Criminal Defense Timeline Flow Chart

From the moment you retain us, we start our defense.

Investigation & Legal Research

We leave no stone unturned. We will obtain and review evidence, interview witnesses, and obtain expert witnesses when appropriate.

Negotiation

We build on our long-standing relationships with law enforcement and the courts.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, we will work to: get your case dismissed, have your charges reduced, or reduce your sentence.

Criminal Defense Timeline


Pre-Warrant Hearing

Georgia law requires that a pre-warrant hearing be held, usually before a magistrate, to determine whether a private citizen’s application for an arrest warrant should be granted, denied or some other disposition be made. The alleged offender is notified of the hearing for the opportunity to appear and present evidence.

The magistrate or judge determines if probable cause exists for issuing a warrant. For a conviction, charges must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. However, at a pre-warrant hearing, there must only be probable cause that a crime was committed and that you committed it.


Formal Charges & Setting Bond

Within 72 hours of an arrest, a judge or magistrate will advise you of the charges against you and discuss your eligibility for a bond.  If you are unable to make bond, the court usually holds a hearing shortly after arrest to decide where to send your case.  A misdemeanor (an offense punishable by less than 12 months in jail) is usually sent to Municipal or State Court.  A felony (an offense punishable 1 year or more in prison) is sent to the District Attorney for further investigation and possible prosecution in Superior Court.

Most inmates can obtain release from jail prior to trial by posting bail with the court through the jail.  The amount of bail for each inmate depends on the seriousness of the charges. Most municipal courts have a master bond schedule that sets the amount that must be posted for each offense charged.  A judge may raise or lower someone’s total bail amount based on the likelihood that the defendant will flee and his or her risk to society.

Several types of bail can be posted for an inmate:

  • Cash Bond: The entire amount of the bail can be paid by cash or money order. The entire amount of the cash bond (less jail fees) is refunded after the case is completed in court.
  • Commercial Bond: A bonding company can post the inmate’s bail for a fee, usually 10-15% of the total bail amount.  This fee is non-refundable.
  • Property Bond: Real estate owned with sufficient equity may be posted as collateral for bail. All property owners must be present when the bond is written.
  • Pre-Trial Services Agency Bond: Defendants demonstrating sufficient community ties (for example, duration of employment) and meeting other requirements may be allowed to make bond upon payment of a percentage of the total bond amount to the relevant Pre-Trial Services Agency.
  • Recognizance Bond: A judge may allow a defendant to sign his or her own bond in lieu of posting bail.
  • Non-Bailable Charges: Certain charges have no bail at the municipal level. For example, bail for murder, rape, armed robbery and selling narcotics must be set by a judge in Superior Court.


Probable Cause (Preliminary) Hearing

If a defendant is being held without bond or cannot make bond, he or she can petition the court for a probable cause hearing, typically before a Magistrate Judge. The State will call the arresting or investigating officer as a witness. If the judge determines that it is more probable than not that the defendant committed the crime, the case will be bound to either Superior Court or State Court.


Bond Hearing

If no bond was set or set too high when formally charged, we can petition for another bond hearing. This is not only an attempt to get you out of jail, but also help us better understand your case before Arraignment.


Indictment or Accusation

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, your case involves an accusation process. The Solicitor’s Office (the prosecuting attorney) will draw an accusation formally charging you with an offense within the State Court System.

If you have been charged with a felony, your case involves an indictment process. Your case is usually assigned to an investigator in the District Attorney’s Office. The investigator gathers information and interviews witnesses. If the Assistant District Attorney believes there is enough evidence to move forward, the case is then presented to a Grand Jury, a panel of 20-24 jurors who determine whether there is probable cause to issue an indictment. The Grand Jury will either return a True Bill of Indictment (which occurs most of the time) or a No Bill (the charges will not be pursued).

Once a case is accused or indicted, it is placed on an Arraignment calendar.


Arraignment

In the hearing, the State will read charges against you in open court. You will have the opportunity to plead Guilty or Not Guilty. We will generally plead on your behalf in court or will waive arraignment in advance. A waiver is simply a plea of not guilty formally filed with the court in advance. If arraignment is waived, the State will provide written notification of the charges against you.


Motions Hearing

Your expert team prepares Motions, which are a legal means for protecting your rights and excluding evidence. Motions may lead to a dismissal of you case. Preliminary Motions are prepared at time of Arraignment and include, at a minimum, a demand that the State provide all evidence being used against you. While we are often able to obtain some evidence in our own investigation, this forces the prosecuting attorney to disclose evidence intended to be used against you and ensures that we are aware of and able to prepare for every aspect of your defense.

We usually file additional motions to address issues specific to events leading up to and during your arrest. These can include arguments against the admissibility of evidence.

You will be required to attend with us along with the Prosecuting Attorney, the Arresting and Investigating Officer, and any Witnesses relevant to the Motions. Motions Hearings are either specially set or directly precede the beginning of a trial.

If the Motions Hearing results in a ruling favorable to you, the State may be forced to dismiss some or all of the charges against you.


Calendar Call

If the Prosecuting Attorney does not dismiss the charges or allow you to plea to a lesser offense, your case will be placed on a Trial Calendar. You may be placed on call when your court date arrives.  This keeps you from having to wait all day at the courthouse.  You will need to be ready and available for us to contact you.  Your judge will accept no excuse for your tardiness or absence on the day of Trial.

Some courts have a Calendar Call set to determine the readiness of both sides to proceed to trial.


Trial

The Trial portion of your case occurs when a satisfactory plea offer or dismissal of your charges cannot be worked out.

There are two types of trials; each with their own pros and cons.  You and your lawyer will decide which is most likely to result in the best possible outcome.  The primary difference between the two trials is who hears your case and decides the verdict.

  • In a Bench Trial, the judge hears arguments from Defense Counsel and the Prosecuting Attorney and is solely responsible for deciding the outcome.
  • In a Jury Trial, your case will be argued in front of 6 of your peers in a misdemeanor case and 12 in a felony case.

The Prosecuting Attorney presents the State’s case first and has the burden to prove your guilt.  Your lawyer will present your case last.

Witnesses will be called and evidence exhibited.  Each side has an opportunity to question (cross-examine) each witness.  Your team will meet with all expert and other defense witnesses prior to trial and will help prepare everyone for the type of questions they may be asked.

Closing arguments will be made by both sides.  The judge then “charges” (explains the law and the responsibilities) the jury, and they deliberate the case until a verdict is reached. If a Bench Trial, the Judge renders the verdict.


Sentencing Hearing

If convicted and depending on the severity of charges, a judge may set sentencing for a separate hearing upon conclusion of the trial.


Motion for New Trial

If convicted, you can file a motion for new trial within 30 days of the sentencing order.


Appeal

If the motion for new trial is lost, you can file a notice of appeal with the Georgia Court of Appeals. This must be filed within 30 days of the ruling denying the Motion for New Trial or, if such a motion was not filed within 30 days of the sentencing order.


 

 

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