If you are facing criminal charges in Georgia, there are many mistakes you need to avoid in order to give yourself the best chance of avoiding a conviction and harsh sentencing at trial. If you make assumptions if you overlook key aspects of the law, or if you fail to approach your case with the seriousness it deserves, you could find yourself facing the consequences for years – if not decades – to come.
Charged with a Crime in Georgia? Don’t Make These Costly Mistakes
Georgia’s criminal justice system is complicated, and there are several laws and constitutional principles that apply during criminal cases in the Georgia state courts. As a result, the single most important thing you can do when facing criminal charges is to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you avoid mistakes such as:
Mistake #1: Assuming You Will Be Convicted
Regardless of the circumstances leading up to your ticket or arrest, you must not assume that you will be convicted at trial. The prosecutor’s office has the burden of proving your guilt in court; if there isn’t sufficient evidence of your guilt, you cannot be legally convicted even if you committed a crime. In addition, even if you think you committed a crime, (i) the act you committed might not actually be illegal in Georgia, or (ii) you might have defenses that justify or excuse your conduct.
Mistake #2: Assuming You Won’t Be Convicted
However, while there are many potential defenses to criminal charges in Georgia, you must also avoid assuming that you will walk free if your case goes to trial. Despite carrying a heavy burden of proof, prosecutors secure guilty verdicts all the time, and the rate of wrongful convictions is alarming. Even if you are absolutely certain that you have done nothing wrong, you must still approach your case as if it carries the risk of leading to a conviction – because it absolutely does.
Mistake #3: Assuming the Police Followed the Law
Police officers make mistakes, just like everyone else. While it is possible that your stop and arrest were conducted in strict compliance with the law, it is also entirely possible that the arresting officer or a police investigator who questioned you when you were taken in for booking violated your constitutional rights.
Mistake #4: Assuming Prosecutors Will Follow the Law
Prosecutors make mistakes as well. From relying on inadmissible evidence to withholding key evidence during discovery, various prosecutorial mistakes can jeopardize the state’s case and entitle defendants to “not guilty” verdicts at trial.
Mistake #5: Missing a Court Date
When facing criminal charges in Georgia, you will have to appear in court on multiple occasions (unless your attorney is able to use police or prosecutorial mistakes, or other defenses, to resolve your case early in the process). If you miss a court date, the judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest and you can be held in jail until your trial.
Mistake #6: Simply Waiting for Your Trial Date to Arrive
In addition to making sure you appear for your court dates on time, there are various other steps you can take to protect yourself and build an effective defense strategy prior to your trial date. Rather than simply waiting for your case to go to court, you (or your attorney) can:
- Request access to the state’s evidence against you (through the process of “discovery”)
- File motions to challenge the admissibility of the state’s evidence in court
- Negotiate for a reduced charge or a reduced sentence
- Seek entry into Georgia’s Pretrial Diversion Program (which will result in your charges being dismissed once you complete the program successfully)
- Take other steps to convince the court that you are remorseful and that you are working on reforming your conduct or seeking treatment for alcohol or drug dependence
Mistake #7: Ignoring or Overlooking Possible Defenses
As we mentioned above, there are numerous possible defenses to criminal charges in Georgia. When your freedom is on the line, you need to explore all options for avoiding sentencing at trial. Even “minor” details can be enough to prevent the prosecutor’s office from meeting its burden of proof, and you want to be absolutely certain that you are fighting your charges by all means available.
Mistake #8: Banking on a Single Defense
Along these same lines, even if you have one defense that seems particularly solid, you do not want to rely solely on this defense to protect you. While throwing the kitchen sink at the judge or jury may lead to confusion and make it appear as though you do not have any individual defense that requires an acquittal, relying on one defense when you have multiple defenses available could leave you unnecessarily exposed.
Mistake #9: Failing to Understand the Consequences of a Conviction
Under Georgia law, all misdemeanors and felonies carry potential fines and jail time. In fact, the maximum penalties for misdemeanors start at up to a $1000 fine and 12 months in jail. In addition, the practical consequences of a conviction can impact all aspects of your work and personal life, from making it extremely difficult to find a job to prevent you from seeing your children. For more information on the consequences of criminal convictions in Georgia, you can read:
- What are the Penalties for Felonies and Misdemeanors in Georgia?
- Georgia Criminal Records are Not Eligible for Expungement
Mistake #10: Trying to Handle Your Criminal Case on Your Own
With these risks in mind, the best way to protect yourself when facing criminal charges in Georgia is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Presenting a successful defense requires a thorough understanding of the law and intimate familiarity with the procedures involved in Georgia criminal cases. Contact us to learn more.
Contact Our Augusta, GA Criminal Law Offices to Discuss Your Case in Confidence
Our Augusta criminal lawyers provide experienced legal representation for individuals who are facing misdemeanor and felony charges throughout Georgia. For more information about how we can protect you, call 706-200-1578 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation.