The preservation of jury charge errors in Georgia is dramatically different in criminal cases. First OCGA 5-5-24(a) requirement of exception is expressly inapplicable in the criminal context:
Except as otherwise provided in this code section, and all civil cases, no party may complain of the giving or the failure to give an instruction to the jury unless he objects thereto before the jury returned its verdict, stating distinctly the matter to which he objects and the grounds for his objection. Opportunity shall be given to make the objection out of the hearing of the jury. Objection he not be made with the particularity formally required of assignments of error and need only be as reasonably definite as the circumstances will permit. This subsection shall not apply in criminal cases. In general, "defendants in a criminal case are not required to except to the jury charge to preserve error for appeal." The general rule in the state is that defendants in criminal cases are not required to except to the jury charge to preserve error for appeal. The right to raise an erroneous charge on appeal may be lost only in certain well-defined instances, as were defendants tactical trial plan justifies a finding of procedural default, state v stonacher, 236 Georgia 1 (1976). In these situations error in the charge was induced by the actions of defense counsel or defense counsel in response to an inquiry by the trial judge plainly states that he has no objections to the charges given. Generally speaking, it is reversible error to misstate the law that must be applied by the jury. In the Georgia system, when an error in the charge of the court is shown to exist, it is presumed to be prejudicial and harmful, and the court will so hold unless it appears from the entire record that the error is harmless. Of course not all misstatements in the charge warrant reversal. Some mistakes do not alter the fundamental meaning of the charge. Assuming some verbal inaccuracy had existed in a contested charge, a new trial is not required when the inaccuracies in the charge do not mislead or obscure meaning. This is one application of the principle that a charge error is not reversible where it appears from the entire record that the error is harmless. Another example of a harmless charge error might be where the jury's findings on an issue that is not affected by the charge error render the charge error moot. This can occur where the charge error relates to the calculation of damages, but the jury found no liability. Where it is apparent that this charge was not applied any error that may have been committed was harmless. Generally speaking, the omission of the requested and applicable charge is reversible error in the Georgia appellate system. It is the duty of the court to charge the jury on the law as to every controlling, material, substantial and vital issue in the case. When the court fails to give the benefit of a theory of the defense which is sustained by the evidence, a new trial must be granted. What constitutes an omitted charge for the purpose of this rule? In order for a refusal to charge to be error, the request must be entirely correct and accurate, adjusted to the pleadings, law, and evidence and not otherwise covered in the general charge. Generally speaking, the omission of the requested and applicable charge is reversible error in the Georgia appellate system: it is the duty of the court to charge the jury on the law as to every controlling, material, substantial and vital issue in the case. Where the court fails to give the benefit of a theory of the defense which is sustained by the evidence, a new trial must be granted. The charges read as a whole and there is no error so long as all requested and relevant principles of law are communicated to the jury. Thus the appellant must show that the legal principle underlying the requested charge was not sufficiently or substantially covered by another charge. As a related principle, it is not error to refuse to use any particular language in the charge so long as the instructions given are correct and adequate. There is no requirement that a court instructs in the exact language of the request, even though the request may be correct as an abstract principle of law which is directly applicable to a material issue. Contact a Paulding County criminal defense lawyer today to handle your case.