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Henry County Misdemeanor Procedures: Frequently Asked Questions

In Henry County, bond is set automatically in all non-violent misdemeanor cases.  This occurs within minutes of booking.  You can call 1-888-726-6301 to post bond by credit or debit card.  Other than a small transaction fee, the entire amount will be refunded at the end of the case.  Even if you pay interest on this transaction, it will usually cost less than paying a bail bondsman. 

If you do not have the funds or credit to post the full bond amount, call Eagle Bonding at 678-432-9538.  They generally charge 10% of the bond amount and this fee is non-refundable.

In battery cases, bond is set the next morning in the jail court.  Those arrested for battery on a Saturday have to wait until Monday morning for a bond hearing.

citation

Look two thirds of the way down your citation(s).  There are six different courts in Henry County that handle adult misdemeanor cases.  Misdemeanors in unincorporated Henry County go straight to the State Court.  In addition, each of Henry County’s four municipalities has its own City Court.  City Courts handle misdemeanor cases and local ordinance violations.  In rare cases , the Superior Court handles misdemeanor cases as well.

The date listed on your Citation is your arraignment date.  Depending on which court you are in, there will be between 40 and 200 cases on your arraignment calendar.

Arraignment in misdemeanor cases is usually quick and painless.  There is no chance of a trial breaking out because there won’t be any witnesses in the courtroom.  You have three options: (1) plead guilty; (2) plead not guilty; or (3) request a continuance.  If you plead guilty, sentence will be imposed immediately.  If you plead not guilty, your case will be placed on a trial calendar for a future date.  Most judges in Henry County will grant a one-time continuance if you need additional time to hire an attorney.

Henry County processes misdemeanors more quickly than most jurisdictions!  Your case should take between six weeks and six months depending upon:

  1. Which court you are charged in.
  2. Whether you ask for a trial.
  3. Whether you ask for a continuance.

Each phase of a case takes a fairly predictable time.  Add the applicable times together to estimate how long your case will take:

Arrest to arraignment: 6 Weeks
Continuance to Hire Attorney: 4 Weeks
Transfer from City to State Court: 4-8 Weeks
Arraignment to Trial: 6-10 Weeks

Being charged in City Court is a blessing.  If you are charged with a state law misdemeanor, you have the absolute right to a jury trial.  However, city courts lack the authority to conduct jury trials.  This means that you get to decide which court will resolve your case.

As a general rule, city courts charge higher fines, but impose less jail time and generate less of a paper trail.  State court is more formal.  All case records are maintained on a public access computer.  The State Court of Henry County imposes the harshest misdemeanor sentences of any court in the metro Atlanta area.

If you can pay a hefty fine and want your case handled quietly and discretely, you should probably keep it in city court.  If you are innocent, transfer your case to state court.  Other situations are more complicated and require the advice of a knowledgeable attorney.

If you are charged with anything more serious than a speeding ticket, it is unwise to plead not guilty before talking to a lawyer.  If you plead not guilty, the judge will ask you if you want to be tried by a judge or jury.  Each choice has its own advantages and disadvantages, and you should talk to a lawyer before you make this choice.  In addition, all pretrial motions must be filed within 10 days of arraignment.  This includes motions to suppress and motions for discovery.  If you plead not guilty before hiring a lawyer, you may waive your best defense without knowing it.

If you cannot afford to hire an attorney before your arraignment date, you should either ask for a continuance or apply for a court appointed attorney.

Your Citations were written by a police officer, not a lawyer.  Some police officers issue as many tickets as possible.  Others show more restraint.  Before your case is resolved, a prosecutor will look at your file and determine which charges to pursue.  The prosecutor can add or subtract charges or bring different charges completely.  In State Court, the prosecutor will prepare an “Accusation” formally listing the offenses which are being charged in court and the factual basis for these charges.  Procedure in City Court is much more informal. 

Prosecutors often file multiple charges to increase their leverage in plea negotiations.  This can be an effective tactic.  If a jury finds you guilty of multiple charges, the judge could impose consecutive sentences and multiple fines.  Bringing multiple charges also increases the odds of conviction at trial.  If jurors disagree about whether the State has proven its case, they can reach a compromise verdict and find you guilty of some but not all charges.  Aggressive charging costs the state almost nothing, because a prosecutor can cut and paste the necessary language into an Accusation in a couple minutes.

The good news is that, when a Defendant who faces multiple charges pleads guilty, it is common for the prosecutor to dismiss some of the charges.

If you posted a cash bond, you can get your bond refunded at the conclusion of your case.  If the charges are dismissed, you get it back when the dismissal order (nolle prosequi) is filed. If you plead guilty, you can get your bond refunded after you enter your guilty plea.  If you take your case to trial, you have to wait until your trial is over.  Finally, if you enter pretrial intervention, your bond will be refunded when you complete this program.

If you paid a bondsman to post your bail, this fee is non-refundable.

Many defendants are surprised that they were not “read their rights” when they are arrested.  In Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court held that criminal defendants who are under arrest must be read their rights before they are interrogated.  If an officer asked you questions while you were under arrest, it should be possible to suppress your answers to these questions.  However, if the officer does not ask you any questions after he arrests you, he does not have to read you your rights.

Even if an officer arrests you and asks you questions without reading your rights, any evidence he gathered before he arrested you is probably admissible.  For instance, in a DUI case, if you told an officer that you have 4 shots, got arrested, and, under further questioning, admitted that these shots were three ounces each, only your admission about the size of the shots would be suppressed.

Miranda law is highly technical and suppression motions required skilled lawyering.  I have seen quite a few Miranda violations, and gotten a few clients acquitted because of them.  However, many Miranda violations occur after the prosecution has gathered compelling evidence of guilt and don’t make much difference.

“While every case is unique, most Henry County cases follow a fairly predictable timeline.”

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