If you are facing Georgia criminal charges, you may wonder whether you should hire an attorney to represent you. You may be debating whether you can rely on a court-appointed attorney, or even simply represent yourself in front of the judge. Find out how a privately-hired attorney can help you protect your rights, especially as courts wrestle with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You have a right to an attorney’s advice and representation as soon as you are suspected of a crime. If the police come to your door to question you, you have the right to ask them to wait until you have called your lawyer. Your right to a lawyer continues throughout the criminal defense process, including the grand jury indictment, all pretrial conferences, the jury trial, and sentencing.
Unfortunately, far too many people decide to forego those rights and try to represent themselves. They assume they will not harm themselves if they talk to police and prosecutors, especially if they go into court anticipating that they will plead guilty to the charges. However, this approach misses many opportunities to minimize or even eliminate the charges against you and reduce the consequences of your sentence. Statements made to the police or the prosecutor by the accused can be used to prosecute the accused.
Even if you believe yourself responsible for the criminal charges you are facing, you can benefit from working with a criminal defense attorney. Through a careful review of the police investigation and resulting evidence in your case, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to identify technical violations in your Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights which could exclude key evidence and even cause your case to be dismissed.
Also, the process of a criminal defense trial can be overwhelming, even for less experienced lawyers. Self-represented defendants are still required to follow court rules for admitting evidence and questioning witnesses, not to mention objecting when the prosecutor goes out of line. Without a law degree and years of courtroom experience, it is all too easy to make technical mistakes that could cost you your freedom.
If you hire an attorney that also means that someone is speaking for you with prosecutors and in front of the jury. Attorneys are trained in negotiation and advocacy, and can help to sway decision-makers’ opinions. That could result in a more forgiving plea deal, or even a not-guilty verdict from the jury.
If you don’t have a lot of disposable income, you may wonder if you should just rely on a court-appointed attorney, instead of hiring your own criminal defense lawyer. The public defenders in Georgia do their best to provide quality representation to indigent defendants across the state. However, their resources are limited. Many public defenders have more clients than they can manage, and that means your case won’t get the same level of attention to detail as if you had a privately retained attorney.
Also, if there is a complicated defense, such as in stand your ground cases, a public defender, due to the number of appointed cases, may not have the same time to examine, investigate, meet with you or prepare defenses. The more complicated your case, the more seriously you should consider hiring your own lawyer, rather than allowing one to be appointed for you.
Having a lawyer represent you in criminal court is always a good idea, but it has never been more important than in the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic response. So far, the Georgia Supreme Court has issued no less than eight judicial emergency orders adjusting how criminal and civil cases will be handled in light of the pandemic and the need for social distancing. Most recently, on November 9, 2020, the Supreme Court issued an order allowing courts in less affected parts of the state to resume grand jury proceedings and jury trials with proper safety protocols in place. However, those protocols and timelines will be different in every county, depending on the medical indicators in that county. They could also change at any moment if circumstances worsen in your area.
Keeping up with the changing pandemic response is hard enough for criminal defense attorneys in Georgia, who have access to resources from the State Bar and their fellow attorneys. For self-represented defendants, knowing if, when, and how to attend court hearings in the midst of the pandemic may quickly become overwhelming. As the Georgia Supreme Court and local county courts balance criminal defendants’ right to a speedy trial with the public’s right to safety and protection from the virus, you need an attorney who is plugged into the changes to keep you from missing a court date that could change your life.
As a Georgia resident, you have the right to have a criminal defense attorney help you protect your rights and defend your case. Don’t pass up those rights, especially in a time when every county is handling criminal cases differently. At the McCoy Law Firm, LLC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys know what the courts are doing to keep everyone safe, and what it takes to push your case forward and get you a prompt and fair outcome. If you have been charged with a crime, please contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away.