All-too-often we are contacted and hear questions like, “I’ve been contacted by law enforcement and they want to interview me. What should I do?”
Before anything else, you should speak with your attorney.
Members of law enforcement are trained interviewers and interrogators whose primary purpose is to get you to say something incriminating. Innocent defendants often think they can handle things themselves and quickly discover they are in over their heads when they are questioned. If you are the target of a criminal investigation of any kind, consult a qualified professional before you meet with any member of law enforcement.
I’ve been arrested for a felony. When will my case go to court?
All felony cases must be processed through the county’s grand jury before the case proceeds to Superior Court (in Georgia) or Circuit Court (in Alabama). Some cases take longer to be processed by the grand jury than others, depending on the circumstances. Cases that require lab work from the state crime lab can take several months before they are presented to the grand jury. Simpler cases can be presented much sooner. On average, felony cases are scheduled for court approximately three to six months after the initial arrest.
What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is a defendant’s first official appearance in court after the defendant’s case has been presented to the grand jury. At the arraignment, the defendant will enter an initial plea to the court. If a defendant is unable to afford an attorney, the court may appoint the defendant an attorney at his or her arraignment.
I’m being offered probation if I enter a guilty plea to a misdemeanor. Should I go ahead and plead guilty without an attorney?
No. You should always consult an attorney before you enter a guilty plea to any criminal charge. Many types of criminal charges carry extra penalties you may not be aware of. Drug convictions can suspend your driver’s license. A domestic violence charge can prevent you from owning a firearm. The issue of probation or incarceration is only one of many issues that can result from a criminal conviction. In most situations, you cannot appeal the sentence resulting from a guilty plea. Therefore, you should consult a qualified professional before taking such a big step on your own.
If I’m stopped for a DUI, should I take the breath test?
Most attorneys agree that a driver suspected of DUI should always take the breath test that is requested by law enforcement. In most states, a refusal to take a breath test can be introduced in court as evidence of the driver’s guilt. Also, refusing to take a breath test can result in the immediate administrative suspension of your driver’s license. In Georgia, refusing to take a breath test for law enforcement can also make you ineligible for a limited driving permit under Georgia law. Lastly, if you take the breath test for law enforcement, you can then request a blood test that will be administered at your own expense. If you refuse to take the breath test, you have no right to an alternate test of your choosing.
I’ve been arrested for DUI, and law enforcement took my laminated license. Can I still drive until I go to court?
Maybe. In most circumstances, the arresting officer will provide the driver with an administrative license suspension notice that allows the driver to continue to drive for a certain amount of time – usually this will last for 30 days. In some situations, the driver’s privileges to drive are suspended immediately upon arrest. Carefully read any paperwork you received at the time of your arrest, and it should explain the status of your driving privileges.
This is the first time I’ve been arrested for DUI. Will I have to serve jail time?
Georgia requires a first-time offender to serve a minimum of 24 hours in jail if the offender is convicted of a DUI. The time served prior to making bond is counted toward the 24-hour sentence. Alabama does not require jail time for a first offense. However, bear in mind that sentencing is always at the discretion of the judge. DUI offenses involving injuries, automobile accidents, eluding law enforcement and other dangerous conduct often result in jail time beyond any minimum required by law.