If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, you may be wondering what will happen next. Read on for an idea of what you can expect from the court system’s sequence of events.
The Arrest and Report
After an arrest is made, but before anyone is charged with a crime, the police create an arrest report and forward it to the prosecutor. The report summarizes the events leading up to the arrest and the details of the arrest including the date, time, location, witnesses, etc. Based on this report, the prosecutor can either:
- File a complaint with the trial court, setting forth the charges
- Go to a Grand Jury, present the evidence to them, and ask them what criminal charges, if any, should be brought
- Elect to not pursue the matter
The Indictment Process
The indictment process begins when a person is arrested or cited for a criminal act. The police will then send a report and supporting documents to government attorneys, also known as prosecutors. These prosecutors will review the arrest, the person’s criminal history, and other factors in order to determine what indictment charges should be filed against them. The initial charges are subject to modification and may be changed. The indictment may then be presented to the Grand Jury.
This is your initial appearance before a Judge. At this initial appearance, you will formally be advised of the charges brought against you, and with the assistance of your attorney, enter a plea of “not guilty” and demand discovery, which is all information the prosecutor has in your case.
The Grand Jury
The prosecution can make a decision about the charges that are to be filed. In felony cases, the prosecution will call on a Grand Jury to decide the charges through the indictment process. There are two types of juries that are involved in felony criminal proceedings. The Grand Jury is responsible for the indictment process alone: determining what charges will be officially filed against the defendant. (The petit or trial jury is responsible for judging the guilt of the defendant with regards to the indictment charges.)
Grand juries in Georgia are comprised of at least 16 (sixteen) private, randomly chosen citizens who conduct the indictment process privately. The Grand Jury will be presented with a “bill” by the prosecutor who will present the evidence necessary to secure an indictment. It is the prosecutor who has the ultimate control over the indictment process. Defendants are usually not even aware that the Grand Jury is meeting.
Plea bargaining can happen at nearly any stage in the criminal trial process. A plea bargain is where the prosecution lowers the charge in exchange for a guilty plea. The plea bargain is a sort of negotiation between the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution may realize that they do not have quite enough evidence to make the trial an easy one. By offering a “plea deal,” they can ensure conviction without having to go to trial.
Plea bargaining can work in your benefit if you and your attorney come to the realization that the prosecution may have a good case against you. If you think that a jury or judge may find you guilty anyway, it can make more sense to plead guilty to a lesser charge thereby avoiding the heavier sentence that goes with the more serious charge.
As a former prosecutor for nearly a decade before starting private practice, W. Scott Brannen has extensive knowledge and experience on both sides of the courtroom. Scott Brannen has indicted thousands of cases and has tried over 80 felony jury trials by himself, plus hundreds of non-jury trials and hearings, ranging from small offenses to Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Rape, Child Molestation, Vehicular Homicide, Murders, and death penalty cases, among all other criminal offenses. Whether you have been arrested for a felony, misdemeanor, traffic violation, license problem, or other crime, you can trust that W. Scott Brannen and the team at The Brannen Law Office, P.C. have what it takes to successfully defend you against the maximum penalties of a conviction.