Decriminalized weed does not mean legal weed

Some cities in Georgia, including Atlanta, have decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of weed. However, it is still very much illegal in the state of Georgia. So, what does that mean? It means that police officers and prosecutors have a choice; they can charge you with a city ordinance violation OR a violation of state law. The difference is the penalty. In Atlanta, the city ordinance violation for possession of weed less than one ounce is a $75 fine. The state law violation is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 12 months to serve and a $1,000 fine.

Any drug charge can have serious consequences, even simple weed charge. For example, it can affect your job, housing, or driving privileges. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug offense it is important to have a knowledgeable advocate on your side. Call for a free consultation today.

I have a case in the Municipal Court of Atlanta and I missed a Court date. What do I do?

If you have a traffic or misdemeanor citation pending in the Municipal Court of Atlanta and you received notice that you missed a Court date, there is a chance that, unless you act quickly, your driver’s license will be suspended. Don’t panic! People make mistakes, forget to mark their calendars, pay a ticket online, or have moved and did not receive notice of the Court date. You can get your license reinstated or prevent the license from going into suspension by following these steps:

The quickest way to resolve the issue is to go directly to the Courthouse and fill out a “Waiver of Arraignment” form in the front office. These forms are located on the right side of the ground floor of the Courthouse, right past the metal detectors. It is in a room past the clerk’s windows, with vending machines and a snack bar. The form is located on a table in the front of the room. You can fill out the form with your name, citation number, and address. Once you complete the form, you must turn it into the clerk’s window, located immediately to the left of the vending machines. Once you submit this form, the Court will place you on a calendar so that you can come to Court to address the failure to appear. Once you appear in Court, the Judge will lift the FTA and issue you a form that you take to the Department of Drivers Services. Once DDS receives that form, the suspension or pending suspension on your driver’s license will be lifted. It is very important to remember that if your license has already been suspended, you MAY NOT DRIVE to the Courthouse, and will need to arrange alternate transportation.

You should also keep in mind that even if the FTA is lifted, your citation may not be resolved, and you may still need to go back to Court to resolve the case with a plea, trial, or diversion agreement.

If you live out of State or you are not able to attend Court, you should consider hiring an attorney who can complete this process for you. Do not put off addressing your FTA, and seek to handle it as quickly as possible. Failures to do so can result in consequences such as fees, warrants, and/or the loss of driving privileges. If you have an FTA in the Municipal Court of Atlanta, give us a call for a free consultation. Our office is only blocks away, and we can help you address the FTA and get your driving privileges reinstated. For questions or a free consultation, call us at 404-581-0999.

Teen and Young Adult Traffic Tickets in Georgia

By: Mary Agramonte, W. Scott Smith PC

If you are a high school or college aged student with a traffic ticket pending in Georgia, it is important to note that young drivers have much different penalties in traffic court than adult drivers. There are several traffic citations in Georgia that can have harsh consequences to those convicted if under the age of 21.

The following offenses will suspend a driver’s license if the driver is under the age of 21 at the time of the conviction:

  • Speeding 24-mph or more over the limit
  • Hit and Run
  • Racing
  • Fleeing or Attempting to Elude
  • Reckless Driving
  • Improper Passing on a Hill or a Curve
  • Unlawful Passing of a School Bus
  • Driving under the Influence
  • Aggressive Driving

In addition to the offenses listed above, if the driver is under the age of 18, accumulating 4 or more points in any 12-month period will also suspend driving privileges. This can occur by being cited in two separate incidents. For example, if a driver is first convicted of Following too Closely at one point, and within the year, a minor speeding ticket, this would put the teen driver over four points, thereby suspending his or her license.

Simply paying the ticket and not attending court is considered a conviction and will count towards the points accumulation.

In the above scenarios, there is no limited permit available for driving privileges. The State will issue a minimum 6-month license suspension. There is one exception to that rule: if the driver is convicted of driving 24-mph over the speeding ticket, and they are between the ages of 18 and 21, the sentencing judge may issue a limited permit in their discretion.

In addition to the license suspension, penalties for under 21 teen and young adult drivers may include probation, driving classes, community service, and fines (and jail, in some scenarios like hit and run, fleeing and attempting to elude, reckless driving, DUI, and more).

Due to the consequences of traffic tickets on teen and young adult drivers, it is highly beneficial to consult with an experienced traffic defense lawyer. A skilled criminal defense lawyer knows the repercussions of traffic tickets on under 21 drivers, and can potentially negotiate amended charges and reduced penalties. This will not only protect young drivers from license suspensions, but can also avoid points being assessed and reported to insurance companies, thereby avoiding rate increases.

If you are a driver under the age of 21 years old, or the parent of one, reach out to the lawyers at W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999

Following Too Closely – Traffic Lawyer

Fender benders happen all over Georgia every day. If you were involved in a car accident where your vehicle struck a vehicle in front of you, the police officer likely issued you a citation for Following too Closely, and gave you a court date to attend.

Georgia law states that drivers shall not follow another vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” This means that causing a fender bender accident, or hitting the vehicle in front of you, is a violation of the Following too Closely law. On the other hand, an officer can issue a citation for Following too Closely even if there was no car accident. This occurs where a police officer observes you travelling too closely “than is reasonable and prudent” to the vehicle in front of you. Even with no accident, following another vehicle too closely is a sufficient legal basis for an officer to stop and investigate you and the vehicle.

Do I have to go to Court for a Following too Closely ticket?

In most courts in Georgia, a court appearance is required. In some cases, an attorney can appear on behalf of someone charged under this law.

What happens if I am charged or convicted with Following too Closely?

Following too Closely is a misdemeanor in Georgia. This means the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine plus court costs and fees. Additionally, if you plead guilty to Following too Closely, it will be reported to your Motor Vehicle Report and three (3) points will be assessed, and insurance can be notified. If a driver gets 15 points in a 2 year period, your Georgia driver’s license will be suspended. A Following too Closely citation can raise insurance rates.

What are the defenses in a Following too Closely case?

It is a jury question whether or not you followed the other vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” An experienced lawyer can use this statute in negotiations with the prosecutors. Plea negotiations can occur where the Following too Closely charge gets reduced to a different violation that does not carry points, or get reported to your insurance. A jury trial, or a bench trial in front of the Judge, are options in a Following too Closely case in Georgia.

If you have been cited for Following too Closely and issued a citation, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

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.


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.

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.


  • 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.