A Quick Guide to Georgia’s Criminal Defense Procedure

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Hearing that you are being charged with a crime naturally creates stress and anxiety. You may wonder about the proceedings ahead. Knowing what to expect in terms of how a criminal charge works and court procedure can help you prepare.

Our criminal defense lawyers know that understanding Georgia’s criminal defense procedure can help you make the process as manageable as possible. It can also help you effectively assert your rights and fight back from the charges against you.

What is Georgia’s criminal defense procedure?

The Georgia criminal defense procedure is the process of a criminal case being heard in the court system. It is the various steps that occur to hear a criminal case. The rules determine how the case is heard.

What are the steps to criminal defense procedure in Georgia?

A criminal defense procedure in Georgia may include the following steps:

  1. Arraignment 

An arraignment notifies you of the charges against you. You may plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, the case proceeds straight to sentencing. If you plead not guilty, the court enters the not guilty plea and schedules further proceedings.

  1. Bond 

The court may address bond at the arraignment or at any time. Bond creates conditions for the defendant to comply with while the case is pending.

  1. Discovery Motions 

Your attorney should get to work right away filing discovery motions. Discovery allows the defense to demand information about the case from the prosecutor and police. 

As a defendant, you have the right to know what evidence exists against you. A discovery demand is paperwork filed with the court to formally request that the state produce its evidence, including a police report, witnesses, tangible evidence, video, photographs, test results, and more. The court may hold hearings if necessary.

  1. Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing is a mini-trial where the state must present sufficient evidence to proceed with the charges. While it is a preliminary hearing to determine probable cause, it can benefit the defense and should be taken seriously. The entire case or even select charges may be dismissed if the judge does not believe the state has presented probable cause.

  1. Pretrial Conference 

The pre-trial conference is a formal, scheduled meeting of the parties to discuss issues prior to trial. The court may address a variety of issues and evidentiary questions. The pretrial conference does not determine guilt. It is the opportunity for your defense attorney to raise various issues to ensure that you have a fair trial.

  1. Motions to Suppress 

A criminal case may be decided in your favor without even needing to go to trial. If law enforcement violated your rights in their investigation, the court may suppress the evidence law enforcement gathered against you. To have evidence suppressed, you must take the step of making a motion to the court requesting the suppression. Your attorney can help you decide if a motion is appropriate in your case.

  1. Entry of Plea

If a defendant decides to accept a plea, they enter the plea on the court record. The judge questions the defendant that they are knowingly and voluntarily waiving their right to trial and that there is a factual basis to support the plea.

  1. Trial 

If you do not accept a plea bargain, your case proceeds to trial. Trial involves selecting a jury, presenting evidence, questioning witnesses, and making arguments. There are rules that govern the procedure and process of a trial. 

  1. Sentencing 

If you’re found guilty of a crime, or if you plead guilty, you receive a sentence. A sentencing hearing is an important step to help the court understand why a certain sentence is appropriate.

  1. Appeal 

A person who is convicted of a crime has the right to appeal. An appeal should carefully detail where the court made errors that impacted the outcome of a proceeding.

What is the purpose of the Georgia criminal defense procedure?

The purpose of the Georgia criminal defense procedure is to create uniform rules for processing criminal cases. Both the prosecution and defense should know the rules and what to expect. Having uniform rules allows the court to process cases efficiently, fairly, and consistently.

Attorneys for Criminal Defense

Understanding procedure is critical to fighting back against criminal charges. An experienced attorney can help you utilize procedure to build your defenses and put yourself in a position to effectively respond to the charges against you.

You have the right to a criminal defense lawyer to represent you at all stages in criminal procedure. Contact our criminal defense lawyers today.

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