In the city of Atlanta, a criminal trial follows a certain process that mirrors the processes found in other areas of the country. Once a person has been arrested and charged with a crime, the process begins. The following is a brief outline of what a person can expect once they enter into criminal proceedings.
- Arrest and Release: The first step in the criminal trial process is an arrest. The person arrested and accused of a crime then has the opportunity to post bail in all but the most serious cases. If the arrested posts bail, they are released from custody.
- Arraignment: An arraignment is typically held within three days. The judge presiding over arraignments will ask that you enter a plea. A guilty plea means that you are admitting to committing the offense, and a not guilty plea means that you are claiming to not have committed the offense. You may also plead no contest, which means you admit to the facts of the case but not to guilt.
- Trial: If you plead not guilty, the case will proceed to trial. Prior to the trial, attorneys on either sides may file motions that require your appearance or your attorney’s appearance in court. You may choose a bench trial or a jury trial.
- Sentencing: If you are found guilty of the crime, you will appear at a sentencing hearing. This is when the judge will deliver your punishment that may include any combination of jail time, house arrest, fines, restitution and probation. Sentencing is also handed down for guilty and no contest pleas, and may be modified as an incentive to enter a quick plea and avoid trial.