If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia, you need to defend yourself by all means available. Under Georgia law, misdemeanors and felonies both carry the potential for substantial fines and terms of incarceration, and having a criminal conviction on your record can impact virtually all aspects of your life.
There are many potential defenses to criminal charges in Georgia. Determining which defenses you have available requires a thorough assessment of the allegations against you, the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest, and the specific criminal statutes that apply. Depending on the circumstances of your case, here are 20 defenses that you may be able to use to avoid a conviction (or mitigate the consequences of your arrest) when facing charges in Georgia criminal court:
1. Abandonment or Withdrawal
If you were involved in a plan to commit a crime but ultimately decided not to participate, you may be able to assert the defense of abandonment or withdrawal. In order to assert this defense, you must be able to show that you informed law enforcement of the plot or took other sufficient steps to prevent the commission of the crime.
If you were somewhere else when the crime was committed, proving your alibi will provide a strong defense to the charges against you. There are many ways to prove an alibi, from security camera footage to eye-witness testimony.
3. Burden of Proof
In Georgia, the prosecutor’s office must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can cast any reasonable doubt on the government’s case, then the jury cannot legally convict you.
4. Castle Doctrine
Georgia’s “castle doctrine” applies to the use of deadly force in the protection of your personal safety and your property in your own home. While the castle doctrine does not provide absolute protection, it will provide a strong defense in many cases involving attacks on intruders.
5. Coercion or Duress
If you committed a crime because someone else put you in a situation where you felt that you had no choice other than to do so, then you may be able to assert the affirmative defense of coercion or duress.
6. Defense of Others
Similar to self-defense (discussed below), defense of others can also constitute justification for the commission of an assault or homicide in Georgia. Exceptions include situations where the defendant provoked the attack, the defendant was fleeing after the commission of a felony, or the defendant was involved in physical combat.
7. Denial of Right to Counsel
Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all criminal defendants have the right to counsel. If you were denied your right to counsel, then any statements you made to the police or prosecutors may be inadmissible in your criminal trial.
8. Double Jeopardy
The Fifth Amendment also protects defendants against being prosecuted twice for substantially the same offense. This is true even if the prior prosecution did not result in a conviction.
9. Ex Post Facto Law Enforcement
You can only be prosecuted for a crime if it was outlawed at the time of your alleged offense. If Georgia enacted a law prohibiting your conduct after the fact, then you are protected under the U.S. Constitution’s protection against ex post facto criminal prosecution.
10. Faulty Evidence
From improper calibration of breathalyzer devices in DUI cases to chain of custody issues involving drugs, guns, and other evidence, if the government’s evidence against you is faulty, it should not be admitted into evidence in court.
Since the government has the burden of proof, you do not have to prove that you are innocent in order to avoid a conviction. However, if you can prove that you are innocent, then doing so should absolutely protect you from a guilty verdict at trial.
12. Mistake of Fact
The mistake-of-fact defense involves claiming that you believed your conduct was lawful based on your understanding of the circumstances at the time of the alleged offense. For example, if you thought you were borrowing someone’s phone rather than stealing it, you did not have the requisite “criminal intent” to be guilty of a crime.
13. Mistake of Law
While ignorance of the law is generally not a defense, there are limited circumstances in which a misunderstanding of the law can provide a defense to criminal culpability.
If you committed a crime because you felt that it was necessary to do so, then you may be able to assert the defense of necessity. For example, in the landmark case of State v. Cole, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the defendant was justified in driving on a suspended license in order to find a phone to seek medical attention for his pregnant wife.
Under Georgia law, “[a] person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself . . . however . . . a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself . . . or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” As discussed above with regard to defense of others, certain exceptions apply.
16. Setup or Planted Evidence
If you were arrested for possessing illegal drugs, unlawfully possessing a firearm, or any other possession-related offense, if the item was not yours, then you do not deserve to be convicted.
17. Surprise Evidence or Charges
As a general rule, the prosecution is required to disclose its charges and evidence during the pre-trial phase of your case. The introduction of surprise charges or surprise evidence at trial may violate your Sixth Amendment rights.
18. Unconstitutional Search or Seizure
The Fourth Amendment provides fundamental protections against unlawful searches and seizures. If the police searched you or seized your property without probable cause, then any evidence obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights should be suppressed from your trial.
19. Violation of Miranda Rights
In Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers must read suspects their rights prior to conducting a custodial interrogation. If you were interrogated without being read your rights, then any self-incriminating statements you made should be inadmissible in court.
20. Violation of the Right to a Fair and Speedy Trial
The Sixth Amendment guarantees all criminal defendants the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay and with an impartial jury. A violation of your Sixth Amendment rights may compel a verdict in your favor.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Augusta, GA
If you are facing criminal charges in Augusta, GA and would like to find out what defenses you have available, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible, call 706-200-1578 or inquire online now.