Tackling any kind of legal issue is always stressful, but nothing is as distressing and nerve-wracking as facing a criminal charge. The potential impact a criminal conviction can have on your freedom, finances, as well as personal and professional life can be devastating. You could face a lengthy prison sentence and/or hefty fines, your future employment opportunities may become limited, and you may lose certain rights.
Given what is at stake, you need to fight the charge with everything you have, and your best weapon is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Marietta. Enlisting the services of an attorney immediately after being arrested can help you avoid getting formally charged. If you’ve been formally charged, an attorney can help get your case dismissed, secure a not guilty verdict, or minimize the consequences of a conviction.
Our Marietta criminal defense attorneys at Diaz & Gaeta are committed to providing an aggressive defense to people who have been accused or charged with all kinds of crimes including assault and battery, traffic violations, theft and robbery, DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, probation, violent crimes, and more.
What Are Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Georgia?
The US Constitution provides you with a number of rights as a criminal defendant in Georgia. If you’ve been accused of a crime, understanding these rights will help put you in a better position.
Your rights as a criminal defendant are contained in several Constitutional Amendments:
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement from carrying out unwarranted searches or unjustified seizures. It stipulates that the police need probable cause to stop you in the first place and conduct an unwarranted search.
The police are required to obtain a warrant from a judge before carrying out any search or seizure. It also stipulates that evidence obtained through illegal means is not admissible in court.
The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment encompasses a number of important protections for people facing criminal charges, including:
- Protection against self-incrimination (right to remain silent).
- Protection against double jeopardy (being prosecuted twice for the same criminal charge).
- The right to a fair trial.
- The right to a jury trial.
The Sixth Amendment
As per the Sixth Amendment, criminal defendants should be made aware of the criminal charges brought against them. It also guarantees the right to a public trial without delay. Under the Sixth Amendment, criminal defendants also have the right to know their accusers and confront them.
This amendment also guarantees your right to legal representation (the right to an attorney). For those who can’t afford one, the court should provide one for you. Under this amendment, the prosecution is required to reveal any evidence against you that will be presented to the judge and jury. Any evidence presented in court by the prosecution that wasn’t mentioned before goes against the Sixth Amendment.
The Eighth Amendment
The eighth amendment guarantees your right to post bail and protects you against excessive bail or fine amounts as well as cruel or unusual punishment. This amendment prohibits the courts from giving out unreasonable punishments based on personal feelings or prejudices against the defendant.
What Is a Misdemeanor vs a Felony in Georgia?
As you might already know, crimes vary depending on the severity of the offense as well as the circumstances surrounding the crime. The state of Georgia classifies crime into either felonies or misdemeanors.
A misdemeanor is a less serious crime compared to a felony and carries less severe consequences. As per Georgia statute O.C.G.A. 17-10-3, a misdemeanor is a crime punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000 or a jail term not exceeding 12 months or both.
In the event that you are convicted of a misdemeanor and have to serve time, you will do so in a county or city jail. Examples of misdemeanor offenses in Georgia include public intoxication, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, DUIs, and theft in which the value of the property stolen is less than $500.
There are also more serious misdemeanors (known as misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature). This can include a third DUI conviction, battery against a pregnant woman, aggressive driving, and attempting to elude a police officer.
In the state of Georgia, a felony is defined as a crime punishable by a prison sentence of not less than 12 months, by life imprisonment, or by death. Unlike most states, Georgia doesn’t group felony crimes into classifications, instead, there are statutes that stipulate the maximum penalty based on the crime. Some crimes carry enhanced penalties like mandatory minimum sentences.
Some examples of maximum felony penalties include:
- 5-year felony: sexual battery of a minor below 16 years, obstructing a police officer.
- 10-year felony: theft by extortion, aggravated stalking.
- Life imprisonment: forcible rape, second-degree murder, kidnapping for ransom.
- Death penalty: murder with aggravating circumstances, treason, and hijacking an aircraft.
Should I Consult a Lawyer Before Speaking to the Police?
As provided for in the Fifth Amendment, you have the right to remain silent while in police custody. The police can’t force you to provide details about the crime you are being accused of.
It is in your best interest to exercise this right until you’ve spoken to your attorney. As the phrase states, “anything that you say, can and will be used against you.” Knowing what to say and what not to say will greatly help your case.
So, only talk to the police under the direction of a Marietta criminal defense lawyer.
What Is the Habitual Offender Law?
The habitual offender law is a law that allows the judge to impose more stringent punishments on repeat offenders. Here, the judge modifies the punishment based on previous convictions. In the state of Georgia, a habitual offender is anyone who has been convicted of at least three major offenses in the last five years. Such people are considered a danger to society.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Marietta Help Me?
Facing a criminal charge is a serious matter. Even a misdemeanor on your record can have a huge impact on your life, for example, loss of federal financial aid for education and loss of certain jobs. Our attorneys at Diaz & Gaeta will fight to help you get back your life.
Here is how our team can help:
Our attorneys will first assess the specific details of your case and provide you with the relevant legal advice and guidance. We will then conduct a thorough independent investigation into the case collecting all the necessary evidence to build a strong defense for you. This will include interviewing witnesses and working with expert witnesses.
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, your best option may be to enter a plea bargain. Your attorney will be able to determine whether you stand a chance if you choose to take your case to trial. Plea bargains often result in a reduced punishment, less prison time, and even no jail term served.
In a plea bargain, the defendant typically pleads guilty to a lesser offense or (in the case of multiple offenses) to a reduced number of the offenses charged in exchange for more lenient sentencing.
Ability to Gauge Case Outcomes
Through a careful evaluation of your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to determine the most probable outcome in your case and guide you on the best course of action. They will be able to tell you whether it’s best to fight your case in court or to just take a plea deal.
Knowledge of Law & Court Rules
Our criminal defense attorneys at Diaz & Gaeta are familiar with the ins and outs of the Georgia criminal justice system. They have a clear understanding of the applying laws and court procedures.
An experienced attorney is able to identify any infringements and loopholes that can have your case dismissed. Also, being familiar with the judge and prosecution helps to give you an advantage in your case.
Our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience tackling and winning cases in court, helping our clients secure their freedom and future. If a plea deal isn’t ideal in your case, we will help prepare you for trial. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to prove your innocence or ensure the most favorable outcome.
What Is the Cost of Legal Representation?
All criminal cases are different. How much you can expect to pay for a private criminal defense attorney will vary depending on a number of factors including the type of case, the severity of the crime, the experience of the attorney, and your financial status. If your case goes to trial, you will end up paying more.
But all in all, if you are unable to afford your own criminal defense lawyer in Marietta, you still have a right to a public defender.
Is There a Benefit to Having a Private Attorney vs. a Court-Appointed Attorney?
Court-appointed attorneys are government employees tasked with the role of representing criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire their own attorneys. As a result, they are often overworked and underpaid. Given that they are often juggling many cases at a time, they may have limited time and resources to dedicate to your case. They may also be less motivated to do everything it takes to build a strong defense for you, which can have a big impact on the outcome of the case.
On the other hand, a private attorney will only handle a handful of cases at a time. This allows them to dedicate as much time as necessary to do an effective job. They are also able to offer more support and personalized service as they are better acquainted with the defendant.
Private attorneys also have access to more resources, which are important in building a strong defense for their clients. They are able to hire all kinds of expert witnesses and private investigators as they are more financially capable than public defenders. In addition, most private lawyers have additional staff, associates, and paralegals who help with the cases.
As you can see, you stand a better chance by working with a private criminal defense lawyer in Marietta.
Can You Represent Yourself?
Yes, you have the right to represent yourself in a criminal case. But it is in your best interest not to do so. Almost all self-represented criminal cases end in a conviction, with heftier punishments. The prosecutors will waste no time tearing your weak defense strategy apart. You also risk getting convicted on a technicality due to a lack of knowledge of the laws and the criminal justice system.
So, your best option is always to hire a professional criminal defense lawyer in Marietta when dealing with any criminal case.
Should I Accept a Plea Bargain?
Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your case, a plea bargain may or may not be in your best interest. Our attorneys at Diaz & Gaeta will be able to determine whether agreeing to a plea bargain is your best option as compared to going to trial and advise you on the best way forward.
Appealing a Conviction in Georgia
Being convicted of a crime doesn’t have to mean the end of the road for you as you have an automatic right to appeal the conviction. If you are dissatisfied with the ruling, you can file an appeal to have the conviction overturned. In the state of Georgia, murder cases are appealed to the Supreme Court while other criminal cases are appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Get in Touch With an Experienced Marietta Criminal Defense Lawyer Today!
A criminal conviction can completely upend your life. If you have been accused of a crime, it is imperative that you take quick and decisive action to safeguard your freedom and future. This means hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and build a strong and effective defense for you.
Considering everything that is at stake in the event of a guilty verdict, you can not afford to take any chances. A Marietta criminal defense lawyer from Diaz & Gaeta will ensure that you are covered on all bases. We are committed to ensuring that we obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Call our offices today at 678-329-9084 to get started on your path to freedom.