Peach State Lawyer’s Marijuana Blog Series Part 1: Don’t Smoke and Drive

When you google: “legal marijuana in Georgia” the results seem endless.  That’s probably because the legalization of marijuana has become one of today’s hottest political and social issues.  Everywhere you turn, the “marijuana” debate is front and center. In fact, CNN, Fox News, and other major news sources have been exploring the topic on a daily basis–presenting opinions about and predicting the effects of marijuana legalization.

Georgians have also joined the debate.   Supporters of marijuana legalization in Georgia have been vocal about the drug’s medicinal benefits and the industry’s potential profitability. Additionally, supporters have been calling for an end to the criminalization of marijuana possession, comparing it “Prohibition,” which ended in 1920. Those who are against the legalization of marijuana argue that marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to widespread drug abuse and make our communities less safe.

What makes this debate so fascinating is the fact that there is bipartisan interest in legalization. Just recently, Georgia House Speaker, David Ralston, a conservative Republican, announced that even he would be interested in learning more about the medical benefits to marijuana and how Georgia can incorporate the legalization of marijuana into its own law.

Since we are still a few years away from legalization of marijuana in Georgia, it is important to understand how Georgia handles DUI-marijuana cases in the meantime.

CURRENT GEORGIA LAW AND DUI-MARIJUANA CASES

Georgia has already addressed driving under the influence of marijuana to some extent. Currently, the crime falls under Georgia’s broad DUI-drug statute. This statute allows a police officer to place a driver under arrest for DUI if the police officer believes a driver is under the influence of ANY drug (prescription or not) and that the drug is causing the driver to be a “less safe” driver.

There are a few different ways the officer can try to establish a case for DUI drugs and more specifically driving under the influence of marijuana.

First, the officer is trained to look for all the tell-tale signs that someone is high on marijuana.   Think about the people you knew growing up that liked to smoke marijuana. They often would have slower speech, blood shot eyes and a carefree attitude. Sometimes, marijuana smokers cannot control their laughter either. In addition to personal characteristics, police officers often include the smell of burnt marijuana as evidence of DUI-marijuana. Throughout any given investigation, police officers are looking for each and all of these signs.

Often times, police officers do not see all of the above-mentioned characteristics and therefore struggle to find probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI-Drugs.

In these situations, police officers are trained to establish a DUI-drugs case using the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) marijuana field sobriety test.  NHTSA, as you may know, is the federal agency tasked with designing field sobriety tests and training police officers to administer those tests in the most objective and scientifically accurate manner possible. Even though NHTSA has that responsibility, NHTSA is known for launching aggressive anti-DUI ad campaigns. In one ad, there is a car filled to the brim with beer and liquor. In another ad, there is an invisible police officer who stalks bar patrons as they head to their cars in an inebriated condition and drive recklessly on public roads. Georgia, like many other states, uses NHTSA’s manual to train its police officers on DUI investigation.

When a Georgia police officer believes a driver is impaired but cannot immediately determine what substance is causing the impairment, the officer is trained to conduct the DUI-Alcohol field sobriety tests.  If it appears that alcohol is not the reason why someone seems to be impaired, then the officer is trained to go into additional field sobriety tests to narrow down the potential causes of the impairment.  With these results, police officers can then make a determination as to whether there is probable cause (more likely than not) that the driver is under the influence of marijuana.

WHAT ABOUT MY LICENSE?

The post-arrest process for DUI drugs is very similar to a DUI alcohol arrest.   If an officer wants the driver to undergo additional chemical testing (which they almost always do), the officer MUST read the Georgia Implied Consent warning to the driver immediately after he is arrested. Basically, the Georgia Implied Consent warning tells the driver that his license is going to be suspended if he refuses to provide a sample of his blood, breath or urine.  In DUI-Alcohol cases, a breath test is the most popular form of chemical testing because it provides the officer with a quick, but not always accurate, printout of the drivers blood alcohol concentration. However, in DUI drug cases, a blood test is usually preferred because it can detect a variety of intoxicants–not just alcohol. Urine tests are rarely used in DUI investigations because the results have been found to be less accurate.

In Georgia, if a driver agrees to take a blood test, the driver will be taken to a nurse or phlebotomist who will then administer the blood draw.  If the driver agrees to the test then the blood will be packaged and sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) crime lab, where it is tested for the presence of marijuana and other intoxicants. When looking for marijuana in a blood sample, GBI looks for the mere presence of THC, the active chemical in marijuana that causes a person to feel high. GBI does not, however, examine or ascertain the level of THC in a person’s blood. So, if a driver smoked marijuana a week prior to getting behind the wheel and still had THC in their system, then that drivers GBI report would read the same as the driver who smoked while driving.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Decatur Municipal Court

If you’ve been pulled over for a traffic charge, city ordinance violation, or some misdemeanors inside the city limits of Decatur, you will have to attend court at Decatur Municipal Court. Decatur Municipal Court arragignments are commonly held at night. Decatur Municipal Court is currently located at 120 West Trinity Place, Decatur, Georgia 30030. Municipal Court is held on the third floor of this building.

 

Decatur Municipal Court is one of the few municipal courts in the state of Georgia that holds preliminary probable cause hearings for felony and misdemeanor charges before binding them over to State or Superior Court. Those hearings are generally heard before traffic court on any given day.

 

Decatur Municipal Court expects all of its patrons to dress in a manner that shows respect for the court. They start on time at 6pm most days, and like most other municipal courtrooms in Georgia take private attorney cases before handling cases for unrepresented citizens. If you’d like a lawyer to represent you in a matter pending in Decatur Municipal Court, please contact the Peach State Lawyer at 404-581-0999 for a free in-person or phone consultation.

 

We look forward to helping you.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Avondale Estates Municipal Court

Avondale Estates. That small town center that looks like it’s taken straight out of the European countryside is home to Avondale Estates Municipal Court. If you’ve been pulled over by an Avondale Estates officer for a traffic misdemeanor or city ordinance, they’re going to want to see you in Avondale Estates Municipal Court.

 

Avondale Estates Municipal Court is located at 21 North Avondale Plaza, Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002. Court starts promptly at 8am on the date you have been told to attend. Like many other municipal courts, the calendars are crowded, and the Avondale Estates solicitor takes private attorney cases first, so be prepared to spend your entire morning in court.

 

If you’ve been charged with a traffic misdemeanor or city ordinance in the city of Avondale Estates, call the Peach State Lawyers today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in DeKalb Recorders Court

If you’ve been pulled over or cited by a DeKalb County Police Officer, Sheriff, or Georgia State Patrol Trooper for any traffic violation including DUI; or have been cited for a DeKalb County code violation, you are due to appear in DeKalb County Recorders Court. Recorders Court is another name for traffic court. There is a solicitor. There is a judge. But cases in Recorders Court are not tried in front of a jury. DeKalb County Recorders Court is located at 3630 Camp Circle, Decatur, Georgia 30032. DeKalb County Recorders Court is not located in the same building as State and Superior Court. There is a fee to park around DeKalb County Recorders Court. It is at least $3, and must be paid in cash.

 

Court starts promptly at 8:30am, and you need to be there early to find out which courtroom you are assigned to. After you get through security, courtrooms are assigned by the first letter of your last name. You then enter your assigned courtroom and have a seat in the pews. Recorders courtrooms are extremely busy and it is not uncommon to see 150-250 people in each courtroom on any given day.

 

Like many municipal and traffic courts in the State of Georgia, solicitors handle private attorney cases first. Guilty pleas are handled after private attorney cases. The last cases handled in DeKalb County Recorders Court are unrepresented citizens looking to fight your case. There are no electronic devices allowed in DeKalb County Recorders Court.

 

Peach State Lawyers can go to DeKalb County Recorders Court on your behalf. We can negotiate with the solicitors to get your best possible options before asking you to waste your time in court to enter a plea. Then when you do decide how you want to handle your case, we can get you in and out of Court quickly and on with your day. If you are scheduled to appear in DeKalb County Recorders Court, please call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Gwinnett Recorders Court

If you’ve been pulled over or cited by a Gwinnett County Police Officer, Sheriff, or Georgia State Patrol Trooper for any traffic violation including DUI; or have been cited for a Gwinnett County code violation, you are due to appear in Gwinnett County Recorders Court. Recorders Court is another name for traffic court. There is a solicitor. There is a judge. But cases in Recorders Court are not tried in front of a jury. Gwinnett County Recorders Court is located at 115 Stone Mountain Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046. Gwinnett County Recorders Court is not located in the same building as State and Superior Court.

 

There are three courtrooms in Recorders Court. Court starts promptly at 8:30am, and you need to be there early to find out which courtroom you are assigned to. After you get through security, go up the stairs to see a series of windows. At these windows you can check in, and get your courtroom assignment. You then enter your assigned courtroom and have a seat in the pews. Recorders courtrooms are extremely busy and it is not uncommon to see 150-250 people in each courtroom on any given day.

 

Like many municipal and traffic courts in the State of Georgia, solicitors handle private attorney cases first. Guilty pleas are handled after private attorney cases. The last cases handled in Gwinnett County Recorders Court are unrepresented citizens looking to fight your case. There are no electronic devices allowed in Gwinnett County Recorders Court.

 

Peach State Lawyers can go to Gwinnett County Recorders Court on your behalf. We can negotiate with the solicitors to get your best possible options before asking you to waste your time in court to enter a plea. Then when you do decide how you want to handle your case, we can get you in and out of Court quickly and on with your day. If you are scheduled to appear in Gwinnett County Recorders Court, please call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in City Court of Doraville

Dekalb County has several municipalities that handle their own court services.  The City of Doraville is one of the oldest municipalities in Dekalb County. The City Court of Doraville has always been an active courthouse.  The lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have handled cases in Doraville for the past nine years and are familiar with the courts daily operations.

The City Court of Doraville is located at 3765 Park Avenue, Doraville, Georgia, 30340. The court handles certain state law misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and local ordinances.  These cases often start with a citation written by a Doraville Police Officer.  In addition, a court date is usually written towards the bottom of the ticket to give the person, either cited or arrested, notice of their first court date.   The Officer will also include the charges that he/she is pursuing in the charges section of the ticket (middle of ticket).    The Officer can charge a citizen with either a State Law violation or a local ordinance violation.   If the State law violation is classified as a misdemeanor (including traffic violations) then the City Court of Doraville has jurisdiction to handle the case in Doraville.   In addition, the Officer can ticket for a local ordinance violation which also can be heard in the City Court of Doraville.

Some traffic offenses can be handled online by paying the fine online with a credit card. However, it’s important to note that paying the ticket online will result in a conviction on your driving record.   The consequences of traffic conviction can mean points on your license, higher insurance rates, and sometimes a license suspension.

Not every ticket can be resolved online.   The City Court of Doraville lists the following as “must appear” offenses:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • All city nuisance/code enforcement offenses
  • All under 21 offense
  • All accident offenses (unless proof of claim shown)
  • All alcohol offenses (except Open container)
  • Any other charge that may result in jail time and/or license suspension
  • Attempt to elude and officer
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Furnishing alcohol to a minor
  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • Hit and Run
  • Habitual Violator Offense
  • No insurance
  • Passing a loading/unloading school bus
  • Possession of alcohol by a minor
  • Possession of a concealed weapon
  • Racing
  • Reckless driving
  • Shoplifting
  • Speeding more than 30 MPH over posted speed limit
  • Driving with suspended registration
  • Driving with suspended license
  • Vehicular homicide/serious injury
  • VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act) (Marijuana)

Even though it may not seem like a big deal, many of these offenses can result in a conviction on your permanent criminal history.

Our lawyers have handled several cases in the City Court of Doraville and know how to protect your rights and permanent record.  If you have a case in the City Court of Doraville, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation (404-581-0999).  Our experience and training can help guide you through a difficult legal maze.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Johns Creek Municipal Court

North Fulton County has seen a recent spread of newly incorporated municipalities.   New municipalities mean new municipal courts.   Over the last nine years, the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have handled cases in every North Fulton Municipality.

The Municipal Court of Johns Creek is located at 11445 Johns Creek Parkway suite 300, Johns Creek, Georgia, 30097.  The court handles certain state law misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and local ordinances.  These cases often start with a citation written by a Johns Creek Police Officer.  In addition, a court date is usually written towards the bottom of the ticket to give the person either cited or arrested notice of their first court date.   The Officer will also include the charges that he/she is pursuing in the charges section of the ticket (middle of ticket).    The Officer can charge a citizen with either a State Law violation or a local ordinance violation.   If the State law violation is classified as a misdemeanor (including traffic violations) then the Johns Creek municipal court has jurisdiction to handle the case in Johns Creek.   In addition, the Officer can ticket for a local ordinance violation which also can be heard in the Johns Creek Municipal Court.

Some traffic offenses can be handled online by paying the fine online with a credit card. However, it’s important to note that paying the ticket online will result in a conviction on your driving record.   The consequences of traffic conviction can mean points on your license, higher insurance rates, and sometimes a license suspension.

Not every ticket can be resolved online.   The Johns Creek Municipal Court lists the following as “must appear” offenses:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • All city nuisance/code enforcement offenses
  • All under 21 offense
    • All between the ages of 17-20 must bring parent
    • All accident offenses (unless proof of claim shown)
    • All alcohol offenses (except Open container)
    • Any other charge that may result in jail time and/or license suspension
    • Attempt to elude and officer
    • Disorderly conduct
    • Furnishing alcohol to a minor
    • DUI (driving under the influence)
    • Hit and Run
    • Habitual Violator Offense
    • No insurance
    • Passing a loading/unloading school bus
    • Possession of alcohol by a minor
    • Possession of a concealed weapon
    • Racing
    • Reckless driving
    • Shoplifting
    • Speeding more than 30 MPH over posted speed limit
    • Driving with suspended registration
    • Driving with suspended license
    • Vehicular homicide/serious injury
    • VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act) (Marijuana)

Even though it may not seem like a big deal, many of these offenses can result in a conviction on your permanent criminal history.

Our lawyers have handled several cases in the Johns Creek Municipal Court and know how to protect your rights and permanent record.  If you have a case in the Johns Creek municipal court, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation (404-581-0999).  Our experience and training can help guide you through a difficult legal maze.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Alpharetta Municipal Court

North Fulton County has seen a recent spread of newly incorporated municipalities.   New municipalities mean new municipal courts.   Over the last nine years, the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have handled cases in every North Fulton Municipality.

The Municipal Court of Alpharetta is located at 12624 Broadwell Road, Alpharetta, Georgia, 30004. The court handles certain state law misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and local ordinances.  These cases often start with a citation written by an Alpharetta Police Officer.  In addition, a court date is usually written towards the bottom of the ticket to give the person either cited or arrested notice of their first court date.   The Officer will also include the charges that he/she is pursuing in the charges section of the ticket (middle of ticket).    The Officer can charge a citizen with either a State Law violation or a local ordinance violation.   If the State law violation is classified as a misdemeanor (including traffic violations) then the Alpharetta municipal court has jurisdiction to handle the case in Alpharetta.   In addition, the Officer can ticket for a local ordinance violation which also can be heard in the Alpharetta Municipal Court.

Some traffic offenses can be handled online by paying the fine online with a credit card. However, it’s important to note that paying the ticket online will result in a conviction on your driving record.   The consequences of traffic conviction can mean points on your license, higher insurance rates, and sometimes a license suspension.

Not every ticket can be resolved online.   The Alpharetta Municipal Court lists the following as “must appear” offenses:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • All city nuisance/code enforcement offenses
  • All under 21 offense
  • All accident offenses (unless proof of claim shown)
  • All alcohol offenses (except Open container)
  • Any other charge that may result in jail time and/or license suspension
  • Attempt to elude and officer
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Furnishing alcohol to a minor
  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • Hit and Run
  • Habitual Violator Offense
  • No insurance
  • Passing a loading/unloading school bus
  • Possession of alcohol by a minor
  • Possession of a concealed weapon
  • Racing
  • Reckless driving
  • Shoplifting
  • Speeding more than 30 MPH over posted speed limit
  • Driving with suspended registration
  • Driving with suspended license
  • Vehicular homicide/serious injury
  • VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act) (Marijuana)

Even though it may not seem like a big deal, many of these offenses can result in a conviction on your permanent criminal history.

Our lawyers have handled several cases in the Alpharetta Municipal Court and know how to protect your rights and permanent record.  If you have a case in the Alpharetta municipal court, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation (404-581-0999).  Our experience and training can help guide you through a difficult legal maze.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Roswell Georgia Municipal/Traffic Court

If you’ve been pulled over by a Roswell Police Department Officer or cited with a city ordinance violation within the city limits of Roswell, Georgia you will be expected to attend court at Roswell City Hall. Roswell City Hall is located off at 38 Hill Street, Roswell, Georgia 30075. The court room is located on the second floor and there is plenty of free parking out in front of City Hall. Roswell City Court handles all city ordinances and traffic violations that occur within the Roswell city limits.

 

It is good to be early to court as they take unrepresented citizens on a first come-first serve basis after handling attorney cases. But they do not open the court room until just before court, so if you show up early, stay near the security line to make sure you are one of the first people to enter the court room to sign in.

 

The municipal court solicitor is currently Krista Young. She generally has ~100-200 cases to attempt to resolve at each court calendar. Having an attorney with you will allow your case to be given ample time by the solicitor – also called a pre-trial. You can hire our law firm to negotiate a positive outcome your first court appearance.

 

Peach State Lawyers practice regularly in Roswell City Court with three of our attorneys as nearby residents. Contact us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation regarding your Roswell, Georgia criminal case.

I Got Arrested for DUI, But They Never Read Me My Rights

One of the most common DUI questions we get at W. Scott Smith, P.C. is: “Why didn’t the Officer have to read me my Miranda rights?”  What a great question!  Let me see if I can explain.

The Miranda warning stems from a famous United Supreme Court case, Miranda vs. the State of Arizona.   In that case, the Supreme Court of the United States said that IF you are placed into custody and then the Officer attempts to interrogate you, he/she has to warn you of a few rights.  We know these rights as the Miranda Rights and they go like this:

You have the right to remain silent.

Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.

You have the right to consult with an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.

If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.

Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney?

If the officer chooses not to read you the warning while you are in custody and still proceeds with questioning, then any statements you make may be suppressed by the court at a later date and ultimately result in your case being much stronger.

 

So Why Didn’t the Officer Read Those to Me When He Placed Me Under Arrest for DUI?

In most DUI cases, not all, the Officer is NOT required to read you the Miranda Warning.  Most Officers will wait to place a driver they suspect to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs under arrest (or in custody) to avoid having to read the Miranda Warning.  Which makes sense, right?  The Officer is trying to get you to answer questions about your consumption of alcohol and have you submit to testing that he/she plans to use against you at trial.  If he starts telling you that you have the right to have a “pesky” lawyer like me present, you’re probably not going to do anything.   In Georgia, our appellate courts have determined that when you are asked to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety testing or answer questions about where you were or where you are going, you are NOT deemed to be in custody, and thus, not entitled to have the Miranda Warning read to you.

BUT, the question of whether or not you are in custody CAN be a sticky issue.  We encourage anyone who has been arrested for DUI in the State of Georgia to contact our office immediately for a FREE consultation (404-581-0999).   Our lawyers can use their knowledge and experience to determine whether or not the Miranda Warning should have been read in your case, which sometimes can mean the difference between your case being dismissed and a conviction for DUI.