upcoming court date. Make sure to follow the instructions on the subpoena and check out the subpoena information page on this website for more information. If you are a defendant, you will receive a notice to appear. Make sure your address is kept updated with the clerk's office to ensure the notice is sent to the correct address as it is your obligation to notify the court of any change in address.
 
The Court calendar is posted on the Superior Court website at Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit. CLICK HERE

 

How do I report a crime?

All reports of any criminal act should be made to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. The District Attorney’s Office does investigate criminal acts but works with law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal offenders. If you have an emergency situation, call 911 to be connected to the emergency services you require.

 

How can I have my criminal record expunged?

As of July 1, 2013, the rules on records restrictions (formerly known as expungements) changed significantly. An overview of the new law may be found at the Georgia Bureau of Investigations website. Please go to the expungement section of this website for more information.

 

I want to file a complaint about a police officer or deputy sheriff. Can the District Attorney help me?

No. You’ll need to report the matter to the officer’s employing agency.

 

How can I get a restraining order?

In the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, we are fortunate to have the Family Crisis Center which aids those seeking Temporary Protective Orders. The hotline number is 706-375-7630.  For assistance in obtaining a Temporary Protective Order in Walker County or Chattooga County, please call: 706-638-0402. For assistance in obtaining a Temporary Protective Order in Catoosa County or Dade County, please call: 706-866-1465.

 

What is a sentence recommendation? And do I as a victim have anything to say about it?

Our office has 16 prosecutors working in four counties who handle literally thousands of cases each year. The same is generally true across the country. Some in the general public believe there should be a jury trial in every case. To do so would require a tremendous amount of time, resources and, of course, money.  Many defendants are willing to plead guilty and accept responsibility. To that end, the District Attorney’s Office makes sentence recommendations in many cases. An important factor in a sentence recommendation is the victim’s input. In addition, there is consideration given to the defendant’s prior history, the nature of the crime itself, the strength or weaknesses of the evidence, public safety, the potential for rehabilitation, any potential for deterrence, and any other factors relevant to the circumstances of the particular case. The vast majority of cases are resolved in this fashion both in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit and across the United States.