What type of trial should I have?

A trial is when you present all the facts in your case and it is heard by, either a judge or jury, who then determine whether you are guilty or innocent. You get to decide what type of trial you would like. There are two types of trials: a jury trial or a bench trial. In a bench trial, the judge determines whether you are guilty or innocent. In a jury trial, people from the community, that you have a say in choosing, determine whether you are guilty or innocent. Depending on your case, we can help you decide which trial is best for your case. Typically, jury trials are best but consulting with an attorney can better advise you of which type of trial is best for your specific case.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime and are deciding between what type of trial to have, having a lawyer help you through the process can ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

What is Arraignment?

If you are charged with committing a crime, there are many different hearings that you might have to attend. One of those is an Arraignment. What is an Arraignment? An arraignment is the first court appearance or first court date someone receives after they get out of jail on bond or after they receive a traffic ticket. Some counties don’t give you a court date immediately. Other counties will mail you a court date. Sometimes it can be a while before you have your first court date.

What is the purpose of Arraignment? Arraignment is to notify you what your charges are and give you an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. In Georgia, every defendant has the right to an arraignment in a felony and misdemeanor case.

Sometimes the charge you were originally given or arrested for is not the same charge that the prosecutor is going forward on. This means that they can charge you with something more serious or charge you with something less serious.

Arraignment is not the time where you can present evidence or argue your case to the judge.  It is simply the time to enter guilty or not guilty and hear the formal charges the prosecutor is moving forward against you on. In all, not much happens at Arraignment. Ideally, you should have an attorney to represent you at arraignment. A lawyer can appear in court on your behalf and waive arraignment to excuse you from court.

If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with a crime or is under investigation, having a lawyer help you through the process can ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

 

Disorderly Conduct in Fulton County, Georgia

If you have been charged with Disorderly Conduct in Fulton County, you are facing a misdemeanor charge for which the maximum penalty is a year in jail and a fine of $1000. Disorderly conduct should not be taken lightly, as a conviction can have consequences on your employment, immigration status, probation, and future cases.

Georgia law defines disorderly conduct as “acting in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby he/she is placed in reasonable fear of the safety of his/her life, limb or health, or whereby his/her property is placed of being damaged or destroyed.” It is also defined as “without provocation, using opprobrious or abusive words which by their very utterance tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace (i.e. fighting words – which will naturally tend to provoke violent resentment); or, without provocation, uses obscene and vulgar or profane language in the presence of or by telephone to a person under 14 which threatens an immediate breach of the peace.” OCGA 16-11-39(a).

If you have been charged with committing disorderly conduct in any of those four ways, –acting in a violent manner towards a person or a person’s property, using fighting words, or using obscene language towards a child 14 and under– you need quality legal representation to help resolve your case. Oftentimes, an attorney can help you to find a legal defense in your case. Perhaps the State cannot prove every element charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps the alleged victim has some serious credibility issues. Whatever it is, an experienced attorney can help to find weaknesses in the State’s case which would benefit you at trial. Sometimes, trial is not a good option for you if you have some criminal history, if the alleged victim is credible or a special class (children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc.) or because the case against you is very strong. In situations like these, a plea deal may be in your best interest. In this case, our attorneys have had success in negotiating reductions with Fulton County prosecutors to less serious crimes like reckless conduct, or can arrange for you to enter into a diversion program which would result in your case being dismissed.

These are strategies which an experienced attorney can utilize to get a good outcome in your case. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct in Fulton County, our firm offers free consultations. Feel free to give us a call to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your case. 404-581-0999.

DUI IN THE MUNICIPAL COURT OF ATLANTA

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

After an accused has been arrested for a DUI, if one of the following occurred, an accused MUST send the 30-day appeal letter to attempt to save his/her driver’s license:

  1. After the accused has been arrested, an officer on scene from the Atlanta Police Department read him/her the correct “Implied Consent” notice and he/she refused to comply with either a blood, breath, or urine test in order to determine his/her blood alcohol content, OR
  2. The accused consented to a blood, breath, or urine test and the results showed that the blood alcohol content of the accused was above the legal limit.

If one of the following occurred, it is of vital importance to send the 30-day appeal of the license suspension letter prior to the deadline or risk the suspension of the accused person’s driver’s license. The suspension could last as long as 1 year.

After sending the 30-day letter, the accused must also be ready to defend his/her criminal allegations. The penalties for a DUI conviction are serious, thus, it is of great importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands all of the elements of the offense, the affirmative defenses to such a charge, and all possible options for the accused.

According to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391, a person commits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when it renders them less safe to drive, the person’s alcohol concentration is .08 or more at any time within 3 hours after such driving occurred, or there is any amount of marijuana or other controlled substances present in the accused person’s blood, breath, or urine.

Once the Atlanta Police Department transfers the criminal charge to the Atlanta Solicitor’s Office, the criminal case will begin at a proceeding known as an arraignment. There are a few options when the case has landed here at the Municipal Court of Atlanta. Such options include:

  • The accused may plead guilty to DUI, which, for a first DUI conviction, usually will result in 12 months of probation, which requires completion of a Risk Reduction course and at least 40 hours of community service;
  • The accused may plead not guilty to DUI and seek a bench trial with the municipal court judge;
  • The accused may plead not guilty to DUI and seek a jury trial. This will result in the case being bound over to the Fulton County State Court, OR
  • At arraignment, the accused has the option to speak to the Atlanta solicitor in a pretrial conference to discuss other possible options, such as a reduction from the original DUI charge.

Due to the complexity of a driving under the influence criminal case, as well as the related license suspension proceeding, it is essential to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is skilled at defending such allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our attorneys are knowledgeable about all possible options for our clients and have vast experience defending such charges. Therefore, if you have been arrested for driving under the influence, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Super Speeder- DeKalb

If you are driving 85 MPH or more on any road or highway OR driving 75mph or more on any two-lane road or highway in Georgia, you are deemed to be a ‘super speeder.’ What does that mean? It means that in addition to the local fines and fees you pay to resolve your ticket you will also have to pay an additional $200 super speeder fee to DDS. You have 90 days from the date of conviction (i.e paying ticket or entering a plea) to submit the payment to DDS. If you fail to pay the $200 fee within 90 days your license will be suspended.  If you or someone you know has been arrested with a super speeder ticket, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Governor Kemp Signs Bill that will Enhance Penalties for Fleeing and Eluding in Georgia

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

On April 25th, 2022, Governor Kemp signed legislation to further public safety efforts in the State of Georgia. One of the bills that he signed, which was passed in the House, as well as the Senate, will enhance or increase penalties and sentencing for individuals charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. This bill will go into effect on July 1st, 2022.

This bill states that:

  • It is unlawful for a driver to fail to stop his/her vehicle or attempt to flee or elude a police officer when he/she is given a visual or audible signal to stop.
  • Any person convicted of a first, second, or third violation of this law will be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
  • Any person convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of this law will be guilty of a felony.

Sentencing:

  • The penalties for a first conviction will be a fine of at least $1,000 and 30 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a second conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $2,500 and 90 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a third conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $4,000 and 180 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a fourth conviction, and any subsequent conviction, within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $5,000 and 12 months in custody.

This bill will dramatically change the penalties for fleeing and eluding in Georgia. A high and aggravated misdemeanor generally means that the accused will have to serve the entire jail-sentence in custody without the possibility of receiving 2 for 1 credit. The fourth conviction of this crime in a 10-year period will constitute a felony offense. Furthermore, a nolo contendere plea will not avoid mandatory jail time, or a conviction.

Any arrests that occur prior to July 1st, 2022, for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer will still be pursuant to the prior statute that allows for lower penalties and sentencing. However, if an accused is arrested for fleeing and eluding on, or after, July 1st, 2022, the sentencing will be enhanced pursuant to this new law.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the punishment for fleeing and eluding based on this new legislation, it is of vital importance to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know every aspect of this new law, we understand the defenses to the charge, we take pride in advocating for our clients’ constitutional rights, and we detail all options for our clients when defending their case. If you or a loved one has been charged with fleeing and eluding, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

I was arrested without a warrant, and they did not bring me to court, what do I do?

If you have been arrested, booked into the County Jail, and there is no warrant, you must be brought before a Judge within 48 hours. If you are not brought before a judge within 48 hours, you must be released from custody.

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62, it requires the arresting person (typically the police officer) to “without delay, convey the offender before the most convenient judicial officer authorized to receive an affidavit and issue a warrant as provided for in Code Section 17-4-40.” Further, “[n]o such imprisonment shall be legal beyond a reasonable time allowed for this purpose; and any person who is not brought before such judicial officer within 48 hours of arrest shall be released.” Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S.  44, 57 (1991).

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a charge without a warrant, and they have not been brought before a judge, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

What is an arraignment and what happens after?

If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia, you will likely receive a court date in the mail, informing you that your case has been scheduled for an arraignment. An arraignment is an opportunity to have your charges read aloud in open Court, and for you to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo. If your case is in Dekalb, Cobb, Fulton, Douglas, Clayton, or another State Court, then you are able to waive this arraignment by filing a waiver of arraignment with the Court. Many attorneys typically waive arraignment on behalf of their clients as a matter of course. This is because State Court arraignments are typically formalities, and not really necessary if you have retained an attorney (you are pleading not guilty! That’s why you hired an attorney!).

If your case is located in Municipal Court, your court dates will likely all say “arraignment.” This is because many Municipal Courts hold arraignment calendars every day. Arraignment in Municipal Court, unlike in State Courts, cannot be waived, even if it is your first court date. If this is the case, you must be present at your first court date.

Some time after your arraignment date, if you or your attorney has filed a motion requesting discovery, the Prosecutor will send discovery. Discovery is the evidence that the prosecutor has which they plan on using in your case. If it has been several weeks since your arraignment and you have not received discovery after you have requested it, you should reach out to an attorney or to the Court to tell them that you have not received it.

The criminal legal process can be confusing and scary. You are not alone. We have an experienced team of attorneys who can guide you through the process from arraignment through trial. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation. Call us at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.

Georgia Immunity Motions in Domestic Violence Cases

If a person is charged in the State of Georgia with Domestic Violence, that person has the right to claim self-defense. Not only can the person claim self-defense at trial, but the person also has the right to file what is called an immunity motion under O.C.G.A. § 16-3-24.2.

This is a legal motion made pre-trial, whereby a person can assert that their self-defense claim is so strong that the Court cannot allow the prosecutor to continue with the case. Once the motion is filed, the Court must hear and rule on the motion prior to trial.

In an immunity motion the burden is on the defense to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that they should win on the self-defense theory. Once the defense has raised the self-defense claim, the State then has the burden of disproving the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will hear testimony, consider evidence, and make a ruling. Two outcomes can occur:

  1. If the Court finds that the defense presented sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and persuaded the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will grant the motion and dismiss the case.
  2. If the Court finds that the defense did not present sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and did not persuade the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will deny the motion and the case will proceed to trial.

The advantage to filing this type of motion is that it can protect a person who is charged with domestic violence from the risk of uncertainty of going to trial. If the motion is not successful, the person charged, still has every right to fight the charges at trial. These motions can be very beneficial, in the right case, for the person charged with domestic violence.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a domestic violence charge, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Municipal Court of Atlanta – Atlanta Move Over Attorney

Georgia’s “move over” law is designed to keep officers, emergency workers, and first responders safer when they are stopped on the side of the road with their emergency lights flashing. It was passed in 2003 to reduce the number of police officer and HERO fatalities that were occurring due to traffic crash responses. The law saves lives and makes sense, but unfortunately, too many Georgia motorists are unaware that it exists until they are slapped with a $500 fine.

If you have been issued a citation for violating the Move Over law in Atlanta either by Atlanta Police Department or Georgia State Patrol, your citation will be prosecuted by the City of Atlanta Solicitor. Your court date will be set at the Municipal Court of Atlanta at 150 Garnett Street in Atlanta, Georgia. In many instances, attorneys can appear on behalf of their clients for move over violation citations.

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-16, Georgia law requires drivers to move over to the next lane if safely possible when passing a stationary emergency vehicle, towing vehicle, or recovery vehicle when their lights are flashing. If moving over is absolutely impossible, the law requires you to slow down to below the speed limit but to be prepared to stop your car. Violations can result in a fine of $500 for the first offense. Once you factor in the court costs, however, this can put you well above $500, even if this was your first offense, and even if you had never heard of the law. Paying the fine on your citation means you are admitting you are guilty to the offense which raises a number of consequences.

A violation of this statute could cost you much more than the fine itself. A conviction for this traffic offense will also add 3 points to your driving record. A driver with 15 points in a 24 month period will have their license suspended. Points on your record also subject you to higher car insurance rates because your insurer believes you are more likely to file a claim than someone with lower points on their record. Getting just one traffic ticket can boost an average person’s auto insurance premiums by as much as 22 percent.

Additionally, violating Georgia’s move over law can be a basis for an officer to stop your vehicle which can lead to even more serious charges. Under both the Georgia and the United States Constitutions, an officer needs “reasonable articulable suspicion” to justify pulling your vehicle over for an investigative stop. Violating this statute gives the officers that power to stop you and investigate you, which ultimately can lead to a DUI arrest or the investigation of other potential and more serious crimes.

To avoid these repercussions of violating Georgia’s move over law, always drive attentively and don’t risk being pulled over or injuring the emergency workers on the side of road. If you see lights ahead, do all that you can to safely move over. If moving over safely is impossible, remember to slow down below the speed limit when passing emergency lights, and be prepared to stop. It can save lives, and it can save you money and the hassle.

If you have been cited with a violation of Georgia’s move over law, call our office and we can help you navigate the system. Our office has extensive experience in traffic violations and DUI defense. Fighting traffic tickets with an attorney’s help is important because any conviction on your record will greatly reduce the possibility of having future citations lowered or dismissed. Our firm can handle your traffic ticket case with the expertise you need to save your record. Give us a call for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.