VIDEO – Georgia Fireworks Laws

by Scott Smith and Ryan Walsh

Beginning on July 1, 2015 it became legal to purchase fireworks in Georgia. What used to be annual trips around the major holidays to the Alabama and South Carolina border has ended and consumer fireworks are now available for purchase in Georgia.

To legally purchase fireworks in Georgia you must be 18 years of age and provide a photo ID at a physical store licensed to sell fireworks. There are no online sales of fireworks in Georgia, so you can’t log in to your Amazon account and order your Fourth of July arsenal.

State law restricts the hours you can set off fireworks. On any day throughout the year, you can light fireworks from 10am until 9pm. Some counties and municipalities may extend these regular hours until 11:59pm depending on local noise ordinances. However, On July 3rd, 4th, December 31st and January 1st, the hours to light fireworks are extended until Midnight or 1am depending on date.

All fireworks must be lit by adults. Fireworks cannot be ignited in a public roadway or within 100 feet of gas stations, airports, jails or prisons.

If you’ve been cited for improper use of fireworks, give us a call at 404-581-0999. Our office of attorneys understands Georgia fireworks law and is ready to defend your citation.

Thank you.

VIDEO – Selling or Purchasing Alcohol for Minors in Georgia

by Ryan Walsh and Scott Smith

Graduations. Proms. Birthdays. All your teenage milestones. You’re going to be the cool parent and buy some beers for your kids and their friends to drink in your home.  What’s the law? Can you do it? The sale or distribution of alcohol to minors is the subject of today’s video blog.

Georgia law is clear. No one under the age of 21 can purchase, try to get another to purchase, or consume alcohol. There’s only one exception when alcohol can be purchased for someone underage, and that is when you are the parent or guardian of that child, and the alcohol is being served in your home with you present.

It is illegal for any other minors to drink with the child unless their parent or guardian is present as well. Anyone caught selling to, purchasing for, or attempting to buy alcohol for someone under 21 can be charged with a misdemeanor offense under Official Code of Georgia §3-3-23 which carries a potential punishment of twelve months in custody and a $1000 fine.

Our office is experienced in defending Georgia citizens charged with providing alcohol to minors. Through our free consultation we can ask the right questions to aid in your defense. The key to defending criminal charges is to address them quickly to preserve all necessary evidence. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Thank you.

VIDEO – Georgia Drivers License Consequences of a Second in Five Year DUI Conviction in Georgia

If you are convicted of a second DUI charge within a five year period from the dates of arrest, the penalty against your drivers license by the Georgia Department of Drivers Services is escalated. For a second in five conviction, your full driving privileges will be suspended for eighteen months. After first serving a 120 day hard suspension of your license which means no driving at all in those first 120 days, you will be eligible for a twelve month ignition interlock device permit if you have completed the following requirements:

  • You must submit an original certificate of completion of a DDS approved alcohol or drug use risk reduction program
  • Complete a clinical evaluation with a counselor licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities along with any treatment required by the counselor
  • Show proof of installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in your vehicle from a DDS approved vendor
  • Pay a $25 permit fee.

If you cannot afford the cost to obtain an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, the court can exempt you from the requirements of the device, but you will still have to serve that additional twelve month suspension of your license.

After serving the 120 day hard suspension and the additional twelve months with an ignition interlock device, you must still serve an additional two months without the interlock device for a total of eighteen months before you can reinstate your full license.

For reinstatement you must pay the $210 reinstatement fee and show DDS proof that an ignition interlock device was maintained in your vehicle for twelve months or show an order from the court exempting you from the interlock device due to hardship.

A second in five DUI conviction will cause a major impact to your ability to drive. Therefore, it’s important to get out in front of a second DUI arrest by consulting with an attorney to discuss your options in fighting the case. Our experienced attorneys are available twenty four hours a day  seven days a week to talk with you about your case.

Call us today at 404-581-0999. Thank you.

VIDEO – Seizure and the 4th Amendment under Georgia Criminal Law

by Ryan Walsh and Scott Smith

You’re sitting in a park with friends. An officer comes up to you and asks you if you’ve been smoking weed. You say no, but they place you in handcuffs while they search the area. Is this legal? What are your rights? The 4th amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures is the topic of today’s Peach State Lawyer video blog.

Hello, I’m Scott Smith.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents the government from unreasonable seizures without a warrant. A seizure is a restriction on your freedom.

In order for you to be seized under the fourth amendment, the officer must have an arrest warrant, or have a legal reason to continue to detain you. Whether the officer has that reason depends on the interaction between you and the police officer.

Lets go back to the park example.

The officer comes up to you and He says hey, how you doing? He just asks if you’ve been smoking weed, but does nothing more. You’re free to respond to him or not. You’re free to walk away. This type of encounter is a tier 1 encounter. It can happen at any time.

But what if you’re sitting in the park and the officer says, hey, I smell marijuana over here. Are you guys smoking? Sit right here while we investigate. Is this seizure legal? The United States Supreme Court created this second tier of police-citizen encounters in the case of Terry vs. Ohio. It’s called a tier 2 encounter or Terry stop, and is lawful only if the officer has reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime has been committed.

You can’t leave in this situation, but the officer must also be in active investigation to find evidence of the specific criminal activity for which they’ve detained you.

Finally, you’re back in the park and the officer says, hey, I smell marijuana, are you guys smoking? Immediately, the officer places you in handcuffs while they look for evidence of weed. This is what’s called a tier 3 stop, which is the same as an arrest. An officer can’t arrest you without probable cause. Whether you’re under arrest depends on the officer’s statements and actions. Have they told you you are under arrest? Have they physically restricted your freedom? These factors and more are used to determine whether the encounter has escalated to this level.

Remember, in all situations the police officer’s job is to find evidence of criminal activity. Anything you say or do can be used against you later. Politely decline consent to search. Politely decline to answer any questions. Tell the officer you want to speak with your attorney.

The attorneys at the law offices of W. Scott Smith specialize in seizure issues. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free consultations. If you feel you’ve been arrested unlawfully, call us today at 404-581-0999. Thank you.


VIDEO – One Leg Stand Field Sobriety Test

by Scott Smith and Ryan Walsh

You’ve agreed to take standardized field sobriety tests and the next thing you know you are raising your foot off the ground, trying to balance on one leg. What is this test? What is the officer looking for? Those questions are the subject of today’s Peach State Lawyer video blog.

The last of the three standardized field sobriety tests is the one leg stand field sobriety test. This test is performed exactly how it sounds. The officer will have you stand with your feet together, hands down by your side. You will then raise one leg six inches off the ground and hold that position, counting out one thousand-one, one thousand-two, and so on, until the officer asks you to stop.

Typically, this test will last approximately thirty seconds. During this test, the officer is looking for four specific clues. Those clues are number one, putting your foot down, hopping, swaying, and using your arms for balance.

If any of these four clues happen once at any time during the test, it constitutes a clue. Exhibiting two clues out of four clues indicates to the officer that you are an impaired driver. An experienced Georgia DUI attorney can help you look at a copy of the video and point out the good and bad things done on the test. This includes the officer’s description and demonstration of the test.

In our experience, people who have nothing to drink can sometimes perform very poorly on this dexterity test.

Our officer of experienced Georgia DUI attorneys can look at your performance on any of these field sobriety tests and tell you the legal and factual defenses we can use to help get your charges dismissed, reduced, or prepared to fight at trial.

We’re available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to meet with you regarding your pending DUI case. Call us today at 404-581-0999.

Thank you so much.

VIDEO – Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Test

Imagine a straight line in front of you. Put your left foot on that line. Place your right foot in front of your left foot with your left toe touching your right heel. Put your hands down by your sides and hold that position without moving. Hello, I’m attorney Scott Smith and today we’re talking about the walk and turn field sobriety test, the second of the three standardized field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration designed for the detection of impaired drivers.

Are you still holding that starting position I discussed in the beginning of this video? It’s tough isn’t it? Now imagine you’re on the side of the interstate with cars passing at seventy miles per hour, or in a parking lot next to a busy intersection with people looking on. You’ve got an officer that’s already told you that the test is to determine whether or not you’re safe to continue to drive. Is it getting more difficult? You haven’t even begun to actually walk the test yet.

The walk and turn field sobriety test provides the officer seventy-six different opportunities to notice eight clues of impairment. If the officer notices only two clues, it gives the officer enough evidence to believe you are an impaired driver.

The eight clues are broken down into two phases. The first phase is the instructional phase. During the instructional phase the officer asks you to get into the position described at the start of the video. During this instructional phase the officer is looking to see if you break that stance of if you start too soon by mimicking the officer’s movements. Those are the first two of eight clues.

During each series of nine steps you take, the officer is looking for four clues on each step. They are looking to see whether you miss touching heel to toe, whether you step off your line, whether you stop walking at any point during the step taking, or whether or not you use your arms for balance.

There are two final in the walking phase. One is for not turning exactly as instructed by the officer, and the final clue is for taking the incorrect number of steps in either series of nine steps, going out or coming back.

Does this test seem difficult to you to pass? The test isn’t designed to be passed. It is designed to show the officer clues of impairment to help them justify arresting you. We recommend to all our clients to politely refuse to participate in field sobriety testing, especially the dexterity testing. Do not help the officer make their case.

Our team of experienced Georgia DUI attorneys are trained just like the police officers in how to properly perform field sobriety evaluations. We are trained to look at each test and break down whether or not the instructions are correct, whether the officer demonstrated it correctly, and whether or not you actually exhibited the clues the officer said he saw at the time of you conducting these tests.

If you’ve been stopped for DUI and you are worried about your performance on the walk and turn field sobriety test, or whether or not you’ve just got questions for us, call our office today for a free consultation. We’re available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our telephone number is 404-581-0999.

Thank you.

VIDEO – What to Do When Stopped for DUI

You’ve gone out with friends or family. You’ve had a few drinks and you’re driving home when you see the blue lights behind you. What do you do when stopped for DUI? That’s the topic of today’s Peach State Lawyer video blog. Hi, I’m Scott Smith and today we’re talking about what do you do when stopped for DUI after a night out drinking.

From the time you first notice an officer behind you, you need to know that the police officer has already begun their DUI investigation.

When you see those blue lights turn on, your first job is to pull over safely and quickly. Use your turn signal to indicate you notice the police officer behind you. Slow down and pull over onto the first side street or well-lit parking lot you see.

Once stopped, put your car in park and get your driver’s license out. Put it in a place where you can easily reach it as the officer will ask you for it. Check the time in your vehicle and think about where you were coming from before you were stopped and where you were going. Also know the addresses of any major cross streets in the area you were pulled over.

Expect the officer to approach your window and ask you if you know why you were pulled over. It is okay to tell them you are not sure why you were stopped. But know your statement can be an admission against you.

After this brief conversation officers will ask you more specific questions about how much you had to drink and where you were earlier that evening. Be careful with your answers. Any admissions of drinking can be used against you at trial. But a denial of drinking may be just as harmful as an admission.

Field sobriety tests are completely voluntary. Politely refuse them. These tests are designed solely to gather evidence that can help police officers make their decision to arrest you. You cannot pass these tests.

There are three standardized field sobriety tests that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has determined are the only series of tests to determine alcohol impairment. These tests are number one the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, two, the walk and turn test, and three the one leg stand test. An in depth discussion of each of these tests is available in a separate video blog highlighting each of them.

You should also refuse to submit to a roadside breath test. Even though the officer will deny it, the roadside breath test will provide a number. And that number will be used by the officer in their decision to arrest you.

A DUI on your criminal history can follow you forever. Our office of experienced and trained Georgia DUI attorneys can help answer answer any questions you have about hypothetical situations or pending charges. We’re available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to help you out. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Thank you so much.

VIDEO – Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

You’ve been stopped for DUI and the officer asks you to follow their finger with your eyes? What is this horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test? And can it even be passed? That is the subject of today’s Peach State Lawyer video blog.

Hello, I’m attorney Scott Smith and today I’m standing in our mock trial courtroom. We’re talking about being asked out of your car after only having two drinks. The officer asks you to face him and with your hands by your side, feet shoulder width apart to follow his pen with your eyes. He asks you if you wear glasses or contacts or if you’ve had any recent head injuries. You’re about to perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test. It’s commonly known as the HGN test, or in the DUI world, the “eye” test.

What is this test?

The horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test was originally designed by optometrists to diagnose medical issues within your eyes. The test checks for the involuntary jerking of your eye as your eyes move side to side horizontal to the floor following an object. Researchers determined some substances, particularly ethyl alcohol, and other central nervous system depressants, inhalants, and the drug PCP can cause horizontal gaze nystagmus in your eyes after use.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test, when properly performed looks for six clues of impairment. In Georgia DUI investigations, this test is the first of the standardized field sobriety evaluations.

Before the test can be performed on anyone, the officer is supposed to make sure both of your pupils are of equal size and your eyes move together from side to side. If you are having eye issues, the officer is supposed to discontinue the test immediately.

The clues are established in pairs. There are three tests performed that look for clues of impairment. The first test, called lack of smooth pursuit, is performed by the officer moving his finger back and forth across your field of vision, checking for nystagmus in both eyes as his finger or pen light is moving.

Because your eyes work together, each clue will be present in both eyes. If the officer says they notice a clue in one eye but not the other, the test would not be valid.

The second test is called distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation. It is where the officer moves his finger to the edge of your field of vision and holds it there for a minimum of four seconds to determine if your eye continues to exhibit sustained jerking when it is fixed on his finger at the edge of your field of vision.

These tests are designed to build upon each other, so you should never see clues present for distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation unless clues are present for lack of smooth pursuit.

The third and final test is called onset of nystagmus prior to a forty-five degree angle. The test is performed by the officer moving his finger slowly from the center of your field of vision until they reach a forty-five degree angle. When the officer begins to see nystagmus they are supposed to stop their finger and hold it to confirm the sustained jerking of the eye.

That’s it. That’s the entire horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test. There’s nothing you can do to pass it. It’s all about the involuntary jerking of the eye and trusting that the officer in his report has documented his observations accurately.

As you can imagine, there are things that an experienced attorney can look for to determine whether the tests are performed correctly. If the tests are not performed correctly, an experienced DUI attorney can ensure the test should not be admitted into evidence or at trial against you.

Have you been recently arrested for DUI and asked to take this eye test? Do you have questions about the test? We’re available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to talk to you. Call us today for a free consultation. Our telephone number is 404-581-0999.

Thank you.

VIDEO – Testifying in Court in Your Georgia Criminal Case

Testifying in court can make even some of the most seasoned attorneys nervous. But what about people charged with crimes who want to express their innocence and have never testified in court before? Watch this video below and call our office with questions.

Telling your story through testifying in court is about understanding the important pieces of your case. And what does that mean? It means what does the jury need to know about what happened? What does your jury need to know about you? How do you best tell your story to the jury? What does all of that include?

Well first and foremost you must tell the jury the truth. Jury members are smart. They will know if what you are telling them is not true. And as you are telling your story, truthful testimony will help the jury understand you as a person.

Next, listen to the entire question being asked and answer that and only that question.

Often, questions will begin with one of the classic question words like who, what, where, when, why, and how. You answer a where question with a location. Answer a question about time with the time. Jurors will stop caring about your story if you give non-responsive answers.

And if you do not fully understand the question being asked, take a moment and ask for clarification or ask for the question to be asked again.

Take a moment before answering each question to thing about your answer before actually saying it.

Let the pause calm yourself. Calm your nerves. Some questions will be inflammatory. Other questions asked by the state might even be offensive. Use that moment to center yourself to answer each question in a calm and collected manner.

You are allowed to qualify your answers on cross-examination. If the Georgia prosecutor is asking you for a yes or no answer and that’s all, you can explain your answer after responding yes or no. Do so when necessary.

Also, always remember you are telling your story to the jury. You aren’t speaking to the state’s prosecutor when they are asking you questions. Turn and make eye contact with each and every juror. Through eye contact, you will actually connect with the jury.

Putting these pieces together takes practice. It takes time. At our law firm we pride ourselves on discovery our client’s stories and preparing them for trial to connect with the Georgia jury. If you are our client and you want to practice, we are the only law firm that does criminal defense with our own mock courtroom where you can shake off your nerves and practice for testifying in court.

We want to help you tell your story. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free legal consultation on your Georgia criminal defense trial.

Thank you.



VIDEO – Make Sure You Are Prepared to Attend Court in Georgia

What should I wear to court, how should I act when  I’m there, what if I am super nervous about attending court? You must be prepared to attend court. These are topics we will be discussing in today’s Peach State Lawyer video blog.

Hey there, I’m Scott Smith from the Peach State Lawyer law firm talking to you today about preparations you should make in attending court in Georgia, whether it be the city of Atlanta or Superior Court of Cobb County, there are certain things you need to know to be prepared to attend court in Georgia.

First, be on time. Regardless of whether or not you have an attorney who is representing you or you are representing yourself, if you’re told to be in court, you need to be on time. That means be in the courtroom five to ten minutes earlier than the time stated on your court notice. As we all know traffic in and around Atlanta can be awful, I strongly recommend you become familiar with the traffic patterns from your home to the courthouse, parking at the courthouse, and the courtroom number you are going to. If you are super anxious about attending court ask your lawyer to meet you at the courthouse a day or a week in advance to introduce you to the courthouse and the courtroom.

One suggestion I have for our clients is to add a reminder in their phone that includes the judges name they are assigned, the case number, and courthouse information. That information is easily accessible when it is on your telephone which you will bring with you to the courthouse. If you are running late, call or text your lawyer to let them know your expected time of arrival.

If you don’t make it to court on time you could be subject to a bench warrant, fines, or even a Georgia driver’s license suspension. It might also have an impact on your pre-trial negotiations with the government’s prosecutors.

Next, dress appropriately. Certain courthouses have specific dress codes you must follow. But here’s a great go by.

Gentlemen, no shorts, no sandals, no tanktops, no ballcaps. Our office recommends you dress conservatively and professionally. We recommend wearing khaki pants and tucked in, collared shirt every time you appear in court.  It is not necessary to wear a suit or a jacket and a tie. We feel sometimes that is overkill. But it is important to show the court you are taking the matter pending against you very seriously.

Women, no open toed shoes. No exposed shoulders. No shorts. Again, we recommend dressing conservatively and professionally.

Next, turn off all phones and electronic devices while you’re in court. If a device goes off in court, it will most likely be taken and you may be subject to a fine or other penalty for contempt of court.

Pay attention to the bailiff and court staff. Most courtrooms will actually instruct you on courtroom procedures and decorum prior to the start of court. They will tell you if you are allowed to leave the courtroom to make phone calls or use the restroom without court permission.

Lastly, always stand when you hear the court or court clerk call your name.  In our experience 90 % of courtrooms expect you to stand to show you are present.

Following these guidelines will ensure you are prepared to attend court and your day in court runs smoothly.

If you’re facing an upcoming court date and want to ask questions about the nature of the charge you are facing or courtroom procedures call us today and schedule a free consultation. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 404-581-0999. Thank you so much.