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What Do You Do If You Are On Trial For a Crime in Georgia?

All Criminal trials in Georgia follow a specified criminal justice process in which the defendant is required to hire legal counsel to represent their best interest. Legal counsels draw from their professional experience to post bail, negotiate plea bargains with the prosecution pre-trial, make arguments during the trial, and file motions and appeal verdicts.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases Go to Trial in Georgia?

The 2017 Georgia Crime Statistics Summary Report states that criminal cases made up 17.2% of all cases in Georgia In 2015. However, the Georgia Court System statistics reveal that only a small percentage of criminal cases eventually go to trial. As the parties involved in litigation often have limited resources, many criminal cases are not prosecuted. In these cases, the defendant concedes to requests in exchange for a lighter sentence—this is referred to as a plea bargain.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

Under the Georgia judicial code, O. C. G. A. § 17–7–170, criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial after an indictment. A quick trial ensures that justice is not delayed; moreover, by law, the court must discharge and acquit the defendant of the charge or accusation if the defendant is not tried within the current or succeeding court term.

In Georgia, a criminal defendant must be brought to trial within two court terms of their arrest. However, the length of this period varies between local jurisdictions. The code also stipulates that a defendant cannot exercise the right to a speedy trial if:

  • The defendant has not been formally charged, indicted, or arrested for the crimes.
  • The defendant submits a motion for a continuance.
  • The defendant fails to show up for a calendar call.
  • The defendant challenges the jury pool.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Georgia?

Typically, a criminal trial in Georgia goes through 6 stages. These include:

  • Jury selection
  • Opening statements
  • Presentation of case
  • Closing statements
  • Jury deliberation
  • Verdict

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Georgia?

Under the O. C. G. A. § 17–3–1, the amount of time it takes to get to trial depends on the statute’s limitations and the severity of the offense. However, once an indictment is made, a defendant may demand a speedy trial to expedite the criminal justice process.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Georgia?

Under the O. C. G. A. TITLE 17 Chapter 8, a criminal case that goes to trial goes through the following phases:

  • Jury selection: The Georgia Constitution of 1983 gives indictees the right to jury trials of their peers. Usually, the prosecution and defense choose 6 to 12 jurors who are proven to be fair and impartial. If either legal counsel suspects a juror is biased, they may initiate a peremptory strike or petition the judge to disqualify the juror for “cause.” For example, a juror is disqualified for cause if they are related to the parties, lawyers, or if they have any vested interest in the litigation.
  • Opening statements: The Georgia Code gives the prosecutor the right to the first opening statement. Opening statements are brief and designed to acquaint the jury with the background of the case. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney base their opening remarks on facts that will be proved by evidence. Opening statements are not argumentative.
  • Presentation of case: This is the main stage of a criminal trial. In this stage, the prosecution and defense present evidence, make arguments, call and cross-examine witnesses, file motions, and more; this is geared towards making a solid case for each party or against the other side.
  • Closing statements: Usually, the prosecution makes the first closing statement. The closing statements are summations of the arguments presented and properly drawn inferences. After the closing statements are made, the judge may comment and issue specific instructions to the jury.
  • Jury deliberation: In this stage, the jury retires to deliberate on the attorneys’ facts and decide on a verdict. Usually, the jury selects a foreperson who presides over discussions and final votes of the jurors. The foreperson also delivers the verdict when the court proceedings resume. In most jurisdictions, the jury’s verdict in a criminal case must be unanimous, or the litigants may claim a mistrial.
  • Verdict: After reaching a verdict, the jury notifies the bailiff, who then tells the judge. Subsequently, all litigants reconvene in the courtroom. Depending on the jurisdiction, the foreperson or court clerk announces the verdict. Verdicts in criminal cases are either guilty or not guilty.

Can You Be Put On Trial Twice For The Same Crime In Georgia?

No. Defendants who stand trial in the Georgia legal system are protected under the O. C. G. A. § 16–1–7 statute from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Georgia?

The presiding court maintains and disseminates records on criminal cases. To look up records on ongoing or concluded criminal proceedings, the requester must visit the presiding court in person, submit a mail request, or visit the court’s website. The Georgia Judiciary maintains a directory for the websites of state and superior courts in Georgia counties. Similarly, third-party service providers allow access to records on criminal proceedings in Georgia.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Georgia

Under the Georgia Open Records Act, all public records are available for inspection and copying unless they are sealed or expunged. Typically, to access an electronic court record, the requester must:

  • Visit the specific court’s website.
  • Create an account on the website
  • Log in to initiate search and access electronic records on the case of interest.

The searcher must initiate the search by providing the case information in the required search fields. The search necessitates information such as docket number, case number, date of filing, and litigants’ names.

However, selected court records may be exempted or redacted from online access. These include:

  • Cases involving minors or juveniles
  • Medical or veterinary records and related files
  • Records that may compromise national security
  • Records deemed likely to disclose the identity of a confidential source
  • Records containing communications subject to the attorney-client privilege
  • Records that may reveal the name, address, or telephone number of a person who placed a call to a public safety answering point
  • Records that may reveal an individual’s social security number or financial information

Note that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website maintains a full list of exempted records.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Georgia?

In some instances, under the O. C. G. A. § 17–8–6, litigants may petition the presiding court to restrict public access to a record. Generally, the judge will weigh the basis of the petition against public interests and consider the following premises:

  • The criminal charges were dismissed
  • The criminal charges are the subject of a pre-trial disposition by the prosecution, provided that the terms and conditions of the pre-trial disposition are satisfied
  • Sealing the records will not constitute an adjudication of any illegal or wrongful action

Generally, defendants who were arrested before July 1, 2013, must apply for restriction through the arresting agency and pay any applicable fees. The application process must be completed within 150 days. On the other hand, defendants arrested after July 1, 2013, need not apply for a restriction. Records of the indictment are restricted when the clerk of court or prosecutor enters the appropriate disposition into the G. C. I. C. database. However, an indictee must apply for a court order to restrict the following types of records:

  • Records on charges placed on a dead docket
  • Records on felony charge(s) when the defendant is convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor
  • Records on convictions that are vacated/reversed
  • Records related to youthful offender convictions

To request the restriction:

  • Visit the Georgia Bureau of Investigations website
  • Download and complete the request form
  • Forward the request form to the arresting agency

If the agency approves the request, the applicant must enclose the completed request form with the application fee of $25.00 (money order or certified check). Submit the request to:

Georgia Crime Information Center Record Restrictions
P. O. Box 370808 Decatur
Georgia 30037–0808

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