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

Bond and Violent Crimes

When an individual is charged with a serious violent crime, the Courts in Georgia do not automatically grant a bond. Charges for which a person can be held without bond include, but are not limited to, murder, rape, armed robbery, and drug trafficking.

Unknown.jpegInevitably, a client will ask, “why did John Smith who is charged with murder, get a bond, and the Court won’t give me a bond?”

In all likelihood, the DA did not indict the murder defendant within 90 days of arrest. Georgia places a strict requirement that defendants held without bond must be indicted with 90 days of their arrest in order that detention without bond continue. Failure to indict results in the right to a reasonable bond.The DA determines when a case will be present to the Grand Jury for indictment. Obtaining the information necessary for a case could take longer than anyone would like. Or there may be other circumstances which are not public that could factor into the DA’s choice not to go forward.

Please understand, each case is different and rests on its own circumstances. The events and orders in one case normally do not impact the events and orders of another case.

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson

Legal Definition: Drug Distribution

Frequently the State charges a client with possession with intent to distribute a drug. The client may have possessed scales, packaging equipment-sandwich bags, and some amount of an illegal or controlled drug. In other cases, the intent to distribute can stem from the weight of the drug found.

Clients often recount that the drugs were just to share, “I didn’t sell” the drugs or make any money. Under the law, distribution does not require payment. Imagine you buy a large bag of Halloween candy. You take the candy to a friend’s party and place it in bowl for everyone to share. That, my friends, is possession with intent to distribute Halloween candy. Giving away an item means that you are distributing the item whether you profit or not. Under the law, taking an amount of drugs to share with others constitutes possession with intent to distribute.

In drugs cases, the law provides many ways to challenge the charges. Understand that “I shared but I didn’t make any money” isn’t one of the challenges.leftover-candy

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson

Legal Definitions: Hearsay

One of the great challenges of representing clients revolves around language and word usage. Many times the legal definition and common understanding of a word differ.

Hearsay falls into that category. Recently, while working to resolve a case for a client whose codefendant just entered a guilty plea and agreed to implicate the client, a family member said, “that’s just hearsay.” We discussed what the family member thought was hearsay, so that I could be understand the concern. Under the common understanding-not the legal definition-if a codefendant, or eyewitness for that matter, testifies about having observed an event, there is a false belief that this testimony is hearsay and that this testimony is worthless.

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To unravel this misapprehension, we must talk about direct evidence and hearsay. First, an eyewitness, regardless of recent psychological publications, is classified as direct evidence that a crime was committed. A witness, who is a codefendant or a just an observer, may testify to what that witness observed. In my client’s case, the codefendant agreed to testify about actions my client took at the time of the crime: that the client was driving a motor vehicle involved in a crime. Like it or not, this evidence is admissible and cannot be challenged as hearsay.

Second, hearsay, in the situation of this particular client, would be a witness who testifies that she “heard” that the client was driving the car in question. With no direct observation, that witness’s testimony falls into the category of gossip and would not be admitted. The legal definition of hearsay varies from state to state but generally hearsay is an out of court statement offered by a witness to establish the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.

Be sure that when decisions are made in your case, that you make them based on the actual rules of evidence after discussion with counsel. Do not make decisions based on what you may have heard from someone who is not a lawyer.

© 2016 Nancee Tomlinson