Your first court appearance in State Court is an Arraignment. Most State Courts do not require your presence at your arraignment. We will send you a letter letting you know whether you have to appear for your arraignment. The arraignment is your opportunity to enter your “not guilty plea.” We usually do this in writing and your appearance is not necessary. Along with your written not guilty plea, I file our pretrial challenges to the State's case. These are called Motions to Suppress and Motions in Limine.
2. Motions Hearings
Your case will likely be scheduled for a “Motions” hearing. At this hearing, I will argue my legal challenges to the State's case. The State has the burden to show that my motions should not be granted. If the State fails to meet their burden, the entire case or certain evidence in your case will be dismissed. Some of the legal challenges I assert include:
- whether your stop and detention violates the Fourth Amendment;
- whether the officer had probable cause to place you under arrest;
- whether officer timely and properly advised you of your rights pursuant to Georgia's Implied Consent Notice;
- whether the officer notified you that you have a right to an independent blood, breath, or urine test;
- whether he read you the proper card pertaining to your driver's license and age;
- whether the officer had reasonable grounds to request a chemical test;
- whether the State laid a sufficient foundation for field sobriety tests
- whether the officer properly administered and scored the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test;
- whether the officer properly administered the standardized physical field sobriety evaluations (One-Leg Stand and Walk & Turn tests); and
- whether the officer the State laid an adequate foundation for the breathalyzer test.
Every case is different, and this is not an exhaustive list of the technical challenges that we file and argue. We tailor our attack to each particular case.
In filing and arguing our pretrial motions we have three goals. Our first goal is to obtain a dismissal. For example, if the police conduct a “bad stop” and violate your Fourth Amendment rights in initially detaining you, all evidence gathered after the stop will be suppressed from evidence. This almost always results in a complete dismissal of your case.
Our second goal in arguing pretrial motions is to limit the evidence the State uses against you at trial. For example, a police officer has placed you under arrest when he places you in a position where a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave (even though you may not have been handcuffed). If the officer placed you under arrest prior to administering field sobriety evaluations, he must read your Miranda rights or the field sobriety results will be suppressed from evidence. At trial, the prosecutor will not be able to mention these tests to the jury. Additionally, the judge is more likely to rule that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you since the field sobriety evaluations are excluded. Without field sobriety evidence, the prosecutor is more likely to dismiss your case, or offer a reduced charge such as reckless driving.
Our third goal in arguing pretrial motions is to reveal weaknesses in the State's case. Although the judge may not dismiss the case or limit the State's evidence, we can often show the prosecutor the weaknesses in their case through our thorough and sifting cross-examination. Our goal is to present their own witness and evidence in such a light that the prosecutor realizes that yours is not the kind of case they want to present to a jury. Again, the prosecutor may be more likely to dismiss or reduce your case to a lesser offense.
3. Calendar Call – “Ready for Trial”
After the motions hearing, your case will be scheduled for a Calendar Call. Although nothing legally significant occurs at calendar call, this is another opportunity for us to show the State that we are serious about challenging their evidence. Calendar call is usually scheduled a week or two before the judge's trial week. At the calendar call, the judge inquires whether the parties are ready to go forward to trial, or whether they need additional time. By this time both parties should be prepared for trial. The judge will then schedule us for a particular date to appear for trial. Sometimes the judge will put us “on call.” This means that we could be called in any day during the trial week. In this case, we will call a recorded announcement line every evening during to trial week to find out if we are called in for trial the next morning.
4. Trial – Bench Trial or Jury Trial
You may elect to have a jury trial or a non-jury trial. In a non-jury trial, otherwise known as a bench trial, the judge will determine your guilt or innocence. You also have a right to a jury trial. Depending on the particular facts of your case, we will help you decide whether to choose a jury or non-jury trial. We will usually recommend a jury trial when you have factual defenses, and recommend a bench trial when you have legal or technical defenses. It is ultimately your decision whether to choose a jury or bench trial, however we will first educate you regarding this choice. Prior to making your choice, together we will analyze your defenses, your judge, your jury pool, and your chances of success with either a jury or bench trial.
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