No. In fact, a majority of cases never end up in trial court. Cases go through quite a few steps before reaching trial. The prosecution may decide to dismiss charges if they feel they don’t have a strong case or they lack evidence. The defense has an opportunity to file pretrial motions like motions to suppress evidence that could result in the prosecution dropping charges. Cases also frequently end in plea bargains before reaching trial court.
Life happens, and we understand you may miss court dates because of any number of innocent reasons. However, failing to appear for your court date can be considered an additional crime. It could increase your existing charges and paint you in a negative light – judges don’t like to waste their time. If you missed your court date, contact your attorney as soon as possible.
An “initial appearance” in Georgia is the first time you appear before a judge. An initial appearance is also known as an “arraignment.”
An arraignment is also known as an “initial appearance” or an “initial hearing.” At an arraignment, the prosecution reads the charges against you, and you enter your plea – either guilty or not guilty. It typically takes place a few days after arrest but can sometimes take longer.
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In Georgia, any crime that carries a sentence of one year or more is considered a felony. Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. Felony convictions result in loss of certain civil rights and result in other consequences like difficulty finding employment or housing even after you’ve served your sentence.
Beyond potential jail time and fines, having a felony conviction on your record involves life-changing consequences. Convicted felons lose the right to vote, the ability to sit on a jury, and the right to possess a firearm. People with felony convictions are also not eligible for certain types of employment, like teaching or working in a hospital. Beyond that, many employers will run background checks and hesitate to hire someone with a felony conviction.
A misdemeanor is a crime that carries a sentence of less than one year. Misdemeanor sentences are typically served in local or county jails.
By pleading “no contest” a defendant does not plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” They do not admit guilt to the charges, but the charges still stand.
Law enforcement must have “probable cause” to conduct a search, seize property, or make an arrest without a warrant. It means they have enough reason based on clear facts that a crime was committed to justify their actions.
“No probable cause” means law enforcement does not meet the burden of proof to hold someone under arrest.
Law enforcement must be able to prove they had “reasonable suspicion” based on facts in order to make a stop, detain someone to question them about a crime, or search someone in relation to a crime.
Law enforcement officers are required to read your Miranda rights before they arrest you. Miranda rights include:
“Pleading the fifth “refers to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that you are protected from self-incrimination. Pleading the fifth means you are exercising your right to refrain from answering questions from police while in custody.
While in custody, self-incrimination means saying anything to authorities that could implicate you in a crime. The right to be protected from self-incrimination is written into the U.S. Constitution in the Fifth Amendment.
A warrant is a court order that allows law enforcement to arrest someone who has been charged with a crime or who has been convicted of a crime but hasn’t appeared in court or paid fines.
A search warrant is a court order that allows law enforcement to search a person or a property.
An arrest warrant is a court order that allows law enforcement to hold someone charged with a crime in custody.
A bench warrant is a court order that allows law enforcement to arrest someone for being in contempt of court. These are typically issued when defendants out on bail fail to appear in court.
An appeal is a petition by either the defense or the prosecution to have the case reviewed by the Court of Appeals.
In trial court, a motion is a petition to the court asking the court or the judge to decide on a specific aspect of a case.
A jury trial is a trial decided by a group of jurors rather than by a judge alone.
A bench trial is overseen by a judge who determines if the defendant is guilty or innocent. Most criminal cases will go to a jury trial if they go to trial, but there are some instances where a bench trial is preferable.