If you are charged with a crime, especially as a first offender, you will very likely have questions about criminal procedure and your rights under the law.
Cherokee County attorney Paul Ghanouni answers frequently asked questions about criminal defense and juvenile issues.
Police may stop and question you, although you have the right to refuse to answer. While a stop detains you for a short time, you are not moved to a different location as with an arrest. In order for police to make an arrest, they must have “probable cause,” which means there must be a reasonable belief a crime was committed and that you were involved in the crime. If the police arrest you, they take you in to custody and you may not leave.
In general terms, a warrant is required for police to initiate a search. If a police officer comes to your home, a warrant will be required to take you into custody. However, if the officer has reason to think you might run, destroy evidence, or harm someone else, he can arrest you at home without a warrant.
If an arrest takes place somewhere other than your home, the following circumstances dictate that a warrant is not necessary for search:
The moment you are placed under arrest, constitutional rights protect you. The only thing you have to say is, “I want to speak with an attorney” or “I have nothing to say now.”
When you are in police custody, under the Miranda Rule, you must be informed of specific constitutional rights before you are interrogated. Your rights are:
Police do not have to read your Miranda rights until they arrest you, and they can question you before taking you into custody. Anything you say before an arrest can be used against you later in court, and anything you say after arrest may be used against you if a court determines that it is not the product of police questioning.
Additionally, many police vehicles and interrogation rooms have recording devices. Even if you believe you are alone or think the only other person there is someone with whom you were arrested, you need to understand that you may still be recorded, and those statements could be used against you. Your decision to tell the police that you do not want to answer any questions or speak to them cannot be used against you in trial.
After an arrest, you will be taken to a police station where you are “booked.” A booking refers to the process of officially entering your arrest in the police records. You will be asked your name, date of birth, and address. You will be searched, fingerprinted, and photographed. Personal property such as wallet, money, and jewelry will be cataloged and stored.
After criminal charges are filed, you will have a court appearance called an arraignment. At your arraignment, a judge officially reads the charges filed against you.
A bond is an amount of money you must pay to be released from jail pending your appearance in court. If you pay a cash bond, the money will be returned to you at the conclusion of the case. However, if you use a bonding company, the money you give them is the fee to have them post your bond, and you will not get this money back. If you are unable to make the bond that has been set, an attorney can either get you into court at an earlier court date to dispose of your case, or he can request a bond reduction hearing for you and ask the court to lower your bond.
Status offenses are applicable only to children who are subject to juvenile court jurisdiction for non-criminal behavior; they are offenses that would not be illegal if the person wasn’t a juvenile. Characteristically, status offenses include running away from home, curfew violation, truancy, unruly behavior, habitually disobeying the reasonable and lawful commands of the child’s parent, guardian, or other custodian, and being ungovernable.
If the child is adjudicated delinquent, the ways Georgia law authorizes the Court to dispose of the case include placing the juvenile on probation, incarceration for up to 30 days, or committing the child to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
When you need legal help with a criminal or juvenile law matter in Cherokee or the surrounding counties of Pickens, Bartow, Forsyth, and Cobb, contact the Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, located in Woodstock.