Lengthy Atlanta Municipal Court sentences potentially overturned

In a surprising move, the City of Atlanta's Solicitor's Office conceded Friday that some of the sentences handed down in Municipal Court have exceeded mandated limits.

The concession could affect thousands of defendants, said attorney Jackie Patterson, whose client's punishment of 48 months probation on four counts -- 12 months per count -- was overturned after assistant solicitor Roni Graham acknowledged the city "only has jurisdiction for six month" sentences.

"This should now put a stop to unlawful sentences" dating back to 1996, when the charter for the municipal court was adopted, Patterson said.

According to Section 4-102, Article 5, punishment for violations may not exceed a fine of $1,000 "or imprisonment for six months." Probation and imprisonment are interchangeable.

Patterson's client, Anthony Brooks, was found guilty last fall by Chief Municipal Court Judge Crystal Gaines on one count of marijuana possession and three counts of driving with a suspended license.

"Apparently no one had read the charter," Patterson said.

Those who have, within the past year, received sentences of more than six months in Municipal Court are advised to contact an attorney who can file the proper documents to revisit their sentences.

Graham declined comment after Friday's brief hearing before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural D. Glanville.

"I'm glad the City of Atlanta's Solicitor's Office had he courage to concede they were wrong," Patterson said.