If you need a lawyer who has been consistently ranked as one of the best criminal lawyers in Georgia, you are in the right place. The criminal defense attorneys at The Church Law Firm have been winning serious criminal cases in courts for years and are ready to help you or your loved one.
Our firm’s success comes through hard work, creativity and diligence. We are often able to find legal and factual defenses that less experienced lawyers may miss. Many times, our effort leads to a pretrial dismissal or very favorable resolution of the case. In cases where a pretrial dismissal is not possible, our lawyers prepare our clients for trial with unmatched diligence and focus. This trial preparation often leads to a dismissal right before trial, a “not guilty” verdict at trial, or a very favorable negotiated resolution of the case. That’s how the best criminal lawyers in Georgia get results.
What usually happens in a Georgia criminal case? watch this video.
Want to know how we win appeals in Georgia criminal cases? Watch this video.
We have successfully represented clients in serious criminal cases across the United States. Our firm has its principal office in Atlanta GA, but we frequently travel to other cities and counties in Georgia.
Depending on the nature of the case and specific Georgia criminal law involved, you will either get arrested by a police officer at the scene of a crime, after an arrest warrant has been taken out in your name, or after a grand jury returns an indictment listing the formal charges against you.
Whether you are arrested or indicted in Georgia, the prosecution (referred to as “the State” in Georgia criminal cases) must have “probable cause” to believe that you engaged in a crime. Unlike proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it doesn’t take much evidence to establish probable cause. If you are charged in an indictment, that means a grand jury has already found that there was probable cause to charge and arrest you with a crime. If you have not yet been indicted, there is usually a “preliminary hearing” or “probable cause hearing” in order to determine whether your arrest was supported by probable cause.
While it is unusual for Georgia criminal charges to be completely dismissed after a preliminary hearing, the hearing is still an important opportunity to find out what kind of evidence the State has against you. It can also be an opportunity to question law enforcement officers and other witnesses while they are under oath in order to lock them into their stories in case they will testify again later at trial.
After being charged with a Georgia crime, you will usually be brought into court for an “arraignment” where you will plead either guilty or not guilty. After this, the prosecution must turn over all of the evidence it has against you, including police reports, video footage, lab results, witness statements, and other evidence. This evidence is called “discovery” and every defendant has a right to access this evidence before the trial.
When you are arrested on criminal charges in Georgia, you can get a bond by convincing a judge that you are not a danger to the community and that you are not a “flight risk” who will flee if released. You also have to show that you are unlikely to interfere with witnesses or commit any additional offenses while on bond.
A bond is essentially a legal agreement that allows you to be released from jail while your criminal case is pending. The word “bail” is often used interchangeably with “bond.”
Depending on the type of charges you are facing, only certain judges in Georgia have the authority to grant a bond. If the charges fall under a certain class of Georgia crimes, for example, only a superior court judge can grant bond, so you shouldn’t be surprised or give up hope when the first judge you see (usually a magistrate judge) denies your request for bond.
In almost every case, a judge will hold a “bond hearing” in a Georgia criminal case to determine whether or not to grant the defendant a bond. In determining whether to grant a bond, judges apply a four factor test.
Once bond has been granted, the defendant or their family usually have to post money or property as “collateral.” This is meant to make sure the defendant keeps appearing for his scheduled court dates. The more serious the charges, the higher the bond usually is.
Before a case goes to trial in Georgia, several things have to happen. First, the defense must have the opportunity to review the evidence and consider whether to file “pretrial motions.” Through filing pretrial motions, you and your lawyer can request that the judge dismiss some or all of the charges against you, limit the type of evidence that the prosecution can use at trial, or give you access to other evidence the prosecution hasn’t turned over. During this “pretrial” period, the defense and the prosecution can also negotiate a plea agreement.
Every case is different depending on the evidence, the parties involved, the prosecutors, and even the judges. Broadly speaking, however, there are three possible outcomes in most Georgia criminal cases.
Some criminal charges in Georgia are dismissed by the prosecutor or the court before the case gets to trial. Most commonly, prosecutors in Georgia will often dismiss charges if the defense wins important pretrial motions, such as a motion to suppress the evidence the prosecution is relying on to convict the defendant. Under Georgia law and the U.S. Constitution, the prosecution cannot use evidence that was seized during an “unlawful” search and seizure, such as a traffic stop or the search of a home without a warrant. If the prosecution cannot establish that law enforcement seized the evidence lawfully, the defense can move to exclude all of that evidence from trial, often gutting the State’s case.
In other Georgia criminal cases, the court may dismiss the charges if the defense files a pretrial motion showing that there was a defect in the indictment or if the prosecution has failed to properly charge you with committing a crime. For example, a Georgia criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to dismiss the charges by arguing that the indictment does not allege an actual violation of the law or that the prosecution took too long to bring charges and the statute of limitations has expired.
In recent years, Georgia criminal law has changed in many ways that make it harder for accused people to defend themselves against serious charges. As a result of these changes, most Georgia criminal cases today end with the defense and the prosecution entering a plea deal in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for some kind of benefit. For example, you may agree to plead guilty to a more minor offense than the original charge, or you may agree to plead guilty in exchange for the prosecution’s promise to recommend a lighter sentence.
It is important to know that agreeing to a plea deal often means giving up a lot of your rights. Besides the right to a trial by a jury and the presumption of innocence, defendants pleading guilty usually waive their right to appeal as well. In some cases, a defendant also has to cooperate with law enforcement in order to gain any benefit from pleading guilty.
Ultimately, the decision whether to plead guilty in a Georgia criminal case is a decision only the accused person can make. If you are considering pleading guilty, however, it is important to consult an experienced attorney who you trust and who has reviewed the evidence against you. That way you can be sure that you understand the risks and the benefits of a plea agreement, what rights you are giving up, and what kind of sentence you can expect.
Of course, some cases cannot be resolved by winning pretrial motions or negotiating plea agreements. In these situations, the prosecution and defense will each have an opportunity at trial to make arguments in front of a jury who will determine whether to convict or acquit the defendant.
A criminal trial in Georgia usually begins with jury selection, and jury selection is arguably the most important phase of a trial. During jury selection, lawyers for the defense and the prosecution can “strike” potential jurors, that is remove them from being a member of the jury, if they are biased towards or against the State or the defendant or if there is a good reason justifying the juror’s exclusion from the trial.
The rest of the trial is not so different from what you see on TV, though usually not as dramatic. There are opening statements, witnesses testify, objections are raised and argued, and each side gives closing arguments. After closing arguments, the judge instructs the jury on the applicable Georgia criminal laws and asks them to apply the law to the evidence they heard during trial.
There are three possible endings once the jury begins its deliberations—a conviction, an acquittal, or a mistrial. If the jury is deadlocked and cannot come to a unanimous agreement on the verdict, the court will declare a mistrial due to a “hung jury.” If there is a conviction, the court will usually hold a sentencing hearing at a later date, during which it will consider evidence and arguments from the defense and the prosecution as to what would constitute a fair sentence. Of course, if the jury comes back with a “Not Guilty” verdict, the defendant can go home free.
Hiring the right lawyer is the most important choice you will need to make if you or a loved one has been charged with a serious crime. But what makes someone a good criminal defense lawyer? How do you know if you or your loved one is in good hands?
At The Church Law Firm, we have been winning serious criminal cases in Georgia and surrounding states for years, but what sets us apart from other lawyers is our work ethic, our compassion, and our creativity. Our work has resulted in “not guilty” verdicts, pretrial dismissals, and, in some cases, helping clients avoid criminal charges in the first place. For clients who want to resolve their cases with a favorable plea agreement, we are often able to maximize our clients’ leverage and fight for a lesser charge, a reduced sentence, and in some cases, no prison time. We do this by preparing every case as if it was going to go to trial and showing the prosecution that we mean business.
Our firm also has an important advantage over other Georgia criminal defense firms because we only take on a limited number of cases at a time. This lets us dedicate as much time as possible to each client and their case so we can focus on identifying the key evidence and possible defenses, maintaining open communication with clients and their family, and getting the best result possible for each client.
I am beyond satisfied with the work and fight Tom church put up for me to stay home with my family for the holidays ! If you want someone who’s gonna dedicate their time to give you the best result Tom church is the person your looking for , every time I lost hope he brought it back instantly he always stayed in contact with me through every step of the way and was always on top of everything . I will always recommend and go to Tom church there’s no one else I would put my trust in . He treated me as a family member not a client and he had my back like family . Thanks to him I will stay home and not miss anything thank you Tom church your the best.