Waiting until the day before your court date to hire an attorney is like waiting until the day before your final exam to study that 500 page text book. DON'T WAIT! Get started early. Waiting weakens your defense dramatically . . . witnesses move, evidence is lost or thrown out, bruises heal and vanish, and scenes even change before we can photograph them. The key to a successful defense of a criminal case is moving fast with the investigation phase of your case . . . and that is what Robert Speer, The Magic Lawyer® and his staff does to defend you.
. . . and that is what Attorney Robert Speer and his staff has. Thinking "guilty" right when the client comes in and not defending them aggressively is a mistake. We think NOT GUILTY - - - no matter how bad the case is. Many cases handled by Attorney Robert Speer ended with a GREAT RESULT because he goes into a case with a NOT GUILTY mindset.
FIRST APPEARANCE HEARINGS:
If a person has not bonded out of jail soon enough, then they are brought before a judge for a hearing to, among other things, establish whether or not the arresting officer had enough “probable cause” to arrest the person. If the person was arrested with a warrant, the hearing must be held within 72 hours of the date that they were arrested, if they were arrested without a warrant, then a hearing must be held within 48 hours after the date they were arrested. If a person has bonded out of jail, then they have waived the right to have a probable cause hearing.
In a GA Criminal Defense case after the prosecutor drafts an accusation (in all misdemeanor cases and in some felony cases) or after the Grand Jury hands down an indictment (in most felony cases), then the case gets set down for an arraignment and placed on a calendar before a judge. Some (mostly traffic) cases are prosecuted on the citation issued by the arresting officer and the arraignment date is placed on the citation. The arraignment is the formal proceeding that is usually (but not always) the first formal appearance required of the accused. The purpose of this hearing is for the accused to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. The arraignment is not the same as a trial and the officers or other witnesses are usually not required to appear. If the accused enters a plea of not guilty (which is normally the best thing to do), the case will be set down for a trial, either before a jury or before a judge sitting without a jury. Most cases are set down initially for a jury trial, which can be converted to a non jury trial later (once a person “waives jury” they usually cannot get a jury trial later). All felonies are handled in the Superior Court of the county in which the crime occurred, and most misdemeanors are handled in lower courts, such as traffic courts, recorder's courts, state courts and even probate courts. One important rule – pre-trial motions should be filed at or before a person's arraignment, so it is best to hire an attorney well before your arraignment date, so that he or she can prepare and file these motions for you.
MOTIONS AND MOTION HEARINGS:
Often critical to winning a criminal case, it is very important to file what are called pre-trial motions. These are written documents that an attorney files well before the trial of the case to ask the judge in the case to do something specific -- usually to throw out evidence. In some cases, the prosecutor will decide to reduce or dismiss charges based on good motions filed by the defense attorney. Generally, once motions are filed, a hearing is needed to determine those issues raised in the motions.
You can have a bench trial, which is with only the judge presiding, or a trial before a jury. Misdemeanor cases are tried before 6 jurors and felony cases are tried before 12 jurors. There are numerous hours involved in the preparation for, and the actual trial, of a case. One of the most important aspects of the trial of a GA Criminal Defense case is the filing and arguing of pre-trail motions. Numerous motions can be filed in a particular case. Most of these are discovery motions that require the prosecutor to give me information about your case. Other important motions can be filed to ask the court to keep the jury from hearing evidence in your case – such as an alcohol test, or statements that you made to the arresting officer. Once all motions have been argued and other pre-trial matters resolved, the trial begins. It can be a long process that entails long waiting periods just to get reached on the court's calendar. Your case is not the only one that is going to trial. Jury trials are especially time consuming and the typical misdemeanor jury trial can last at least three full days. Usually, the judge will put your case “on call,” which means that, when your case is reached, the judge's office will call you in (usually for the next morning). If a person has hired an attorney (which they definitely should), the judge's office will contact the attorney regarding when the case will go forward.
ACQUITTAL OR SENTENCING:
If your case goes to trial and we win a verdict of acquittal, then the accused is free to go and has been found not guilty by the judge or the jury. The bond money posted is refunded and the record is made to reflect the fact that the accused was found not guilty. No conviction is on the record of the accused. Should the accused be found (or plead) guilty of the charges, then the judge will impose a sentence, which can include a fine, jail time, community service, or even result in the suspension of the defendant's driver's license. A conviction is then placed on the record of the convicted person. If the accused lost at trial, then that verdict can be appealed to a higher court.
Once a verdict is handed down by the jury or judge in a case, the defendant has a right to appeal the verdict. There are certain time limits that apply in an appeal, and if those time limits are missed, then the defendant has (generally) waived their right to appeal the verdict. The defendant must have grounds to appeal a verdict. The usual grounds for appeal are that the judge made some sort of legal error during the trial, or that there simply was not enough evidence to uphold the verdict. The State (prosecution) never has a right to appeal a verdict (but they do have a right to appeal the judge's granting of a defendant's motion to suppress). Appellate procedure is very complex and an attorney well versed in appellate procedure should be retained to handle the appeal of a GA Criminal Defense case.
In Georgia, a person who has been aggrieved by the legal process has a right to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus is usually sought when a person is being wrongfully held (in prison or jail), or has been otherwise improperly treated by the legal system. A petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the criminal context is filed in the Superior Court in which the person being held is located. Certain statutes of limitations apply and an attorney should be consulted about this procedure. A person can file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal or state court. Different rules apply in each court. Habeas Corpus is a civil matter, but is usually very closely related to a criminal case. It is important to know that a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is not a criminal case itself and different rules apply to a habeas corpus case. See O.C.G.A. § 9-14-40, et seq. for more information.
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