Thy Liberty in Law: Government resources on courts and crime

Katharine Lee Bates, opens a new window of Massachusetts (1859-1929) was a writer, professor, social activist, and the author of the lyrics to the song "America the Beautiful". One phrase from that song that always intrigued me as a child was “Thy liberty in law.” It was explained to me that with independence, America burst free of a system where a monarch’s whims were the only law. America’s revolution was to establish laws that everybody, through their legislators, could draft, and that everybody, even Congress, the military and the president, had to follow. That was our liberty. Certainly the impartial rule of law has displayed many warts over the years, and the story of America has been one where Americans continually study the law and work to amend and improve it.

James Meredith is escorted to class by U.S. Marshals in 1962.
U.S. Marshals escort James Meredith to his first class at the University of Mississippi, October 1, 1962.

A Federal Judiciary, opens a new window was established in Article III of the U.S. Constitution, opens a new window and a court system that served the country in geographic sections was laid out in the Judiciary Act of 1789, opens a new window. The first federal law enforcement was the U.S. Marshals, created in 1789. Marshals carried out the needs of the courts in every way, opens a new window, from making arrests to filling the courtroom water pitchers. They have also carried out such tasks as escorting the funeral trains of presidents and conducting the first 9 censuses.

A crime is federal when it violates United States federal legal codes or when the crime extends over multiple states. Learn more about cases decided in Federal courts, opens a new window. The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, opens a new window is located in Atlanta. 

Learn more about the U.S. Court structure, opens a new window. Included are links to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, District Courts, Circuit Courts, Bankruptcy Courts, and Article I Courts.

Anderson, SC, town ordinances,1860, opens a new window
Ordinances of the town of Anderson, SC, from 1860 establishing law enforcement.

The first state-funded local police force dates from 1838, though entities like publicly-funded slave patrols, opens a new window, vigilantes and watchmen existed back to colonial times. Local laws are enforced by local agents and police, though local law enforcement can receive extensive funding from the federal government in the form of grants tied to federal laws. For example, P.L. 103-322, opens a new window, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (usually called the 1994 Crime Bill) provides state and local funding for such diverse programs as drug treatment, state sex offender registries, battered women shelters, and the salaries of police officers.

Research on crime topics, opens a new window including hate crimes, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, intellectual property crimes, and gangs.

Local courts | School violence | Victim services | Data and statistics |

Local courts
Links to some local courts in the Atlanta metropolitan area

Fulton County Magistrate Court, opens a new window. The Civil Division handles matters such as Abandoned Motor Vehicles, Dispossessory (Landlord-Tenant) Actions, Small Claims, Garnishments, Weddings/Marriages, Personal Property Foreclosure. And, the Criminal Division handles matters such as Warrant Applications, First Appearance Hearings, Preliminary Hearings and Child Abandonment Warrant Applications. The Fulton County Magistrates also provide judicial assistance as requested by the Superior Court.

Misdemeanor Mental Health Court, opens a new window collaborates with several justice partners to help misdemeanor detainees with mental health needs.

The Housing Court Assistance Center, opens a new window within the Office of the Magistrate Clerk provides free legal consultations on housing matters.

Probate Court, opens a new window handles estates as well as guardianships of minors and adults.

Matters relating to minors are referred to Juvenile Court, opens a new window

A listing of state of Georgia law enforcement, opens a new window entities. Description and listing of Georgia corrections facilities, opens a new window. Some federal laws are delegated to the states to enforce. Atlanta Police Department, opens a new window enforces municipal laws and operates 911 within the city. 

Offender search engines

Georgia offender, opens a new window search. Georgia Sex Offender, opens a new window search. Georgia parolee, opens a new window search.

Federal inmate, opens a new window search. The Southeast Regional Office, opens a new window of the Federal Bureau of Prisons is located in College Park, with responsibility for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In the Atlanta area, it is responsible for the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, opens a new window on McDonough Boulevard with an adjacent Residential Reentry Management, opens a new window field office. 


School violence

Some resources relating to school violence and violence against children
Parents in Fulton County or the City of Atlanta searching for a missing child should call 9-1-1.

Hotline, opens a new window from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Poster detailing services of the Office for Victims of Crime, part of the U.S. Dept. of Justice., opens a new window
Poster detailing services of the Office for Victims of Crime, part of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

National Runaway Switchboard, opens a new window. Information about and help for runaways. The switchboard acts as a conduit for messages between runaways and their caretakers and administers the HOME FREE program, which provides free rides for runaways who wish to return home.

Information about the federal Gun-Free Schools Act, opens a new window and links to reports and data.


Assistance for victims of crime

The Georgia Crisis & Access Line, opens a new window1-800-715-4225, is always open to connect Georgians to local services for mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse.

Help for Victims of Crime, opens a new window page of the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Help brochures and listings of local help for crime victims. 

The Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program, opens a new window uses federal and local money to help crime victims, including police and businessowners, and service providers who help victims. It also has a program to erect memorial signs on Georgia highways for victims of DUI. 

Atlanta has a high incidence of human trafficking. Would you recognize one of its victims and know how to help? Georgia human trafficking hotline, opens a new window 1-866-ENDHTGA.


Data and statistics
Researchers can find a wealth of links to online information on the Crime section, opens a new window of the government documents data and statistics page.