Between the time you’re charged with a crime and the time your trial actually occurs, a lot can happen to cause charges and penalties to be minimized or even dismissed. Hiring a criminal defense attorney who is highly experienced in state pre-trials can have a significant impact on your future, and even your freedom.
What is the Pre-Trial Phase?
Generally speaking, the pre-trial phase of your case begins when you are charged with a crime, and continues until your trial begins. During this time, a number of things take place. You may appear in court at least twice before the actual trial begins—once for an initial hearing and arraignment, and once for a preliminary hearing or pretrial conference. Your attorney may file a variety of pretrial motions to ask for a dismissal of certain charges, or to challenge certain aspects of your case. You may also be given an opportunity to enter a plea agreement to avoid trial. State pre-trial procedures differ from state to state, which is why it’s important that your attorney be well-versed in state pre-trials in the state where you’ve been charged.
In the state of Georgia, the pre-trial stage follows a fairly standard pattern. After you are charged and/or arrested, you’ll attend an initial hearing and arraignment to enter a plea, at which time the magistrate judge will set bail (if applicable) and make sure you have an attorney, if you don’t already have one. For certain serious charges, a grand jury may formally indict you before your case moves forward toward trial. You’ll also likely attend a pre-trial hearing or pre-trial conference, which can look something like a mini-trial for the purpose of determining whether there is probable cause to bring the case to a formal trial. At each step along the way, your attorney will take multiple opportunities to position you for the best possible outcome, including negotiating for mitigated charges and filing various pre-trial motions.
In many criminal cases, it’s in the best interests of both the state and the defendant to avoid a costly trial. If the evidence against you is particularly weighty, you may have the opportunity to enter a plea bargain agreement, in which you plead guilty to a lesser offense in return for a more lenient sentence. Your attorney should offer you wise counsel at this time to determine whether a plea agreement is in your best interests for the long-term.
Pre-Trial Intervention and Diversion (PTI)
In the state of Georgia, if you are a first-time offender (i.e., no prior criminal record) and if the charges are fairly minor, you may be eligible for a special program called Pre-Trial Intervention and Diversion (or PTI). Under this program, which may last between three months and a year, you agree to pay appropriate court costs and fees, fulfill a prescribed amount of community service, attend relevant counseling, and report regularly to your assigned PTI Supervisor. By fulfilling these terms, you not only avoid a trial, but your charges are dismissed and your criminal record remains clean. Your attorney can advise you as to whether you are a good candidate for PTI.
Our Experience with State Pre-Trials
There is a lot that an experienced attorney can do on your behalf during the pre-trial stage to minimize the impact of criminal charges on your and your family, and possibly avert a trial altogether. The attorneys of the Federal Criminal Law Center are highly experienced in Georgia pre-trials and can employ numerous strategies to increase your chances for a positive outcome.