Who are the players in a criminal case?
Legally, only the State of Georgia and the defendant (the person accused of a crime) are “parties” in a criminal case. However, in most criminal cases there are many more players. The State is represented by an attorney called the prosecutor. Solicitor General for misdemeanor cases and District Attorney for felony cases. The prosecutor typically works with the police and any victims in the case to convince a judge or jury of your guilt. Of course, it is your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney’s job to hold the State to its burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Both sides may have witnesses.
What is a plea?
A plea resolves your case without a trial.
Pleas can be negotiated or non-negotiated, or blind. If a plea is negotiated, this means that your attorney and the prosecutor have agreed on an appropriate outcome that satisfies both sides. When you go to court, the judge is notified that an outcome has been negotiated, and the deal is presented to the judge. The judge ultimately decides whether to accept the plea deal or to reject it. If the judge rejects the plea deal, you have the right to withdraw (take back) your plea and to go to trial.
A non-negotiated plea occurs when your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is unable to reach an agreement with the prosecutor. In a non-negotiated plea (also known as a “blind” plea), both the prosecutor and your attorney present what they believe to be an appropriate resolution to the judge, and the judge ultimately decides the outcome. This can be a good option in jurisdictions with unreasonable prosecutors. It is not, however, without risk – it leaves your sentence solely in the judge’s hands, and you do not have the right to withdraw your plea if you do not agree with what the judge decides.
The decision about whether to plead guilty in your case, and whether to move forward with a negotiated or non-negotiated plea, should be made only after consultation with your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney.
I think I want to plead guilty – why do I need an attorney?
You should never appear in court without an attorney, even if you believe that it is your best option to plead guilty. There are several reasons for this. First, a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is the best person to negotiate your case with the State and get you the best possible outcome. Because I have handled so many cases, I have worked with most of the judges and prosecutors in the many jurisdictions around the state of Georgia. As a result, I will provide you with great insight and advice about how harsh the sentence is likely to be and how we can get the most favorable outcome.
Second, pleading guilty to a criminal or traffic offense may have collateral consequences that go beyond the sentence that the judge hands down in court. For example, while convictions in most traffic cases merely result in points on your license, there are some offenses that carry an automatic license suspension, which the judge may or may not inform you about in court. Other offenses can affect your immigration status if you are not a United States citizen.
Finally, pleading guilty may not actually be your best option. A Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is trained to examine all of the evidence in your case and to determine what valid defenses there may be to your criminal charge. In many cases, attorneys can find defenses that non-lawyers are not expected to know about.
I have a warrant out for my arrest – what should I do?
You should call a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. In some jurisdictions, certain types of warrants are not difficult to clear up. But failing to clear up a pending warrant can result in a huge inconvenience. For example, if you are stopped for a minor traffic offense and you have a warrant out for your arrest, the police will most likely take you into custody, even if that offense would normally just result in a traffic citation and not arrest.
If you think you might have a warrant out for your arrest, call me today. Only your attorney can properly advise you of what to do based on the particular type of warrant, the jurisdiction, and on the circumstances of your case.
I think I may qualify for a public defender, so why should I try to hire an attorney?
Public defenders in Georgia carry massive caseloads. While most are competent attorneys, they simply do not have the time or the resources necessary to fight each case. In contrast, I work diligently to conduct a full investigation in each case and to ensure that each of my clients receives personal attention.
I was arrested for DUI – what do I need to do now?
If you have been arrested for a DUI offense, you must act within 30 calendar days to protect your driving privileges from being suspended. There are several different routes to take here, and you should discuss these options with a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. One option is to request an Administrative License Suspension Hearing within 30 calendar days of your arrest or within the service date of the DDS-1205 form that the officer will serve upon you. There is a $150 fee that will need to be sent along with your request for a hearing. Or, you can elect to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed on your vehicle and apply for a limited permit. There are installation and monthly fees associated with the Ignition Interlock Device. In the event you refused the state test of your blood, breath, urine or other bodily substance and you fail to act within the 30 calendar day period, you license will be suspended for twelve months with no privileges to drive whatsoever. If you do not take any action within 45 days of being issued the DDS-1205 form, your license will be suspended on the 46th day after the arrest or serve date of the DDS-1205 form.
The police want to question me – what should I do?
If the police want to question you, you should call a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible, even if you have not been charged with a crime. You have certain rights when being questioned by the police, and an attorney can best advise you of these rights. You have the right to have your attorney present with you during any questioning, and you should always ask for your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney prior to answering any questions.
Do you charge hourly fees?
No. I charge a flat fee based on the complexity of the case. Typically, at our consultation meeting we will discuss fees and come to an agreement. I do not believe in surprising my clients with fees not previously discussed.
How does bail work?
Bail is a way to allow people charged with crimes to be released from jail pending their court dates, while taking steps to ensure their presence in court. Typically, a magistrate judge will set a bond based on the type of charge and on whether the judge thinks a person is dangerous or likely to flee the jurisdiction. These are the most common ways to post bail in Georgia:
Cash Bond – A person (such as a friend or relative of the defendant) posts the full amount of the bond in cash on the defendant’s behalf. Typically, the bond money is refunded once the case is closed out, provided the defendant did not miss any of his or her court dates.
Surety Bond – Surety bonds usually go through bonding companies. A person acting on the defendant’s behalf pays a bonding company a portion of the bond (usually around 10% – 12%, although this may vary), and the bonding company pledges to pay the remainder of the bond if the defendant fails to appear. The bonding company is then responsible for ensuring the defendant’s presence in court. Most of the time, the person who originally paid the bonding company does not get a full refund once the case is closed out, because the bonding company keeps the initially paid 10% – 12% as their fee.
Own Recognizance (OR) Bond – In an OR bond, essentially a person need only sign his or her name in order to be released. He or she must still show up for any future court dates.
Property Bond – If a person’s family has no money to post bond, they may pledge property as collateral to ensure that the person shows up for court.
For information about bail and about how criminal cases typically proceed after a person posts bail, click here.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions.
I offer free consultations to potential clients because I believe that people charged with crimes in Georgia have the right to know their options. If you have additional questions regarding your case, please do not hesitate to contact me today. I have extensive experience with prosecutors and police officers around the state. I can assist you with your case and will work to receive the best possible outcome on your case. Please contact me today for a free consultation.