Many people use the pebbles and sand analogy to illustrate priorities. Put the pebbles in a jar first and there’s plenty of room for the sand. Take the opposite approach, and your jar overfills, and not in a good way. Likewise, if a criminal defense focuses on five key points, the outcome is usually successful.
Don’t get us wrong. Details are very important. These details usually make the difference between a successful result and a so-so result. However, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer must not lose sight of the big five. If that happens, the defense lacks direction, and like a rudderless ship, it could end up anywhere.
This first area always belongs on the top five list, whether or not the defendant is in custody when a Marietta criminal defense lawyer takes the case.
Quite understandably, most defendants are so desperate to get out of jail that they’ll sign any paper concerning terms of release, usually without reading it. These conditions could be very restrictive.
For example, remaining in the county is a common condition of bail. Many people in metro Atlanta live in one county and work in another one, or they have close friends or family in another county. If authorities catch the defendant in another county, the defendant is in serious trouble.
A simple adjustment, like amending the conditions to “Cobb County and contiguous counties,” usually fixes this problem.
Pretrial incarceration adversely affects the entire defense. Lawyers cannot effectively evaluate and investigate cases in these situations. As a result, the plea bargain agreement is less favorable and post-trial problems are more likely.
In some cases, attorneys act as bail bondsmen. They guarantee the defendant’s appearance at trial. In other cases, attorneys work with bonding companies to obtain favorable release terms, as mentioned above.
Case Evaluation: Initial Stop
Jail release sets up a successful criminal defense. No jai release usually means a bad result. The initial stop sets the tone for the case. A bad stop sets a favorable tone for a Marietta criminal defense lawyer.
A stop could be illegal. Officers must have reasonable suspicion to detain individuals. Inexperienced officers often use shaky evidence, like furtive driver movements (e.g. nervous glances into a rear-view mirror) to justify stops. This evidence doesn’t hold up in court.
Oher stops are borderline illegal. Officers see people who don’t “look right,” follow them until they commit ticky-tack traffic violations, and pull them over.
Some stops are legal, but they appear shady. Some officers have disciplinary records, often with another law enforcement agency. A Marietta criminal defense lawyer must do a lot of legwork to find such evidence.
Case Evaluation: Subsequent Investigation
Some criminal cases end at traffic stops. But if officers uncover any other evidence of criminal activity, or if the defendant has an outstanding warrant, these matters become misdemeanors or felonies. Others skip to this stage. When officers respond to disturbance calls, such as domestic disturbance calls, they nearly always arrest someone.
Frequently, these investigations hinge on physical evidence, like weapons or drugs. Officers cannot touch contraband items unless they have search warrants, or a narrow search warrant exception applies.
Officers must submit probable cause affidavits to judges before they can issue search warrants. The information in this affidavit stands or falls on its own. Accurate information from a confidential informant could be unreliable. A judge doesn’t know the results of a search when s/he signs on the dotted line.
As mentioned, search warrant exceptions are very narrow. Courts have only approved a handful. Officers cannot go outside exceptions like consent and plain view to justify warrantless searches.
Out-of-court settlements resolve over 95 percent od criminal cases. In exchange for a guilty or no contest plea, prosecutors reduce the charges (one of the first recorded plea bargains in America was a charge reduction plea bargain), shorten the sentence, or make other concessions.
These points are intertwined. If a judge denies bail and a defendant remains incarcerated, the defendant will likely agree to almost any terms, partially because the defendant wants to end the matter, and partially because incarceration causes brain injuries that cloud judgment.
Usually, plea negotiations are like mini trials. Prosecutors and Marietta criminal defense lawyers basically lay out their claims and defenses. For this reason, before negotiations begin, attorneys often practice their arguments in front of mock juries or focus groups. Attorneys who know how jurors might react to certain arguments negotiate from a position of strength.
However, no one knows how a live jury will respond to legal arguments. Avoiding the risk of a trial is one of the biggest reasons plea bargains resolve so many criminal cases in Cobb County.
The reduced sentence usually means probation. Since probation terms are typically long in Georgia, most defendants face at least one probation revocation matter, especially in felony cases.
These matters are difficult to resolve, mostly because the burden of proof (a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not) is lower in probation revocation matters. For example, if Mike is charged with drug possession in court, the charges often don’t stick, since drug possession cases have so many moving parts. However, if Mike is on probation, prosecutors don’t need to prove possession. They only need to prove drug use, and a simple blood test usually does the trick.
Expunction and sealing matters are common as well, once again especially in felony cases. Georgia law recently changed significantly in this area. So, if you were previously ineligible for relief, ask a Maritta criminal defense lawyer to re-evaluate your case.
Attorneys who focus on key points usually get better results. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense lawyer, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.