Dedicated representation in Georgia's trial, appellate, and habeas courts

Criminal Trial & Appeals


The consequences of pleading guilty can be negatively life-altering. Stephen, who focuses much of his practice in the appellate arena reversing criminal convictions, has seen these consequences first-hand and understands them well. In a fast-moving justice system that oftentimes is concerned more with turnover than protection of a defendant’s rights, it is imperative that you have someone fighting for you.

Stephen handles all misdemeanor and felony cases in Georgia’s courts. He has scored numerous victories for his clients by utilizing a knowledge of constitutional law and vigorous scrutiny of police action.  This approach was demonstrated in the case of Hernandez-Espino v. State. Challenging the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress the evidence against his client, Stephen appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Voting four to three, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, finding the police’s stop and search of his client to be violative of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Summing up the argument, the Court of Appeals said “Hernandez–Espino argues…that the officer escalated their encounter to a second-tier encounter by demanding that Hernandez–Espino ‘give him the drugs he just bought,’ that the officer lacked the reasonable articulable suspicion required for a second-tier encounter, and that the unlawful second-tier encounter tainted his consent. We agree.” As a result of the favorable decision, the prosecution was forced to dismiss the felony drug case.

Call now to speak directly with Stephen about your pending criminal case.


Reversing a criminal conviction and sentence requires meticulous attention to the process and facts of the previous proceedings being challenged. With significant experience representing clients in direct appeals, habeas corpus proceedings, and post-conviction motions, Stephen has demonstrated on numerous occasions that no criminal conviction and sentence are written in stone.

Direct Appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals

A direct appeal to either the Georgia Court of Appeals or Georgia Supreme Court lies from a conviction and sentence entered through trial, or from a jurisdictional challenge stemming from a guilty plea. From an adverse verdict at trial, the appellate proceedings should be initiated with a motion for new trial, filed in the trial court within 30 days from the entry of sentence. The motion for new trial stage is a vital opportunity to present new facts to the trial court, address legal errors committed at trial, and to clarify, and thereby preserve, issues presented to the appellate courts.

Additionally, an “ineffective assistance of counsel” is a critical claim that should be investigated. Any issue that could have been pursued or was not pursued effectively in the previous proceedings must be raised immediately through this claim. Moreover, this claim cannot be raised by the attorney who committed the errors. Accordingly, it is seldom a wise idea to have the same attorney who represented you in previous proceedings represent you in a further challenge.

If the motion for new trial is granted by the trial court, the case begins anew and the State is forced to retry the defendant or resolve the case through other mechanisms, such as plea or dismissal. If the motion is denied by the trial court, a notice of appeal must be filed in the trial court within 30 days from the denial. From there, the record and transcripts of the proceedings are prepared and submitted to the appropriate appellate court. Once docketed in either the Georgia Court of Appeals or Georgia Supreme Court, it is the appellate attorney’s job to cogently present the errors to the appellate court through argument and briefs. Depending on the term of court in which the appeal is docketed, a decision should come from either appellate court within six to nine months from the date of docketing. If a favorable decision is rendered, the case will be remanded back to the trial court in various postures. If an unfavorable decision is handed down, further discretionary appellate mechanisms can be utilized, all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

State and Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings

A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is a mechanism used to challenge a government-imposed restraint on an individual’s liberty. The petition is often used to challenge the conviction and sentence underlying the petitioner’s present detention. Similarly, individuals who are facing collateral consequences, such as immigration proceedings or the loss of driving privileges, often use the writ to ameliorate those consequences.

In felony cases, a state petition must be filed within four years from the finality of conviction and sentence. However, a wise petitioner will file the state petition within one year from the finality of conviction and sentence, so as to preserve the right to file a federal habeas petition, if the state petition proves to be unsuccessful. Additionally, the jurisdiction in which to file the petition, although limited, is also a matter of strategy.

As addressed in the previous section, habeas petitions stemming from trials center on the “ineffective assistance of counsel,” and virtually all errors must be presented to the habeas court through that claim. Similarly, while habeas petitions stemming from guilty pleas also focus on plea counsel, they also focus on whether the plea was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered, which the respondent has the burden of establishing.

Given that a habeas petition is generally the last chance to attack one’s conviction and sentence, it must be litigated with extreme attention to detail.

Post-Conviction Motions

While this type of motion in the trial court can be limited, there are various forms of relief available in the trial court to challenge a conviction and sentence. Stephen has successfully resolved numerous post-conviction cases through the utilization of motions, such as these.

Parole Representation

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles governs the discretionary release of inmates in Georgia’s prisons. While Georgia’s parole system is a closed process, where the inmate has no right to a hearing or to see his file, effective advocacy comes in the form of a thoroughly presented parole packet. With that said, those inmates seeking assistance in this process should be leery of high-cost parole advocacy, as the impact of any “correspondence advocacy” is inherently limited.

Call now to speak directly with Stephen about a post-conviction case.

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