If you’ve been accused of a crime, you may feel like the world is against you. Friends and family may distance themselves. Your boss may question your work performance. Your school may suspend you or take away certain privileges. And you’ve only just been arrested and charged with a crime. You may already feel like a criminal even though you haven’t been convicted.
You have the right to defend yourself against criminal charges.
You are innocent until proven guilty and have the right to a defense against criminal charges. And you don’t have to do it alone. A good criminal attorney can mean the difference between a lengthy prison sentence and your freedom. The State of Georgia needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and a trained trial attorney understands the strongest legal defenses to combat the evidence against you.
At Banks, Stubbs & McFarland, we bring more than 90 years of combined experience to your criminal case. With a reputation for personal attention and good results, we focus on aggressively protecting your rights both in and out of court.
Have you or a family member been charged with a crime?
In Georgia, a criminal conviction has many negative consequences. Depending on the severity of the crime, your punishment could include a combination of the following:
- Jail time with or without parole
- Probationary periods
- Large fines & court fees
- Driver’s license suspension
- The possibility of a civil suit with damages awarded to the alleged victim’s family
Aside from legal consequences, a criminal conviction could limit your career opportunities and affect your child custody arrangements.
Our legal team understand the desire to protect the rights of yourself and your loved ones. We advocate for our clients accused of the following crimes:
- Murder & Manslaughter
- Assault & Aggravated Assault
- Family Violence
- Marijuana & Other Drug Crimes
- DUI Defense & Related Crimes
- TPO’s & Restraining Orders
- Search & Seizure Violations
- Theft Crimes
In addition to fighting the State’s evidence against you in recent charges, our firm will also look into the potential for an expungement of a previous conviction.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Schedule an appointment with one of Georgia’s top criminal defense lawyers today!
Understanding the Criminal Trial Process in Georgia
For many people, their only exposure to the legal system are procedural television shows. These dramatized images of court in movies and television are not necessarily accurate and are unlikely to be helpful in preparing someone for the reality of a criminal trial process. Below is an outline of the process that occurs when someone is arrested for a crime:
The process usually begins with an arrest. If the police have “probable cause” to make an arrest, they generally do not need a warrant. An arrest warrant is a document signed by a judge that allows the police to arrest you; in most cases, the police will require a warrant to arrest someone in their home. If a warrant does exist, it will detail the crime that you are accused of committing and specify the bail you must post to be released. Because bail is collateral that guarantees you will continue to appear in court after being released from custody, the judge will determine bail based on the severity of the crime and how likely you are to fail to appear if you are released.
It is important to know your rights when you are arrested. You have the right to remain silent and to have a criminal defense attorney present while you are being questioned. For certain crimes, you are entitled to have an attorney appointed if you cannot afford one. You have the right to make a phone call or calls within a certain period after arrest, though the specifics vary by state.
Most states limit the amount of time the police can hold someone in custody without formally charging them of a crime to 72 hours. The county attorney will receive the arrest reports from the local police. From there, a prosecutor will review the reports and decide what crime, if any, to charge you with. The prosecutor will file a complaint.
Initial Hearing & Arraignment
The initial appearance in a criminal trial usually occurs within 48 hours of arrest. This hearing is usually brief; the judge will explain your constitutional rights, what charges you are facing, your right to an attorney if you do not already have one, your bail, and what the next steps will be. In some states, this is also when arraignment will occur. During an arraignment, you will enter your plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere. Pleading “Not Guilty” is an assertion that you did not commit the crime as charged. A not guilty plea may also be a strategic attempt to get a better plea deal or push the case to trial if the evidence against you is weak. Pleading “guilty” means you admit to the crime, and the judge will immediately enter a conviction. Nolo contendere or “no contest” means that you do not admit guilt, but will not fight the charge.
During the preliminary hearing, the state must prove it has sufficient evidence for the charge. If the state meets the burden of proof, the judge sets a trial date. In some states this is handled in court within a few weeks of arraignment; in others, it is handled on paper.
Discovery & Pre-Trial
This stage of a criminal trial focuses on evidence and other information. It is at this point that your attorney and the prosecutor may discuss a plea bargain. Your attorney may also use the pretrial period to file a motion to, for example, suppress evidence against you that was obtained illegally.
If a settlement cannot be reached outside of court, the case will proceed to trial. A criminal trial can be very expensive; settling outside of court can cost around $2,500 for a misdemeanor or $3,500 for a felony.
If your case goes to trial, you can expect to pay your lawyer around $1,500 for every day of the trial, which could last for weeks. Exact costs will vary depending on your location and the skill level of your attorney, but even a relatively simple case can quickly become prohibitively expensive.
Before the trial begins, jurors will be selected by both of the attorneys. Each attorney will present an opening statement as the trial begins to outline their arguments. The state will then present its evidence and witnesses; the defense will have the opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses, and then will present their own case.
After both sides have presented their evidence, they will give closing arguments to summarize each case. The judge will give the jury instructions on the law and how to reach a verdict in this case. After deliberations, the jury will return a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
If you are found not guilty, the trial is over and you are free to go. If you are found guilty, the trial will proceed to sentencing. The judge may sentence you immediately or set a separate date.
The Impact of a Felony Conviction
Felony crime charges differ from misdemeanors in that they carry steeper fines, restitution, counseling and likely prison time. Felonies can also drastically impact the rest of your life.
Any crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death is usually considered a felony. Being convicted of a felony can have life altering consequences in addition to lengthy prison sentences and large fines. Convicted felons lose many rights upon their release from prison. While some rights may eventually be restored, the restoration process can be costly and lengthy. If you are facing a felony charge, it is important to understand the rights you could be giving up if found guilty.
In the United States, it is federally illegal for convicted felons to purchase, own, or sell firearms, as well as ammunition and ammunition components. In Georgia, convicted felons are also not allowed to fire or use any firearm, even if they are on their own private property.
Election to Office
Anyone convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude may not serve in an elected position. Crimes involving moral turpitude include fraud, larceny, murder, soliciting for prostitution, voluntary manslaughter, the sale of narcotics or other illegal drugs, failure to file federal tax returns, criminal issuance of a bad check, or making a false report of a crime.
Not Eligible for Federal Assistance
Convicted felons are not eligible for federal assistance, which includes programs such as food stamps, loans, grants, or work-study programs.
Convicted felons are not allowed to vote if they are currently incarcerated, on parole or on probation. If a felon completes and complies with all provisions of his or her supervised lease, they will have their voting privileges restored.
No Martial Arts Participation
Georgia prohibits convicted felons from directly or indirectly participating in the promotion, management or organization of kick-boxing, full-contact karate, mixed martial arts and muay thai. Felons are also prohibited from participating in fights, matches, contests or exhibitions of any of these sports.
In Georgia, if you are a convicted felon who applies for a professional license, you are subject to having your application denied based solely on your conviction. There are nearly 80 professions that are off-limits to convicted felons, including cosmetologists, barbers, electrical contractors, plumbers, conditioned air contractors, and utility contractors. Convicted felons will also have to disclose their past criminal convictions on most public and private job applications.
Listing Within an Online Database
Convicted felons are entered into a statewide database, which includes their personal details, such as their full name, current address, and date of birth. The database also contains all relevant information about their felony conviction, such as their charges, convictions, sentences, and details about the committed crimes.
A felony conviction will have consequences that will impact you for the rest of your life. Begin the fight for your rights by scheduling a consultation at either our Cumming or Buford office.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Misdemeanor Offense?
When people hear the word misdemeanor, people generally think of minor offenses. The truth is, in Georgia, misdemeanors can be punished by up to a year in prison – hardly minor. A misdemeanor conviction is still a criminal conviction and can have an enormous impact on your life even if it doesn’t lead to 364 days in jail.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
Under Georgia law, section 16-1-3, a misdemeanor is a crime that’s not a felony. A misdemeanor is a crime – that means that it’s more serious than an infraction, like speeding. So misdemeanors fall into a middle ground between the most serious offenses, like murder, arson, or kidnapping, and traffic infractions like speeding.
Of course, within that category there is a lot of room – misdemeanors go from issuing a bad check or reckless driving all the way up to assault or involuntary manslaughter. Minor drug crimes fall into this category – and that means very minor, like an ounce or less of marijuana – as do minor forms of theft which don’t involve force or breaking into a house. Trespassing, prostitution, falsely pulling a fire alarm – there are many more but these are most of the misdemeanors that an average person may be charged with.
What are the Penalties for Misdemeanor Convictions?
Misdemeanors can carry heavy – and life-altering – penalties. In addition to potential jail time of up to a year and fines of up to a thousand dollars, a Georgian convicted of a misdemeanor may be ordered to perform community service. You may stand to lose driving privileges, and even your car’s license plate, with all the impact on your life – and employment – that might entail.
On the topic of employment, many employers do criminal background checks – and while a misdemeanor conviction won’t necessarily preclude you from every job, it will close a lot of doors. To add insult to injury, your picture can be published in the paper. On top of all that, some specific offenses can carry additional penalties, such as the loss of firearm privileges or the loss of financial aid for education. If you are facing these penalties, you want a criminal defense attorney from Banks, Stubbs & McFarland on your side.
“This was a difficult time in my life and I was involved with people that I thought were my friends which got me roped into an entering auto crime. I was a suspect in an entering automobile crime which is classified as a felony. My father hired Mr. Parker McFarland as my criminal defense attorney. He went to work for me and reduced my charges from a felony to a misdemeanor with no jail time. He is professional and knowledgeable of criminal law. I highly recommend him.”
The Difference Between Federal and State Crimes
Many people are aware that there are differences between federal crimes and state crimes — but some do not know the exact variations and penalties involved with each. Along with different laws, court procedures, judges and jury pools, one of the biggest and most surprising differences many people aren’t aware of are the sentencing discrepancies. Federal judges follows what’s known as federal sentencing guidelines, or standardized rules that set forth recommended sentences for certain federal crimes. These guidelines and their corresponding sentences, however, tend to be much more stringent than those handed down by a state court judge for a state offense. In other words, federal crimes typically have much larger prison sentences. In addition to longer jail time, mandatory minimums also take away from a judge’s discretion in sentencing. Rather than crafting a fair sentence based upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case, federal judges are bound to a “one size fits all” sentence mandated by sentencing authorities with no knowledge of the case. There are many ways in which a defense attorney can protect defendants from the harsh effects of mandatory minimum sentencing. First, it is important to hold investigators accountable for following proper police procedure. Evidence which is obtained illegally must be suppressed from a jury. Other procedural defects in the investigation or prosecution of the case (such as failure to give the required notice, or failure to disclose evidence to the defense) can also result in suppression of evidence which can preclude an unfair conviction. A defense attorney can also help negotiate reduced charges with a prosecutor in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea. In certain cases, a prosecutor may be willing to allow a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge which is not subject to a mandatory minimum. This may require a stipulated prison sentence, but it can still be less than the mandatory minimum faced by a defendant who is found guilty at trial. Plea negotiations allow a defense attorney more room and creativity in the charging, conviction, and sentencing of a crime. Such creativity can help defendants avoid the effects of a mandatory minimum sentence. Hiring an attorney with knowledge of the federal court system and procedures is extremely important if you want to mitigate jail time or other consequences associated with the offense. Our firm has experienced federal crime attorneys to help you fight the charges that could seriously harm the quality of your life. Call now to fight for your rights!
Understanding Your Miranda Rights
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used in a court of law …” Everyone is familiar with these Miranda rights, particularly because of their widespread use on TV. Miranda warnings, as they are also referred to, are fundamental constitutional rights and police officers are required to recite these rights to every suspect in police custody before an interrogation begins to prevent suspects from self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. Many people often believe that they should’ve been read their Miranda rights. However, it’s important to understand that there are specific situations in which individuals are entitled to be read their rights. Under the law, the warnings must be recited ONLY IF a person is actually in custody and isn’t free to leave — and custody can mean different things. A suspect who is arrested and taken to the station is clearly in custody. But what about drivers who are pulled over for a traffic violation? How about those who are questioned at the scene of a crime? Unfortunately, there are so many areas that are unclear. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to see if you were denied your Miranda rights. Schedule an appointment at either our Buford or Cumming office and see if a police error could result in your criminal charges being dropped.
Questions? Do You Want To Talk To A Lawyer? Contact Us.
Arrange your initial consultation at our law office in Cumming, Georgia, by calling 770-887-1209 or use the contact form below.