Common Criminal Defense Questions

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.

Georgia criminal defense and juvenile law attorney Paul Ghanouni answers frequently asked questions about criminal procedure and juvenile issues.

What’s the difference between a police stop and being arrested?

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.

Isn’t a warrant required for the police to search me?

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 circumstance dictate that a warrant is not necessary for search:

  • Consent – While you are not required to consent to any police searches, a warrant is not required if you consent to a search of your body, your vehicle, or your home. You always have the right to say no to search and make the police get a warrant or use their discretion to search, which can be challenged in court
  • Searches incident to arrest – When making an arrest, a law enforcement officer is permitted to search your body and/or clothing for weapons or other contraband.
  • Vehicle searches – If you are in a vehicle and are stopped for questioning, the police still need probable cause to conduct a complete vehicle search that includes locked trunks or glove or other compartments.
  • Exigent circumstances – Searches may be conducted if there are “exigent circumstances,” for example, if the officer believes evidence may be destroyed unless he takes immediate action.
  • Plain view – When police see an object that is in plain view, a search warrant is not needed.
What should I do if I am arrested?

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:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to have an attorney present during questioning
  • The right to have an attorney appointed if you are unable to afford one

Why It Is Important To Remain Silent Until You Retain An Attorney

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.

What is a booking?

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.

What is an arraignment?

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.

What is a bond? What if I cannot afford a bond?

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.

Common Juvenile Offense Questions

What is a status offense?

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.

What are the consequences of adjudication for a delinquent act?

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.

What delinquent acts result in loss of a juvenile’s driving privileges?

Mandatory suspension of the child’s driving privileges occurs when any delinquent act includes possession of drugs, including marijuana. Also certain traffic offenses will cause the suspension of a juvenile’s driver’s license. Click here for more information on Georgia Traffic Violations.

When you need legal help with a criminal or juvenile law matter in Cherokee or the surrounding counties of Pickens, Bartow, Forsyth, and Cobb, call the Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, located in Woodstock, at 770-720-6336.

We are here to help

If you’re facing a criminal charge and are concerned about the impact on your life, contact us today and schedule a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.