Yesterday’s blog gave an overview of the procedural process for a criminal case in Georgia. Today, I’m going to explain in more detail Step 1 of the process: the arrest warrant. Our Constitution provides that a person can be arrested only if there is probable cause to belief he/she committed a crime. Our system is set up so that a “neutral and detached” magistrate court judge is typically the one empowered to issue arrest warrants. The magistrate usually hears evidence from either, (a) a police officer; or (b) crime victims and/or their witnesses before issuing a warrant.
WARRANT APPLICATION HEARING – YOU SHOULD HAVE A LAWYER PRESENT
Often warrants are issued based on the victim’s statement that is corroborated by other evidence (like a black eye to support that she was beaten, or a returned check on a closed account to support a bad check warrant etc). Where there isn’t a lot of corroboration or something doesn’t seem quite right about the case, it is often set down for what’s known as a “warrant application hearing.” There, witnesses for both sides appear before the judge to explain their versions of what occurred. The judge will then rule as to whether a warrant should be issued or not. It is a very good idea to have a lawyer present with you if you are either seeking an arrest warrant at such a hearing or if someone is trying to have one issued against you. Lawyers can make a huge difference at a warrant application hearing because they know the law surrounding warrants and the procedures involved in getting one.
ARREST WITHOUT FIRST OBTAINING A WARRANT
A police officer, of course, can arrest a person without first obtaining a warrant if the officer has witnessed the person committing a crime. It would make no sense to require an officer who has just witnessed an armed robbery to first go before a judge to request a warrant rather than immediately arresting the person for the charge. Society is much better protected by allowing the police to arrest suspects for crimes the officers actually witness. Once the person has been handcuffed and taken to the appropriate detention facility, the officer will then find a magistrate judge and explain the events that justified the arrest and the warrant will then be issued.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for an offense or there is a warrant application in your future, please give me a call today for a free and confidential discussion about the matter. My office number is 404-474-2531.