You’ve been arrested, now what?
After your arrest and going through the booking process at the detention center you will be taken before a magistrate judge who will set your initial bond. The magistrate will set this based purely on the charges and often without consideration to the specific facts and defenses in your case. You are not entitled to an attorney at this initial hearing.
If you are booked on a serious offense, the bond given to you at your first appearance might be too large for you or your family to make. In a short list of cases, the magistrate is unable to give you a bond and you will sit in jail until there is a superior court judge available to handle the issue of bond. Georgia Law states that persons charged with the following offenses can only have bail set before a superior court judge: Treason, Murder, Rape, Aggravated Sodomy, Armed Robbery, Home Invasion in the First Degree, Aggravated child molestation, Aggravated sexual battery, Aggravated Stalking. O.C.G.A. 17-6-1(a)(1-13).
If you cannot make your current bond there are two options to handle the issue: Preliminary Hearings and Bond Reduction Hearings.
The best way to think about a preliminary hearing is as a short version of the possible trial that could happen at the end of your case. The State will have to bring witnesses to tell the presiding magistrate the factual basis for the charges you are accused of. It is important to have an attorney at this point because your attorney can cross examine any witnesses to start poking holes in the State’s case. This is your first opportunity to see parts of the evidence against you and to plan your defenses for the rest of the case. At the end of a preliminary hearing, the presiding judge will decide whether or not there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crimes charged. If the judge finds that probable cause does not exist the charges will be dismissed then and there.
The other option is to have a bond reduction hearing. At these hearings the court is looking at your history and your ties to the community to see if you are a risk not to show up to court when your case comes on the docket. The four factors the court will look at to determine this are if the Defendant is;
- A significant risk of flight
- A significant risk of danger to person or property in the community
- A significant risk of committing any felony pending trial
- A significant risk of intimidating any witnesses in the case
You without a doubt need an attorney to argue these factors. Each judge weighs the factors differently. Attorney Adam Harkness who has experience in the north east Georgia courtrooms will know which facts of your history to highlight in order to get your bond lower. Whatever the particular details of your case, the attorneys at Harkness & Associates will tie it all together in a clear, cohesive message to the presiding judge.
What to expect in Court
Being summoned to court to face charges is difficult and nerve-racking. You will be in an unfamiliar room with a variety of strangers, courtroom staff, and a table of prosecuting attorneys that have your future in their files. Do not go into this environment alone. Having an attorney from this office with you in court will take all of your stress away and replace it with confidence. We will keep you up to date on all developments in your case and answer the questions you have.
At the resolution of your case you will need to appear in court. There are ways of dress and acting that the judge will expect of you. What you need to remember is the ‘Two Be’s’:
- Be on time
- This speaks for itself but the judge will know if you are late to your court date. Each court date begins with a roll call of the cases that day and if you are not there the judge will know. The judge is the person ultimately approving or rejecting the resolution to your case and being late to court will affect this. In the worst case scenario where you miss your court date entirely, you will have a bench warrant issued against you meaning that you can be arrested for missing your court date. When you hire our team, we will receive all of the court notices that you do for your court dates. This means that we will be checking in with you to make sure you know when and where you need to be and what to expect from those days.
- Be respectful
- This includes how you act, speak, and dress in the courtroom. All of these can affect the outcome of your case. When speaking to the courtroom staff and other attorneys use “Yes sir.” and “Yes ma’am.” When speaking to the Judge whether they are a man or woman, refer to them as “Your Honor”. In many Georgia Courts if you cell phone sounds off during proceedings of any kind it will be taken up by courtroom staff until you leave. Court is a formal place and these small gestures of respect are expected of all people involved in court that day.
- MEN: Long sleeve button up shirt and slacks with closed toed dress shoes.
- WOMEN: Conservative top (in color and style) with slacks and closed toed shoes. Avoid excessive accessories and accessories that make noise.
- Furthermore, there is a minimum level of dress expected. No hats are allowed, no torn jeans, and no flip flops. You are not allowed to wear tank tops or short skirts. For the ladies no tops exposing your midsection will be allowed. Shorts are strongly discouraged. If your dress is not up to the formal standard of court you will not be allowed in the courtroom. If you miss your court date because of not being dressed appropriately it will be blamed on you. You do NOT need to show up in your best Sunday Suit or dress but you need to dress in a way that shows the court you understand the seriousness of the situation.
Dressing appropriately, acting appropriately, and being on time are all things technically unrelated to your case but can affect the outcome. Use these to your advantage and let the judge know that you are taking your case seriously.