Conditions of Probation

A plea of guilty is a frequent outcome for criminal cases. As a part of a sentence, a defendant may be subject to a special set of rules, or conditions of probation. These rules could include a Fourth Amendment Waiver, a requirement to the defendant take drug tests, and/or any number of other conditions that a lot of people have to live with.judge.jpg

In cases where there is a victim, a defendant can be ordered to stay away from that person while the defendant is on probation. Clients sometimes incorrectly believe that if the client and the victim moved to another county, that these conditions won’t apply.

As long as that person is on probation that stay away condition applies. No matter what county or state a person moves to, the Court Order still applies. The defendant could be arrested for a probation violation and/ or be subject to new criminal charges under the proper conditions.

Entering a plea of guilty carries heavy responsibility. These conditions will apply for the entire term of the sentence unless a judge changes the terms.

Grand Jury: Just a Step in the Process

Clients and family members often express concern when the idea of the Grand Jury is discussed.

The Grand Jury determines who is indicted and who is not indicted. In most cases, an Indictment, or “True Bill,” results from presentation of a case to the Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury determines that a case should not go forward, then the case is “No Billed.”

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What does all of this mean?

In Georgia, the Grand Jury consists of 16 to 23 individuals drawn from the pool of people who may serve as jurors. This group meets from time to time based on the need of each individual county.

A case is presented to the Grand Jury by the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney controls what cases are presented to the Grand Jury. Defendants have no say in presentation and no right to be present (*except for law enforcement officers charged with a crime).

The Grand Jury determines whether enough evidence exists for a case to go forward. The Grand Jury does not decide guilt or acquittal. As such, most cases presented to the Grand Jury become True Bill Indictments.

In cases where the State has little evidence or there is an affirmative defense, lobbying, information sharing, and negotiating with the DA’s office could prevent Indictment and find a resolution without Grand Jury presentation. A lawyer can best advise when these actions will have better results.

Remember, the Grand Jury presentation is but one step in the criminal justice process.

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson

Plea Offers

When a plea offer is made by the State, the defense attorney must present that offer to the client. Offers are not controlled by the defense attorney. At times, clients begin to feel like their attorney isn’t working for the client because the offer is so harsh.

Understand that your attorney advocates for your side. That being said, your attorney cannot change the law, the facts of your case, the political views of the prosecutor’s office or just about anything except to discuss the case with you and work to persuade the prosecutor. Your attorney can use the information you provide and investigation to shift the balance to your advantage in the case.

An attorney might suggest pleas to other laws that may fit your circumstances as an alternative. Evaluating these options is part of the negotiation process.

If you do not like a plea offer and an agreement cannot be reached, then your options become very limited. A plea of guilty without an agreement, throwing yourself on the mercy of the court, may work to your advantage depending on the judge and the charges. In that case, though, the judge cannot change the charges to which you plead or the maximum/minimum sentence.

The ultimate option, though, is a jury trial. Every criminal defendant is entitled to a trial by a jury of his or her peers.

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson

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Plea Negotiations

More than 90% of criminal and traffic cases resolve with a guilty plea of some sort. In many cases, guilty pleas are negotiated. Other times, a client may choose to enter a plea of guilty without a plea offer because we cannot reach a meeting of the minds with the State.

How can an attorney help with this?

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An attorney provides you with important information. You should know the maximum and minimum potential punishments, which usually include time in the local jail or in prison. Also, be aware that the law usually permits the judge to assess a fine.

Motions can be filed which might result in evidence the judge throwing out some evidence. Attorneys with criminal trial experience have the training to know whether these motions are viable in your case.

Plea discussions can be influenced by factors like possible witnesses, affirmative defenses, and other factors with which attorneys are familiar. Also, other lesser offenses maybe an option for a reduced plea offer and a different outcome.

Don’t just assume that the offer made is without the possibility of change. Rushing to resolve a case on your own could result in an outcome that you will have to live with the rest of your life. Consulting an attorney will help you make better, wiser decisions. These choices end up on your criminal record, available to employers in many cases.

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson

Mistrial – Hung Jury

During jury deliberations in a criminal jury trial, a jury must reach a unanimous verdict. All the jurors- 12 for felonies or 6 for misdemeanors- must agree about whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

If after some period of time the jury cannot decide on a verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial. The mistrial will be referred to as a hung jury. Lawyers and judges use the term hung jury to mean that the jurors are fixed in the decisions and unable to make a unanimous decision. During these types of deliberations, it feels like I spend quite a bit of time staring at the door to the jury deliberation room.

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When this happens, the State controls what happens next. The prosecutor for the State may make a much better plea offer might be presented by the State and should be carefully considered.

to try the case again at another trial calendar. At other times, the State may choose to dismiss the case believing that the best effort to try the case resulted in a hung jury and another jury would likely have the same result. Finally, the prosecutor may well decide to try the case again at the next trial date.

In cases of more significant charges, the State might decide to dig deeper and investigate the case further in an effort to uncover more evidence for that second trial.

A hung jury that results in a mistrial doesn’t mean the case is over, it simply means that there may be more options available.

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson