Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer
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The majority of people find themselves in some sort of difficult situation during their lifetime. For many, that situation could wind up leading to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In some instances this could end in being arrested. These circumstances do not have to define you and the Atlanta criminal defense lawyer from Schnipper Law, P.C. understands that bad things happen to good people every now and then. We work to turn your luck around so that you don’t have to live with the bad luck you’ve been dealt.
The Criminal Process in Atlanta
The criminal justice process is intimidating, scary, and complex. It can be even worse for those who have been accused of a crime, even if you know you are innocent. Whether or not you actually committed the crime you should never speak to anyone about the charges, except for an experienced Atlanta criminal defense attorney. Do not talk to the police, investigators, staff at the jail or anyone else who can compromise your situation. David Schnipper can advise you of your rights and explain the criminal process to you so it’s easier to understand.
Your Arrest and Initial Court Appearance
All criminal cases need to begin somewhere and that starting point is the arrest of a suspect. The arrest can take place at the scene of the crime or at a later date with an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant must be issued by a magistrate judge in order for the police to arrest a suspect if time has passed since the date of the crime.
When you are arrested, or taken into custody, the arresting officer is required to inform you of your rights, which are known as Miranda Rights. They begin with one of the most recognizable sentences in history, “You have the right to remain silent.” Your Miranda rights include the following:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney before speaking with police and to have an attorney present during any questioning.
- If you cannot afford your own attorney, one can be appointed for you.
The police will then ask you if you understand your rights as they have been read to you. You will also be informed that you can stop answering any questions at anytime while your lawyer is not present. You will then be asked if you will answer any questions. You are free to say yes or no and understand that saying no does not implicate you in the crime committed.
If you are ever arrested without being read your Miranda Rights, or without your understanding of them, David Schnipper can build a strong defense to the charges filed against you. It is important that you invoke your rights the minute they are read to you by the arresting officer. If you fail to invoke your rights, which is to remain silent until your lawyer is present, can lead to you saying something that could implicate you in a crime.
The Preliminary Hearing
You are given the right to appear before a judge just a few days after being arrested to find out if bail will be set and at what amount. You are within your rights to request a preliminary hearing if you’ve yet to post bond and if you have yet to be indicted of a crime. This hearing allows you to find out the evidence that has been collected against you. It also allows you to challenge the charges or warrant if they lack probable cause.
The District Attorney’s Office will formally file charges against you either in an indictment or an accusation. The most serious offenses need to be presented to a grand jury in order for an indictment to be issued. When an accusation is issued it can be directly issued with the court for crimes such as identity fraud, forgery, drug offenses, credit card fraud, theft and any misdemeanor offense. A defendant does not have to be present during a grand jury hearing for an indictment.
Arraignment and Pre-Trial Motions
All criminal defendants have the right under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to have legal representation present at their arraignment and at all other stages of the criminal justice process. It’s important for you to exercise this right because having an attorney present can make it easier to understand the charges against you as well as an answer for you in court. Once the indictment or accusation is issued the defendant will enter a plea, usually not guilty, and has 10 days to file pre-trial motions for the case.
Should the defendant fail to show up for the arraignment and not send a lawyer in their place, the judge could issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the defendant. In most cases, the judge will not allow the defendant to post bond if arrested for missing the arraignment. Should you decide to plead not guilty the judge will add your case to the calendar and set a date for the trial to begin.
The time that lapses in between the arraignment and the trial is what’s known as the pre-trial period. Pre-trial motions will be submitted by both sides, most often in an effort to exclude evidence that can be harmful to your case. The judge will issue rulings on these motions prior to the jury being impaneled.
It’s also possible to enter a negotiated plea during this time. This plea is usually beneficial to the defendant and comes as a result of the defendant’s attorney’s ability to negotiate with the prosecutor assigned to the case. It’s also possible for a non-negotiated plea to be entered. This occurs when the judge determines the sentence of the defendant without a jury trial. A defendant who opts to accept a pre-trial negotiated plea can expect a lesser sentence compared to one that could be handed down by a jury trial.
The Trial Procedure
Should your case wind up going to trial, you can decide what type of trial you want; a jury trial or a bench trial. A bench trial is when the judge hears all the evidence in the case, arguments from both sides, and then makes a ruling and issues the sentence if you are found guilty. An experienced criminal defense attorney in Atlanta like David Schnipper can provide you with an honest evaluation of your case after working for two District Attorney’s offices.
If your case is going to a jury trial it will begin with the selection of the jurors, which is done by the prosecutor and defense attorney interviewing all the possible jurors.
Once the trial begins it will start with opening statements from both sides. The prosecutor will start the trial by calling their witnesses and the defense will be able to cross-examine all of the witnesses called by the prosecutor. The prosecution will eventually rest and the defense can begin calling their witnesses, all of whom can be cross-examined by the prosecution.
Once the defense rests the jury will be sent to deliberate. If the jury returns a guilty verdict the trial will come to an end and there will be a separate hearing for sentencing. During the sentencing hearing the defense attorney will present mitigating evidence in an effort to reduce the severity of the penalty levied against the defendant. Mitigating evidence can include any of the following:
- Charitable acts by the defendant
- Family support
- The role of the defendant in the offense
- If the defendant was coerced or deceived into committing the crime
The defendant has the right to appeal the result of the trial, or their conviction, if they believe that it is unfair or wrong. There is a catch with an appeal. It can only be based on a legal error. This can include incorrectly issuing instructions to the jury or introducing harmful evidence into the trial incorrectly.
Schnipper Law is Here to Help
We recognize the fact that simply being faced with a criminal charge does not guarantee you will be convicted of that charge. In many cases it is possible to have the charges either reduced or dismissed. Our clients have found themselves eligible for pre-trial diversion and pre-trial intervention programs that have prevented them from going to court. If you don’t qualify for one of these programs our team can build a strong defense to the charges in an effort to have them either reduced or dismissed.
The Atlanta criminal defense lawyer at Schnipper Law, P.C. has represented every type of felony and misdemeanor case in Georgia. From misdemeanor traffic offenses to felony homicide charges, we know what it takes to defend you in court. Make sure you remember that you are never forced to talk to a police officer about any crime you are suspected of committing until you have a lawyer present. Visit our practice areas for hit and run crashes, obstruction of justice, fleeing police, domestic violence, drug charges, armed robbery, weapons charges and more to get a better understanding of your case and how we can handle it.
Call Schnipper Law, P.C. for Experienced Criminal Defense
Criminal defense attorney David Schnipper can help your case if you are facing any type of criminal charge in Georgia. Whether it’s theft, fraud, domestic violence, traffic offense, drug offenses or any other type of offense, our firm can help you build a strong defense to the charges against you. We understand that the criminal process can be intimidating and confusing. Call our office at 404-465-2878 to schedule an initial consultation with David Schnipper today.