Labor Day: Traffic Stop Tips

LABOR DAY WEEKEND EDITION: What Do You Need To Know During A Police Traffic Stop?

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Most people share a general sense of anxiety when they see blue lights flashing in their rear-view mirror.  If you’re like me, when the blue lights come on your heart starts beating 100 mph, you start sweating, and your mind is racing.   Here are some helpful pointers on how to interact with a police officer during a traffic stop.

WHEN YOU SEE THE “BLUE LIGHTS”

1)   Slow down and pull over as quickly as possible.  You never want to give the officer the impression that you’re attempting to get away.  Also, you don’t want to slam on the brakes immediately.  Find a safe location (parking lot, driveway, open area on the side of the road, etc..) and pull over.

2)  Roll down your window, turn off your car, place the keys on the dashboard, and have your driver’s license ready to hand to the Officer.   Obviously, if a police officer pulls you over he/she is going to want to speak with you.  It’s always a good idea to go ahead and roll your window down as soon as possible.  You wouldn’t want the officer to think that you’re having difficulty with the simple task of rolling your window down.  So go ahead and do that first.

Placing your keys on the dashboard will put the officer at ease that you’re not going to take off.  A calm Officer can sometimes be the difference in going to jail and going home.

In addition, the Officers are trained to see if you have difficulty locating your driver’s license.  To many officers, the fact that you are nervous and may not be able to find your license right away is not normal and instead is an indication you’re drunk.  So go ahead and eliminate that assumption immediately.

3)   Let the Officer speak first.   The Officer is trained to get you to admit to the crime he/she thinks you’ve committed.  So a common question an Officer will ask is: “do you know why I pulled you over?”   A lot of people will say: “Yes, I was (insert traffic offense).”   If the Officer is recording your conversation, then there is a strong possibility that statement will be used against in court.  So go ahead and answer the question with an affirmative “no.”   It’s the Officers burden to prove you guilty of the alleged offense and not your burden to proof yourself innocent.

4)  BE POLITE!  This is the key to any interaction with a police officer.  If you are a jerk to the Officer the chances of you getting a ticket and/or getting arrested go up significantly.   Sometimes a police officer can say things that are rude or inconsiderate.   Take the high road.   Remember, on the road he feels like he is in charge and has the ability to really mess up your day.  You’ll have the final say if the case goes to court.  So don’t make it easier for the Officer.  Just be polite and your behavior won’t be used against you at a later date.

If you end up with blue lights in your rear view mirror, try some of the tips listed above.       We hope that no one ends up getting ticketed or, even worse, arrested.

Labor Day weekend is a great chance to relax and enjoy time with friends and family.  With so many people on the road, you can almost guarantee that the police will be out in force.  So be careful and have a great weekend.

GEORGIA LEGISLATURE CHANGES MUGSHOT LAWS

A few months ago  we talked about the legality of having your mugshot posted all over the internet (see: Georgia Mugshot Websites). Recently, the Georgia General Assembly took another hard stance against companies who prey on those who are booked through Georgia jails.  Our legislature made some drastic changes to the Georgia mugshot laws.

Georgia law now requires that law enforcement agencies refrain from posting booking photographs on their jail inmate website.  The General Assembly went on to limit access to any booking photographs by restricting access to those who are (1) not using the photo for purposes for written publication or website publication; and (2) the person trying to obtain the photograph is not asking for removal or deletion of the booking photograph in exchange for money.  Law Enforcement agencies now can only release photographs to individuals who sign a statement affirming that the use of the photograph will NOT be for purposes of mugshot websites.

The General Assembly obviously recognized there was a serious problem with websites extorting those who have been booked through the criminal process.  Already, the Cobb County Sheriff’s Department has taken steps to remove all photographs from their jail website in accordance with the new law. Hopefully, these steps will put an end to for profit mugshot websites.

Please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 if you have been arrested in Georgia and you need help getting your mugshot removed.

How do I get a bond?

If you or a loved one has recently been arrested, the first thing on your mind is getting out of jail.  Unfortunately, the process of bonding out is more complicated than expected.  So, what do you need to know to get out of jail as quickly as possible?

1)      Will I get a bond?  If so, when?

In Georgia, the rules are organized according to whether the arrest offense is a felony or a misdemeanor.  If it is a misdemeanor, then you are entitled to a bond by law.  If the charge is a felony, then it is in the judge’s discretion whether to grant bail.  There are certain serious offenses for which only a superior court judge can grant bail.  In that case, the superior court will be notified of your arrest within 48 hours.  The superior court is then required to set a bond hearing within 30 days after receiving the notice.  However, if you file a petition for a bond, then the hearing must be held within 10 days after receiving the petition.

2)      What does the court consider when determining whether to grant bond and when determining high the bond should be? 

Judges consider four factors when determining whether to grant bond, and when determining how much the bond should be: (1) Are you a risk to run away and not come back to court?; (2) Do you pose a threat or danger to people or property in the local community?; (3) Is it likely that you will commit a felony before your case is resolved?; and (4) Are you likely to intimidate witnesses against you?

3)      Once I get a bond, what are my options for covering the amount? 

Cash bond – This requires you to put up the entire bond amount in cash or by money order.  Most people cannot afford the entire amount, and that is where bondsmen come in.  As long as you are able to pay 13-15% of the bond, then a bondsman will put up the money for you and require that you pay a fee.

*The money that you pay to bond out will be refunded at the close of the case as long as it is not forfeited by your failure to appear in court.  The fee to the bonding company will not be refunded. 

Property bond – You may be able to put up real property (house or land) as a way to guarantee your appearance in court.  Generally, you must have enough equity in the home or property to cover the amount of the bond.  In some places, you have to have twice the amount of the bond in equity.  Most bondsmen will still help you bond out of jail, and they may accept more than just real property.  For example, some will allow you to put up the title to your car as a guarantee that you will return to court.  Remember, if you use property to bond out and you fail to appear in court, then you are at risk of losing that property!

If you or a loved one have recently been arrested and want help bonding out, do not hesitate to contact us at 404-581-0999. You can trust that our firm will do everything possible to get you or your loved one out of jail and to make the process as simple and painless as possible.

Municipal Court of Atlanta Strikes Again

Peach State Lawyer Daniel Farnsworth here.  I was in the Municipal Court of Atlanta today once again trying to correct the court’s error.

Background: If you have a court date and you fail to appear in court, the court may report this Failure to Appear (FTA) to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS).  DDS will then suspend your privilege to drive in Georgia as a result of the FTA.  The suspension will go into effect 28 calendar days after DDS receives notice you failed to appear.  In the City of Atlanta, if you fail to appear, there is a procedure to follow to get your case out of FTA status (which may include paying $100 FTA fee).  More importantly, the court is supposed to transmit a clearance letter, also known as a Release of Fine and Fees Form (DS-912) to DDS indicating the FTA has been cleared.  This will allow you got back to DDS and reinstate your driving privilege.

THE PROBLEM: Today, I was in the municipal court of Atlanta to clear up a FTA issue.  The problem was MY CLIENT DID NOT FAIL TO APPEAR!!!  Read that again.  My client and I appeared in court on the assigned court date.  The case was reset.  We were given a court date notice to come back at a later date.  To client’s shock and surprise, client received a notice from DDS stating that his license was going to be suspended due to FTA.  WHAT?!?!

So I appeared in Atlanta this morning and I had to have my client’s case specially set on the calendar so the judge could address this FTA.  The good news is that I was successful in getting the judge to remove the FTA and notate the court’s error.  The bad news is that this happens FAR TOO OFTEN in the Municipal Court of Atlanta.

If this has happened to you, or you missed a court date, please contact me today and see if I can help correct the issue.  Time is of the essence in order to avoid a suspension.