Every person arrested and charged with an offense in the State of Georgia will follow the same basic procedure. Broadly, the criminal process begins with an arrest. The state will follow two different procedures when accusing a person depending on the crime alleged. For most offenses, an accusation will come in the form of a simple charge. However, for a limited range of more serious offenses, the state will have to pursue an indictment.
Accusations and Indictments – What’s the Difference?
A prosecutor has the power to draw an accusation in the form of a charge. A charge is sufficient to formally accuse someone of traffic offenses, drug possession, and an array of other criminal acts.
A Grand Jury is necessary to create a formal accusation called an Indictment. A Grand Jury is a pool of 16 to 23 people living in the county where the accused allegedly committed the offense. Essentially, a Grand Jury’s role is to listen to the County prosecutor’s limited evidence. After hearing this evidence, the Grand Jury will determine whether there is sufficient cause to issue an indictment. Indictments are not convictions, since the former are and in some cases, a Grand Jury may grant an Indictment and the state will later dismiss the charges or have the suspect acquitted. A grand jury will base its decision entirely on the state’s evidence and direction. Citizens actually do not have the right to present their side of the story during this process.
The Importance of an Arraignment
Once an the state has successfully accused or indicted an individual, it will summon that person before the Court. This is known as an arraignment. An Arraignment is a court date in which the state formally notifies the person of the charges pending against them. It is also at this point that a person may enter a plea. A person will have three standard pleas: Nolo Contendere, Not Guilty and Guilty. It is important to have advice from an attorney before attending an Arraignment date, as neither the Judge nor the prosecutor may give you any legal advice about which plea to enter.
Why an Attorney Is So Important
After an Arraignment date, most cases are placed on a series of calendars called Calendar Calls and Jury Trial Calendars. These calendars can be large, time consuming and concerning, as a charged person navigates how to effectively defend their case. Here at Horne & Griffis, we pride ourselves on the ability to walk our clients through the criminal process with as much information as possible. We believe that in the turmoil of pending charges, we can add some peace to your situation by making sure that our clients understand what to expect at each and every court date.
Having an experienced attorney who can explain the criminal process and procedure is important for any charge you may be facing. Call today for an in-person or online virtual consultation. Your rights are our priority.