State Criminal Defense

by Pete Strom on December 12, 2011

Criminal Defense in Georgia State Courts

Anyone who is charged with a crime faces the power of the government and the possibility of severe consequences. Whether you are accused with a misdemeanor or a serious felony, you need a skilled advocate to protect your rights. At Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., we have a combination of awareness and experience to provide you with aggressive, effective criminal defense. Our attorneys are both skilled negotiators and litigators.  Whether your case will be resolved through a plea agreement or trial, we will seek to protect your rights.  We understand the significance of your rights at stake as well as what an intimidating ordeal a criminal prosecution can be. As a result, we are committed to keeping you involved in all stages of your case.  We will inform you of the latest developments in your case. Every possible option and strategy will be fully explained and explored. Our approach to defending your rights will be determined by your goals and molded by your input. At Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., we are as concerned as you are that your rights are in jeopardy. While we cannot guarantee results, we can guarantee that your case will be personally handled by a skilled professional who is devoted to fighting for your rights and keeping you informed.

The types of crimes that Strom Law Firm assists clients includes:  Assault; Battery; Domestic Violence; DUI; Drug Crimes, including possession, possession with intent to distribute, and trafficking; Fraudulent Checks; Shoplifting; Theft Crimes; Embezzlement; Fraud; Insurance Fraud; Homicides, including Felony DUI, involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, murder; and any other misdemeanor charges in Georgia State Court or felony charges Georgia Superior Court.

The criminal process, while intimidating, can be broken down in to several steps in Georgia.  Often times, the criminal process is initiated by an arrest or a ticket.  The process includes the arrest, pretrial proceedings, plea or trial, sentencing, appeal and other post-trial matters.

Arrest

Following the arrest, the defendant will appear for a bond hearing.  At a bond hearing, the defendant will appear before a judge, sometimes without the aid of a lawyer, and determine the amount of security that must be posted before the defendant can be released.  At the bond hearing, the judge must make a decision, taking into account the seriousness of the charges, the threat the defendant poses to the community, and the likelihood that the defendant will not appear for future proceedings.  A skilled advocate can help the judge understand these factors to ensure a low bond, or at least a bond that the family can post.  Strom Law Firm will assist in bond hearings.  If the bond is set at an amount the defendant or family believes is too high, in some circumstances, Strom Law Firm can be retained to pursue a bond reduction.  At the bond hearing, the defendant may also be arraigned and advised of the charges against him or her.

Pretrial Proceedings

Pretrial proceedings in Georgia include the Preliminary Hearing, Grand Jury proceedings, Indictment, Discovery, and Pretrial Motions.  At the Preliminary Hearing, witnesses will testify before a judge regarding the facts that surround the charges.  At a Preliminary Hearing, the defendant will have the opportunity to cross-examine the state’s witnesses.  Often times, this is an important time to get information from the charging officer or witnesses under oath for use in later proceedings.  Also, the defendant’s lawyer can explain to the judge why charges are not sufficient and should be dismissed before being reviewed by a grand jury.  The judge will decide if probable cause exists for the charges to proceed.  The judge will either dismiss the charges without prejudice or allow the case to proceed to the grand jury.  A defendant should be represented at this important stage of the proceedings.

If the judge allows the charges to proceed, the state will present the charges to the grand jury who will determine if there is probable cause and issue an indictment.  A defendant does not have the right to appear before the grand jury or cross-examine witnesses.  If formal charges are filed through an Indictment, then the defendant can request discovery, including any favorable evidence that the prosecution has that could help the defense.  A lawyer should always carefully review all discovery with the client to determine if the evidence is accurate and if not, who would be the witnesses to dispute the evidence.  A lawyer then should interview all appropriate witnesses.

In some circumstances, the discovery will identify improper evidence that could require pretrial motions be filed with the court to suppress evidence.  This is typically in the form of a Motion to Suppress Evidence or a Motion in Limine (also used to suppress certain types of evidence).  If a Motion to Suppress Evidence is appropriate, that should be filed well before trial, as the Court’s rulings on what evidence is admissible will shape plea negotiations or how the case will be tried to a jury.

Guilty Plea or Trial

At the conclusion of the pretrial proceedings, a defendant will have to decide whether to engage in plea negotiations, go to trial, or both.  Often times, the he or she will pursue both.  It is our experience that lawyers must prepare all cases as if they were to go to trial to be in the best position to negotiate a plea agreement.  Nonetheless, if the state does not make a plea offer that is acceptable to a defendant, a trial is the only means of protecting the his or her rights.  Moreover, if the defendant is innocent, not only of the charges but completely innocent, absent a dismissal by the state, a trial is the only means for vindication.  At a trial, it is the state’s burden to prove to a jury that the accused is guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.  At a trial, the defense has the right to cross-examine witnesses, present it’s own witnesses, and the accused has the option to either testify at trial or remain silent.

Post-Trial Proceedings

If a jury finds the defendant guilty, he or she should immediately file a Motion for New Trial challenging any and all errors at trial.  Often times, the challenge will be for ineffective assistance of counsel.  As a result, it might be wise to retain a different attorney to review the trial transcript and pursue the Motion for New Trial.  Moreover, the Motion for new trial sets up arguments for Appeal.  After exhaustion of appeals, a defendant may file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Georgia), challenging the constitutionality of his or her conviction.  Strom Law Firm will represent Habeas Corpus petitioners in Georgia Superior Courts, the Georgia Supreme Court, and in Federal Court.