Criminal Law: Common Questions and Answers

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Do I need a Criminal defense lawyer?  •  How much will my defense cost?
What Are the Potential Penalties for Drug Offenses in Georgia?
What Are the Search and Seizure Laws in Georgia?
What Are the Robbery and Armed Robbery Laws in Georgia?
What are the DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Laws in Georgia?

 Do I Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Any person who is facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, will benefit from consulting a competent criminal defense lawyer. Even if the lawyer is not retained to provide representation in court, a consultation will help a criminal defendant understand the nature of the charges filed, available defenses, what plea bargains are likely to be offered, and what is likely to happen in the event of conviction.

For serious charges, it will be a rare defendant who does not benefit from having a competent criminal defense lawyer assist with the negotiation of a plea bargain, or to prepare a case for trial.

A criminal defense lawyer should also be able to identify important pretrial issues, and to bring appropriate motions which might significantly improve a defendant's situation, or even result in the dismissal of charges.

 How Much Will My Defense Cost?

Helpful information and frequently asked questions concering criminal law -  Martin G. Hilliard, family and criminal law The cost of a criminal defense lawyer can vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction, and the nature of the charges which have been filed (or which are expected to be filed) against the defendant. A lawyer will typically require a greater retainer for a complex case than for a simple case. The amount of a retainer will also typically increase with the severity of the charge filed against a defendant. Sometimes, though, a relatively minor charge can require a higher retainer, where the attorney expects to have to engage in extensive motion practice, or where it will be necessary to utilize expert witnesses.

In a misdemeanor case, although as previously noted the typical fee will vary significantly between cities, counties, and states, it is not unusual for a lawyer to request a retainer of several thousand dollars. For felony cases, retainers often start at $5,000 - $10,000, and can be $25,000 or more for serious or life felonies, such as sexual assault cases or homicide. The anticipated cost of expert witnesses can also significantly increase a retainer.

Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial. It is not unusual for appellate lawyers to hear clients recite that they entered into guilty pleas after they were unable to come up with the necessary funds to pay their lawyers to proceed with a trial. If you do decide to enter into an agreement whereby you will pay an additional retainer if your case goes to trial, make sure that it is an amount you can afford.

 What Are the Potential Penalties for Drug Offenses in Georgia?

Criminal law information from defense attorney Martin G. Hilliard, family and criminal law
Schedule I & II Substances
Purchase or Possess (First Offense)Imprisonment for not less than two nor more than fifteen years.
Purchase or Possess (Second Offense)Imprisonment for not less than five nor more than thirty years.
Sell or Intent to Distribute (First Offense)Imprisonment for not less than five nor more than thirty years.
Sell or Intent to Distribute (Second Offense)Imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than forty years OR life imprisonment.

Schedule III, IV & V Substances
Purchase or Possess (First Offense)Imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
Purchase or Possess (Second Offense)Imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years.
Sell or Intent to Distribute (First Offense)Imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years.

 What Are the Search and Seizure Laws in Georgia?

Search and seizure, also called stop and search, is probably the most hotly contested area of criminal law. Police are always making stops and/or searches. Those arrested are always contesting the legality of the stop and/or the search.

The reason is obvious. If either the stop or the search is illegal, any evidence found during the search is inadmissible at trial. In other words, No Evidence - No Case - Case Dismissed.

Search and seizure is a complicated area of the law. I will try to keep it simple and understandable.

 What Are the Robbery and Armed Robbery Laws in Georgia?

Criminal law Q&A -  Martin G. Hilliard, family and criminal law An Armed Robbery is a robbery committed with an offensive weapon, any replica of an offensive weapon, or a device having the appearance of any such weapon. It is actually possible to be convicted of armed robbery if you did not have a weapon. For example, if you put your hand in your pocket and cause someone to believe you have a gun, you could be convicted of Armed Robbery.

Punishment for Armed Robbery
Depending upon the circumstances, punishment for Armed Robbery can be: Death penalty; Life in prison; or No less than 10 nor more than 20 years in prison. Keep in mind that the minimum prison time is 10 years with no early release.

If you take a controlled substance from a druggist and cause intentional bodily injury, the minimum prison sentence is 15 years. You must do at least 10 years in prison with no early release.

 What are the DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Laws in Georgia?

DUI laws in Georgia -  Martin G. Hilliard, family and criminal law Georgia DUI laws are tough and enforcement of these laws is rigorous. The standard for an unlawful blood alcohol content has been lowered from .10 to .08. The standard is even lower for for those operating a commercial vehicle with a Commercial Driver's Licenses (.04). It's lower still for those under 21 years of age (.02).

If your automobile is stopped, and if the police officer smells alcohol, he can ask you to take a battery of field sobriety tests. These can include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test ( HGN ), the Walk and Turn test, the One Legged Stand test, and the Hand Held Breath test on a device called an Alcosensor (not a Breathalyzer).

If you perform poorly on these standardized evaluations, or if the police officer otherwise suspects impairment, you will be arrested. At the time you're placed under arrest for DUI, the officer is supposed to read the Georgia Implied Consent Notice to you. He will designate which of the three tests -- including blood, breath, or urine -- he wants you to take (he can designate all three if he wishes).

Penalties for DUI conviction in Georgia -  Martin G. Hilliard, family and criminal law If you take the test and have an unlawful blood alcohol level, or if you refuse to take the test, you have just ten business days to request an administrative license suspension hearing. If you don't request the hearing within the ten business days, your Georgia driver's license or privilege to drive in Georgia will be suspended for 1 to 5 years by operation of law, depending upon your record. And that's before you go to court.

If you are convicted of DUI:

  1. you can go to jail for up to a year,
  2. you will have to do at least 40 hours of community service,
  3. you will have to pay a big fine,
  4. you will lose your drivers license for 1 to 5 years,
  5. you will have to attend DUI school (also called alcohol risk reduction school),
  6. you will have to pay a reinstatement fee to get your license back
  7. you will have higher insurance premiums.
  8. you might have to have an ignition interlock device placed on your car,
  9. you might have to turn in the license plates on all the vehicles you own,
  10. you might have your picture published in the newspaper,
  11. you might have to attend alcohol counseling.
As you can see, being arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Georgia is complicated and the potential consequences can be severe. You deserve the best DUI attorney you can find.