Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Help! I just got arrested! What's going to happen?

You will be taken to the jail and processed, which means that you will be fingerprinted.  The jail will search to see if you have any warrants outstanding.  If there are no other warrants, typically there will be a set bond for your release.  You can either pay the bond amount or seek a bail bond company, who charges a fee to provide a bond for your release.  For example, if there is a $3,000.00 bond, you can either pay the $3,000.00 to get out or obtain a bail bond company, who will typically charge a 10 percent fee, in this case $300.00, to front the bond.

After you get out on bond, at some point there will be an arraignment, which is your opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.  Often for misdemeanor crimes there will be an opportunity to speak with the prosecuting attorney about a plea opportunity.  Be careful if you do not have an attorney because the prosecutor can obtain information from you which could be against your interest.  If you take a plea, then you will typically meet with the probation department to discuss the requirements of probation.  After your probation has ended you will have served your sentence.

If you do not take a plea, then you have the right to trial by judge or jury.  The State has the requirement of proving your guilt.  You do not have to testify, and have the right to question the State's evidence.  If convicted, the judge will sentence you based on the type of crime you committed.

In Georgia relatively few criminal cases are ever tried.  If you lose at trial most judges will provide severe penalties that are far in excess of what was offered in a plea deal.   If the State's case is weak, they will simply offer a plea for a lesser offense or provide very light terms.  Often an innocent person will plead to a crime they did not commit because they fear they may be convicted and face the draconian terms provided by a Judge.  This is called an "Alford plea", where you take the punishment but do not admit your guilt.

At all points in this process it is important to retain an attorney.   The public defender's office does a good job with limited resources, but a private attorney has more time to review the State's evidence and present mitigating evidence.   A local attorney will have a good working knowledge of the typical sentences for your jurisdiction and when the State is over charging.  You may need to provide mitigating evidence to seek a lesser sentence, for example, that you are suffering from drug addiction and are seeking help.  If you are working with a family to support the prosecutor may be less likely to seek jail time.  Your attorney may seek a "blind plea", where the client is guilty but the prosecutor's plea offer is too high.  Please remember that it costs the State money to incarcerate people, so it is in everyone's best interests to find alternative sentences.

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Please call if you need legal representation to Thomas F. Tierney at (770) 631-1100 or e-mail at  Thomas F. Tierney is an attorney who represents clients in south metro Atlanta, including Fayette County, Coweta County, Peachtree City, Tyrone, Fayetteville, and Newnan Georgia.