- Last Updated on Thursday, 24 March 2016 00:15
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The world is full of "street law" which are nothing more than myths about law and the criminal justice process. Some of these myths are based on old law that no longer applies, while other myths have never been true. Find out which is which.
Myth: A minor offense won't cause me any trouble.
Even a minor drug offense can cause lots of future problems, including the loss of the HOPE Scholarship and many other opportunities.
Myth: I can't afford an attorney.
If you act quickly after being charged, you can afford an attorney much easier than you can afford being incarcerated.
Myth: If the police fail to read Miranda rights, the case is dismissed.
Police failure to read someone their "Miranda Rights" might harm their case, but it rarely results in the case being dismissed.
Myth: If I win my case, I can sue the police and witnesses for false arrest and malicious prosecution.
To sue anyone for anything in a criminal case, you must first win the ENTIRE criminal case. But even winning your case outright is no guarantee you can win a civil suit for false arrest or malicious prosecution. Such suits are possible, but difficult and rare.
Myth: My conviction can be expunged after ___ years.
Convictions are rarely expunged, and whether prior convictions can be used against someone in a current case is a fight their lawyer will have to have with the prosecutor.
Myth: If the police lie to get a confession, the confession is not admissible.
The police are allowed to use trickery and deception to elicit a confession. While underhanded, this long-time police tactic is still legal.
Myth: The victim can drop charges.
Charges belong to the DA or Solicitor, not the victim. The prosecuting agency can go forward against the wishes of the victim, and sometimes do.
Myth: No one goes to prison for their first offense.
Many charges result in long prison sentences, even for defendants with no prior record. Some crimes mandate a minimum sentence of 25 years or more, without parole, even for first offense!
Myth: Everyone is entitled to bail.
In Georgia, certain offenses are bailable only by a Superior Court. Regardless of offense, a person arrested for a new charge that is already on probation or parole is unlikely to have a bail set.
Myth: My case must be tried to a jury within 90 days.
Your case must be indicted within 90 days if there is no bail. The actual trial may be many months or years later.
Myth: The public defender can represent me as well as anyone else.
While there are many good lawyers who work as public defenders, they have limited time and resources. Their budgets may not allow for every expense your case deserves, and you are likely to be only one of over 100 clients they represent at any given time.
Myth: If I somehow lose my case on appeal, I can hire a lawyer then to clear it up.
Most appeals fail. The time to win your case is before trial, not after.
Myth: If I haven't done anything wrong, I can't hurt myself by talking to the police.
The police are experts at getting people to admit "harmless" things that turn out to be very harmful to their case. Suspects should never talk to police.
Myth: It is illegal for me to record the police.
Police HATE to be recorded, and they will TELL you it's illegal to do so even when it's not (they're allowed to lie). If you're recording something going on in a public place and doing so doesn't interfere with the police doing what they are doing, then you're not committing a crime. Record away!
Myth: It's not a crime to have my own medications in my pocket, even if I don't have the bottle.
Having any Rx drug in your possession (even your own) but not in the original container is a crime in Georgia.
Myth: If the police ask to search my car, home or body, I have to let them.
You are NEVER required to consent to a search by the police. Although you may sometimes be threatened by the thought of being detained by the police until a search warrant is procured, you have the absolute right not to give consent. It is almost never a good idea to give consent to search, despite what law enforcement may say to convince you otherwise.
Myth: My case will move quickly, because cops and prosecutors only work on one case at a time, just like on television.
There are currently thousands of felony cases pending in each of the larger metro-Atlanta counties. A criminal case can take years to resolve.