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Stages of a Criminal Case in Georgia


Any charges enacted by the law can be confusing and frightening, especially if the charge is criminal. If you have ever even had a traffic violation or have a criminal offense, chances are you have probably made a court appearance.

Unless you’re a legal professional, you may not understand all the language or processes that come with a criminal charge, including things like court appearances and their requirements. From the arraignment to the final disposition, understanding the process can help you to understand your rights.

At Andrew L. Schwartz Law, we understand that the criminal process can be hard to navigate, especially alone. Our firm will review every relevant aspect of your case, which includes visiting the scene, examining the evidence, and researching the law and circumstances leading up to the event in question. He will use expert witnesses to develop evidence in your favor or to undermine evidence presented by the prosecutor. In all stages of the legal process-arraignment, pre-trial hearings, at trial and in negotiations with the prosecutor-the firm will work to protect your rights and defend your freedom.

Here we explain each of the different stages of the criminal process in Georgia. This is our way of assisting you with a brief look at the criminal case process.

Stage #1. You’ve Been Arrested or Have Received a Citation

Before a case becomes a criminal case, an incident will lead to the eventual charges. By either breaking the law or allegedly breaking the law, the first part of the process will be receiving a citation or being arrested.

Once you have been arrested, you will be read your Miranda rights, then be taken to a police station and “booked” or documented before being put in jail. Here you will get your photo taken and have your fingerprints recorded. Before you are released, you will have an appearance before a judge. .

What Happens After the Initial Appearance?

Within 48 hours of your arrest, you will be brought before a judge for your initial appearance. Upon the initial appearance, a judge will read to you the charges against you. Then, the judge will ask you if you already possess an attorney that will represent you. The judge will then have one appointed if you don’t have one or cannot afford one. The judge will then decide on whether they should grant bail and what amount that bail will be. Please note that a magistrate judge doesn’t have the jurisdiction to grant bail.

In Georgia, there are a few charges that a magistrate judge won’t grant bail. Here are the charges that a superior court judge must hear:

  • Stalking
  • Gang Activity
  • Rape
  • Force Sodomy
  • Aggravated Child Molestation
  • Hijacking a Vehicle or Aircraft
  • Murder
  • Treason
  • Manufacturing or Sale of a Schedule I or Schedule II Controlled Substance

If the judge can grant bail, then four statutory factors will be considered when making the decision. Which the factors are:

  • There is no significant threat or intimidation that the defendant can do to the witnesses or anyone administering justice.
  • There is no significant threat or danger to the defendant to anyone, community, or property.
  • There is no significant risk of fleeing from the court’s jurisdiction or failing to appear in court when required.
  • The defendant poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending the trial.

After the initial appearance, you will be scheduled for a preliminary hearing. This is where the magistrate judge will decide whether there is probable cause that the defendant committed the crime. Once probable cause is determined, the case will be bound over to a higher court.

Stage #2. Entering a Plea at Arraignment

The arraignment is when you will present yourself before a trial court, be told the charges against you, and then be asked to submit your plea to those charges. At the arraignment is where you will plead guilty,not guilty, or no contest, but you do have the option of entering no plea. If this is the case, the court will enter your plea as not guilty. After you are arraigned, (and if you pleaded not guilty), you will be given a trial date.

Stage #3. Going to Trial

Going to trial is the most complex stage of the criminal case. There will be two types of trials in Georgia: a jury trial and a bench trial.

In most states, including Georgia, you will have the right to a jury trial for any felony or misdemeanor charge. If you want a trial by jury, then you will need to request one. This is generally done at the arraignment or with a written motion. In the state of Georgia, the prosecutors will also be able to demand a trial by jury.

In a bench trial, there will be no jury. This trial is presided over and ruled by the judge. The judge will listen to the case and decide on whether the defendant is guilty or not. These trials are usually helpful if the law is on your side and you believe that a jury might not be. Consult an attorney before deciding on a bench trial.

Get Legal Counsel That Will Fight For You

The law can be very complex and overwhelming. The stress and trauma of dealing with the criminal case process should not have to be something you deal with alone. By having an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer, you will get help and an advocate through an otherwise even more laborious process.

Andrew L. Schwartz is a dedicated litigator and successful trial lawyer that will defend your rights and fight for your freedom. He has the experience necessary to help you every step of the way, including bonds, arraignments, plea negotiations, motions, appeals, trials, and expungements.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, then contact us today.

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