Bibb County Georgia Theft Lawyer

If you are charged with a theft crime in Bibb County, then you have come to the right place. We have defended hundreds of theft charges ranging from shoplifting to armed robbery. Bibb County has no shortage of these cases, and we are often called to assist in defending these theft allegations.

 

Your specific charge will depend on the what was taken, the value of the property, and the manner in which it was taken. This may be obvious, but you cannot steal property which belongs to you. So one basic defense is that you had a lawful right to obtain the property.

 

The proximity of the property owner is also an important factor to consider. Robbery involves taking property from the immediate presence of the property owner which carries higher penalties than theft alone. If there is no dispute that property was illegally taken, then theft may be an appropriate reduction from robbery that will minimize the penalties associated with a plea or conviction.

 

The value of the property taken is also important. For most offenses, if the value of the property is less than $500 then you are looking at a misdemeanor. However, there is no misdemeanor robbery no matter what was taken, and prosecutors can add together the value of property to reach the $500 threshold if the property was taken in a string of thefts that can establish the same person committed the crimes in a very short period of time.

 

The place of the theft is also important in determining whether you can be charged and with what specific offense. If you break into someone’s home to commit a theft or robbery, then you can expect an additional charge for burglary.

 

Common forms of theft are theft by deception and theft by taking. The difference being the manner in which the theft occurred. One common example of theft by deception is when a contractor takes money for a job but doesn’t complete the work.

 

A theft is complete at the moment the person has the intent to retain the money without performing the services. Obviously, that moment can be tough to identify and is just one defense to some of these charges.

 

If you are charged with a theft crime in Bibb County, call our office today at 404-581-0999 for your free consultation.

Georgia Criminal Lawyer – Violent Crime Arrest – Coweta County

If you are charged with a violent crime in Coweta County, then you have come to the right place.  We have defended hundreds of violent charges ranging from simple battery to murder.  Coweta County has no shortage of these cases, and we are often called to assist in defending these violent crime allegations.

 

The first step is to determine your charges which are usually stacked meaning that you can have 3 or more charges for one just one punch, kick or push.  The extent of the injury will largely dictate what you are charged with, but the alleged victim’s status can also play a role.  The alleged victim’s age, occupation, relationship to you, and the location of the incident all factor into the potential charge and corresponding penalties.

 

Regardless of your exact charge, we stand ready to assist in defending your case in Coweta County.  If the alleged victim made a false allegation, then we look to the discredit the charge by presenting alibi evidence or witnesses who were present at the time of the alleged attack.  If there are no other witnesses, then it is just his or her word versus your word.  In those situations, we work to build up your character through your contacts in the community.  Simultaneously, we work to find discredit the alleged victim.  The reality of police work is that the person who makes the initial outcry (aka the 911 call) is usually the one who gets the labeled the victim while the other party gets hauled off to jail.  Of course, the officer is trained to look for injuries, but a savvy victim can injure himself or herself prior to the officer’s arrival just to add credibility to his or her story so injuries do not automatically equal guilt.

 

If you are not denying the violence, but instead seek to argue self-defense, then we argue that your actions were justified.  Georgia is a “Stand Your Ground” state that does not require you to retreat and allows you to defend yourself, your property, or even other people from what you believe to be an imminent threat of harm.  The amount of force used in those situations depends on the amount of force threatened by the other person.  These decisions are often made in the blink of an eye, and sometimes what you believed to be a threat turns out to be a cellphone instead of a gun.  Luckily, a reasonable mistake is still protected under the law.  How do you prove your actions were reasonable?  That requires the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney.

 

If you are charged with a crime of violence in Coweta County, call our office today at 404-581-0999 for your free consultation.

 

 

Georgia DUI Lawyer – Peach County

If you have been charged with driving under the influence (“DUI”) in Peach County, you have come to the right place.  Our firm has a strong record at successfully defending all kinds of DUIs ranging from alcohol to marijuana to prescription drugs cases.  Peach County is known to aggressively patrol their roads and prosecute these DUI arrests, but their aggressiveness also leads to many wrongful arrests.

 

As with most DUIs, the initial stop of the vehicle is usually based on an alleged violation of some traffic law like speeding or failure to maintain lane.  A technical violation such as window tint or expired tag can also serve as the basis of the stop, but there’s nothing inherently unsafe about a technical violation. Therefore, a skilled defense attorney will argue that a technical violation is not evidence of impaired driving.  If someone is so impaired that they are unable to drive safely, then why is it that the officer could not find one single traffic infraction to support their assumption that you are impaired!?  A very reasonable theory is that you were not impaired, the officer made some false assumptions, and you should be found not guilty of DUI.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, there is actually a lot of training that goes into DUI detection, and your attorney needs to understand that training before he can skillfully use that training against the officer.  The law is constantly evolving, and the training that goes into DUI enforcement is updated every year or two.  So you need a lawyer who has performed the tests himself/herself (in a classroom setting), and you need the best possible DUI attorney in Peach County.

 

So if you have been charged with a DUI in Peach County, then you need to call our office today at 404-581-0999 for your free consultation.

Georgia Traffic Law – Reckless Driving Citation

Reckless driving is a serious traffic offense and is frequently charged in Georgia. As a result, our firm has drafted this article to inform the public of the nature of this offense and the possible consequences if convicted.

 

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A § 40-6-390, “any person who drives any vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving.”

To prove reckless driving, the state must show that the defendant committed a specific act evidencing a reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property. Fraser v. State, 263 Ga.App. 764 (2003).

 

Case Examples

Evidence was sufficient to support conviction for reckless driving: while impaired by alcohol, defendant in the midst of other traffic blatantly ran a red light at a busy intersection, exceeded speed limit by 15 miles per hour, and wove in and out of his lane. Horne v. State, 286 Ga.App. 712 (2007).

 

Evidence was sufficient to support conviction of reckless driving where defendant accelerated through intersection in attempt to beat a changing light and struck another vehicle, rendering driver of such other vehicle quadriplegic, with severe brain injuries, and unable to speak or eat, and defendant had been drinking beer earlier in day, smelled of alcohol, showed signs of impairment on field sobriety tests administered at accident scene and tested positive on two different alco-sensors, and refused state-administered post-arrest alcohol test. Dunagan v. State, 286 Ga.App. 668 (2007).

 

Evidence was sufficient to support convictions for reckless driving, there was evidence that law enforcement officer saw a vehicle traveling at high rate of speed, vehicle had one headlight out and crossed a double yellow line, driver of vehicle failed to stop and continued to drive in a reckless manner when officer activated his lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop, and officer saw defendant emerge from vehicle and run into woods when vehicle finally stopped. Daniel v. State, 282 Ga.App. 291 (2006).

 

Evidence was sufficient to support conviction for reckless driving when law enforcement officer was standing on side of highway after a traffic stop, defendant drove past him at high rate of speed and almost hit him. Graves v. State, 280 Ga.App. 420 (2006).

 

Punishment

A person convicted of reckless driving will be guilty of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor in Georgia is punishable by up to one year and prison and a $1,000 fine or both. Most reckless driving convictions do not result in jail time, although certain factors could lead a judge to sentence to jail (repeat offenders, children in car, near school, etc.). A misdemeanor conviction will also become a part of the person’s permanent criminal record.

 

In regards to the person’s driver’s license, reckless driving causes 4 points to be assessed on a driver’s license. A person under the age of 21 who is convicted of reckless driving will suffer a suspended license.

 

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been charged with reckless driving, and/or received a reckless driving citation please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia’s New Second Chance Law – Misdemeanor Record Restriction (Expungement)

By: Mary Agramonte

A new expungement law is on the way, which will come as great news to the millions of Georgians who have a criminal history. Governor Kemp recently signed SB 288 into law after state leaders unanimously approved the bill. Georgia’s new “Second Chance Law” will become effective on January 1, 2021 providing Georgians with an opportunity to expunge certain misdemeanor cases, both a victory and a first in Georgia.

Georgia historically has not had favorable expungement laws on the books. Under current Georgia law, criminal convictions stay on a person’s record forever. Convictions never ‘age off’ no matter the time that has elapsed, or the strides made for rehabilitation. This places a staggering number of Georgians at a disadvantage for employment, housing, higher education, and other opportunities.

Georgia’s current law disallowing expungement has been troublesome for the hundreds of thousands of people who get caught up in our justice system each year. In fact, Georgia leads the nation, by far, in placing people on probation following conviction.  The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 433,200 people in Georgia were on probation at the end of 2018. According to Second Chance for Georgia (INSERT link: https://www.secondchancegeorgia.org/), 4.3 million people have a criminal record in Georgia. This means that an astounding 40% of Georgia’s adult population carry a criminal history through life, resulting in more than 1/3 of the State’s population having barriers to advancement in careers and other opportunities.

This new change in Georgia law will allow individuals to petition the court to have certain misdemeanor convictions restricted and sealed off their record after living a crime free life for four years. This is a process sometimes referred to as “expungement,” but is called “record restriction” in Georgia.  So long as a person has completed the terms of their sentence and has had no new convictions for at least four years, then SB 288 allows the individual to petition the Court to restrict the misdemeanor off their record.

Upon petition and a request for a hearing, the Court will conduct a balancing test to determine whether to restrict the misdemeanors off the criminal history. The hearing must take place within 90 days of the request. Under the new SB 288 law, the Court must grant the petition to restrict the criminal history records if it determines that the harm resulting to the individual clearly outweighs the public’s interest in the criminal history being publicly available. Factors such as the nature of crime, the loss of career opportunities, time elapsed since conviction, and proven rehabilitation will all become relevant inquiries for the Court.

Under SB 288, certain crimes will continue to be ineligible for record restriction in Georgia. This means that the following crimes cannot be expunged following a conviction:

  • Family Violence Assault and Battery
  • Family Violence Stalking
  • Hindering 911 call
  • Child Molestation or Enticing a child for indecent purposes
  • Public indecency
  • Pimping and pandering
  • Sexual Battery
  • Theft by Taking, Theft by Deception, Theft by Conversion
  • Serious Traffic Offenses (Reckless Driving, DUI, Homicide by Vehicle, Serious Injury by Vehicle, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude, and Aggressive Driving)

Crimes that will be eligible under the new law for potential record restriction include but are not limited to:

  • Possession of Marijuana
  • Possession of Drug Related Objects
  • Shoplifting
  • Non-Domestic Battery and Assault
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  • Giving False Name, False Report, or False Statement
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Loitering
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Driving with a Suspended License

 

Some felonies are included in this expansion as well. For example, if someone has been convicted of a felony charge, but were issued a pardon, they too can petition a Judge to restrict and seal the charge off their record under the new law.

Who is eligible to petition the court for record restriction or expungement?

Anyone who was convicted of a misdemeanor crime, (other than the crimes explicitly exempt under the statute), and have had no new convictions in the past four years.

How many cases can I ask to be restricted?

Individuals will be allowed to petition the court for record restriction on two misdemeanor cases (a case can include multiple misdemeanor offenses under one accusation).

What happens if the Judge denies the request for record restriction?

You can request the record restriction again after waiting two years from the Judge’s denial.

How do I obtain record restriction under SB 288?

The new law requires you file a motion into the court you were convicted requesting the misdemeanor be restricted and expunged. A court order is required in order for your criminal history to be expunged under the new law.

Keep in mind that record restriction is not limited to misdemeanor convictions discussed in this blog under the new SB288 law and can be, at times, automatic. For example, if you were arrested after July 1, 2013, and the case against you was dismissed, or you were fully acquitted at trial, the charge will be automatically restricted when the clerk enters that disposition into the GCIC system. Arrests prior to July 1, 2013 that resulted in dismissal require a request and separate process for restrictions, but are eligible.

The best way to know what is on your criminal history is to request a copy of your GCIC under Purpose Code “E” from a local police department or sheriff’s office.  If you or a loved one is one of the millions of people carrying a criminal history through life in Georgia, the Second Chance law may come as a reprieve. The attorneys at W. Scott Smith are versed on all aspects of Georgia’s expungement and record restriction laws and are available for a FREE CONSULTATION by calling 404-581-0999.

Theft by Shoplifting in DeKalb County, Georgia

A shoplifting conviction is no small matter. It will negatively impact your ability to gain employment, apply for housing, and it will permanently remain on your criminal record. It is critical you contact an experienced attorney to investigate the facts, prepare legal challenges and defenses, and mitigate possible punishment. Our firm routinely handles shoplifting cases in DeKalb County State Court. This article means to explain the nature of shoplifting under Georgia law, the possible punishment, and how these matters are specifically handled in DeKalb County.

 

The Offense

 

Under O.C.G.A § 16-8-14, the offense of theft by shoplifting occurs when a person has the intent to either appropriate merchandise without paying for it or deprive the owner of possession of the merchandise or of its value AND:

 

  • Takes possession of or conceals the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment;
  • Alters the price marked on the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment;
  • Transfers the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment from its original box or container to another one;
  • Switches the price tag or label from one merchandise item with the price tag or label from another merchandise item; or
  • Wrongfully causes the amount paid for an item to be less than the merchant’s state price for the item

 

Arrest, formal criminal charges, and aggressive prosecution are all possibilities if you engage in the above conduct.

 

Punishment

 

The penalties for shoplifting in DeKalb County depend on the “value” of the property taken. A first shoplifting conviction involving the theft of merchandise valued at $500 or less is a misdemeanor. This is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and incarceration for up to 12 months in jail, or both. Shoplifting offenses involving the theft of merchandise worth more than $500 are deemed felonies and can be punished by imprisonment for as long as ten years, depending on the total value of merchandise stolen.

 

It is important to note that a fourth or subsequent conviction for shoplifting is punished as a felony even though the prior convictions were all for misdemeanor shoplifting. Fourth or subsequent convictions are punishable by a prison sentence of one to ten years.

 

 

In addition to jail time and a fine, punishment may also include a psychological evaluation and treatment at their own expense, shoplifting seminars, community service, and restitution for the value of the property taken (if not returned).

 

How it Works in DeKalb

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the DeKalb County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within DeKalb County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case.

 

It is possible to resolve a theft by shoplifting charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the DeKalb County Pre-Trial Diversion Program. If the accused successfully completes the diversion program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

 

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” If accused and not eligible for diversion, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, DeKalb County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss shoplifting charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to shoplifting or proceed to trial.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Theft By Shoplifting can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every shoplifting case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with shoplifting, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia Criminal Lawyer – Tampering with Evidence

There are several ways in which a person may “tamper with evidence” in Georgia. This article aims to explore the nature of the offense and the possible punishment if convicted.

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-10-94, a person commits the offense of tampering with evidence when

  • with the intent to prevent the apprehension or cause the wrongful apprehension of any person or to obstruct the prosecution or defense of any person,
  • he knowingly destroys, alters, conceals, or disguises physical evidence or makes, devises, prepares, or plants false evidence.

Case Examples

Sufficient evidence for tampering with evidence: defendant threw envelope containing a forged check out the window of van in which he was riding as soon as traffic stop of van was instigated by police. Foster v. State, 311 Ga.App. 129 (2011).

Sufficient evidence to support two misdemeanor counts of tampering with evidence: defendant wiped the passenger side of the victim’s vehicle with a towel so as to alter or destroy physical evidence, and defendant bleached and washed his clothing to destroy, alter, and conceal physical evidence. Brown v. State, 288 Ga. 404 (2010).

Evidence was not sufficient to support conviction for tampering with evidence: police officers observed leafy substance in defendant’s mouth following physical struggle during a traffic stop; although officers testified they smelled burned marijuana on her person and that substance in her mouth was consistent with raw or fresh marijuana, officers did not see defendant place substance in her mouth, they did not attempt to recover substance from her mouth, and they did not command her to remove substance, and videotape of stop showed defendant repeatedly complying with officer’s request to open her mouth for inspection with flashlight.  King v. State, 317 Ga.App. 834 (2012).

Punishment

Felony Punishment

Tampering with evidence can be charged as a felony in two ways:

  • When a person tampers with evidence during the prosecution of a felony that involves another person. Here, the penalty is 1-3 years imprisonment; or
  • When a person tampers with evidence during the prosecution of a serious violent felony involving another person. In this situation, the penalty is 1-10 years imprisonment.

Misdemeanor Punishment

If the underlying charge was a misdemeanor or if you tamper with evidence in your own case (felony or misdemeanor), a tampering with evidence charge will result in a misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know is facing criminal prosecution, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has specialized knowledge and experience in handling criminal cases in multiple jurisdictions across Georgia.

 

Georgia Criminal Law – Family Violence Battery in Rockdale County

A conviction for Family Violence Battery in Georgia can have consequences that go far beyond a conviction for other misdemeanors.   For some clients, this is their first interaction with law enforcement and their concerns include: jail time, a permanent mark on their criminal history , and the possibility of trial.   All of these concerns are very real when facing Family Violence Battery charges. This is especially true when charged with Family Violence Battery in Rockdale County. This jurisdiction has specifically allocated money and resources in aggressively prosecuting domestic violence charges.  This article aims to explain the nature of the offense, punishments, and how these cases are handled within Rockdale County.

 

The Offense

 

Georgia Criminal Code § 16-5-23.1 defines domestic violence (named “battery – family violence”) as whenever a battery, an intentional physical harm or visible bodily harm, is committed against “past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household.”

 

Therefore, in order to be charged with Family Violence Battery, the alleged victim must be within a certain relationship of the defendant:

 

  • A spouse
  • Persons who are parents of the same child
  • Children
  • Step-Children
  • Foster Children
  • Other persons living in the same household (roommates)

 

Punishment

 

A first conviction for Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine.  A second or subsequent conviction with the same family member (as classified above) or another family member results in a felony conviction with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1

 

While a first lifetime conviction of Family Violence Battery appears to be just a misdemeanor, there are several collateral consequences unknown to most people.  For example, because Georgia’s classification of Family Violence Battery falls within the Federal definition of “domestic violence,” a Georgia citizen who is convicted of Family Violence Battery is prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal Law.

 

Furthermore, while the maximum penalty includes 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine, many judges throughout the State will also require individuals convicted of Family Violence Battery to serve time on probation (in lieu of jail time), but with the conditions of completing a domestic violence program.  These programs go by several different names (usually Domestic Violence Intervention Program – DVIP), but they generally include 24 weeks of classes, counseling, and program fees that are not included in the fine ordered by the judge.  In addition, judges can add community service, counseling requirements, fines, and alcohol and drug evaluations.  It is important to know that your attorney can negotiate all of these things.

 

How it Works in Rockdale

 

The first step after arrest is getting a bond. If charged with misdemeanor Family Violence Battery, the law provides you shall be given a bond (in all misdemeanor cases).  But, in addition to having to pay bail money to bond out, the judge will also typically impose a No Contact provision as a condition of your pre-trial release. For example, in a case where a husband is accused of battering his wife, and the couple have minor children who live with them, a judge will usually order the defendant to have No Contact with the wife (alleged victim), the children, and be prevented from returning to the shared home. This No Contact provision places a great burden and strain on the accused as a violation of this bond condition (any form of contact, direct or indirect) can land the accused person in custody until the case is resolved. Therefore, the accused has to find alternative living arrangements and be estranged from their family.

 

As a result, our office routinely files a Motion to Modify Bond Conditions to change the No Contact provision to No Violent or Harassing Contact. This will allow the accused to return home and have contact with the alleged victim and anyone else protected under the bond order; allowing the accused to return to some semblance of a normal lifestyle.

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Rockdale County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Rockdale County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case. An experienced attorney should periodically check to see whether the case has been accused prior to arraignment.

 

It is possible to resolve a Family Violence Battery charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the Rockdale County Domestic Violence Pre-Trial Intervention Program. If the accused successfully completes the DVPTI program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

 

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” If accused and not eligible for DVPTI, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, Rockdale County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss Family Violence Battery charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to Family Violence Battery or proceed to trial.

 

Rockdale County State Court prosecutors will often include multiple counts of Battery, Simple Battery, and Family Violence Battery within the accusation.  Unfortunately, many people go to court on their first court date, without exploring the consequences of a Family Violence Battery conviction, and enter a plea.  Whether the person committed the acts alleged or they simply just want to put this chapter of their life behind them, even though they’re innocent, it’s vital to consult with an attorney.  At the very least, an attorney can discuss the implications of being convicted of Family Violence Battery.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Family Violence Battery can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every Family Violence Battery case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with Family Violence Battery, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

Georgia Criminal Law – Family Violence Battery in Henry County

A conviction for Family Violence Battery in Georgia can have consequences that go far beyond a conviction for other misdemeanors.   For some clients, this is their first interaction with law enforcement and their concerns include: jail time, a permanent mark on their criminal history , and the possibility of trial.   All of these concerns are very real when facing Family Violence Battery charges. This is especially true when charged with Family Violence Battery in Henry County. This jurisdiction has specifically allocated money and resources in aggressively prosecuting domestic violence charges.  This article aims to explain the nature of the offense, punishments, and how these cases are handled within Henry County.

 

The Offense

 

Georgia Criminal Code § 16-5-23.1 defines domestic violence (named “battery – family violence”) as whenever a battery, an intentional physical harm or visible bodily harm, is committed against “past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household.”

 

Therefore, in order to be charged with Family Violence Battery, the alleged victim must be within a certain relationship of the defendant:

 

  • A spouse
  • Persons who are parents of the same child
  • Children
  • Step-Children
  • Foster Children
  • Other persons living in the same household (roommates)

 

Punishment

 

A first conviction for Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine.  A second or subsequent conviction with the same family member (as classified above) or another family member results in a felony conviction with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1

 

While a first lifetime conviction of Family Violence Battery appears to be just a misdemeanor, there are several collateral consequences unknown to most people.  For example, because Georgia’s classification of Family Violence Battery falls within the Federal definition of “domestic violence,” a Georgia citizen who is convicted of Family Violence Battery is prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal Law.

 

Furthermore, while the maximum penalty includes 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine, many judges throughout the State will also require individuals convicted of Family Violence Battery to serve time on probation (in lieu of jail time), but with the conditions of completing a domestic violence program.  These programs go by several different names (usually Domestic Violence Intervention Program – DVIP), but they generally include 24 weeks of classes, counseling, and program fees that are not included in the fine ordered by the judge.  In addition, judges can add community service, counseling requirements, fines, and alcohol and drug evaluations.  It is important to know that your attorney can negotiate all of these things.

 

How it Works in Henry

 

The first step after arrest is getting a bond. If charged with misdemeanor Family Violence Battery, the law provides you shall be given a bond (in all misdemeanor cases).  But, in addition to having to pay bail money to bond out, the judge will also typically impose a No Contact provision as a condition of your pre-trial release. For example, in a case where a husband is accused of battering his wife, and the couple have minor children who live with them, a judge will usually order the defendant to have No Contact with the wife (alleged victim), the children, and be prevented from returning to the shared home. This No Contact provision places a great burden and strain on the accused as a violation of this bond condition (any form of contact, direct or indirect) can land the accused person in custody until the case is resolved. Therefore, the accused has to find alternative living arrangements and be estranged from their family.

 

As a result, our office routinely files a Motion to Modify Bond Conditions to change the No Contact provision to No Violent or Harassing Contact. This will allow the accused to return home and have contact with the alleged victim and anyone else protected under the bond order; allowing the accused to return to some semblance of a normal lifestyle.

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Henry County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Henry County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case. An experienced attorney should periodically check to see whether the case has been accused prior to arraignment.

 

It is possible to resolve a Family Violence Battery charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the Henry County Domestic Violence Pre-Trial Intervention Program. If the accused successfully completes the DVPTI program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

 

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” If accused and not eligible for DVPTI, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, Henry County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss Family Violence Battery charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to Family Violence Battery or proceed to trial.

 

Henry County State Court prosecutors will often include multiple counts of Battery, Simple Battery, and Family Violence Battery within the accusation.  Unfortunately, many people go to court on their first court date, without exploring the consequences of a Family Violence Battery conviction, and enter a plea.  Whether the person committed the acts alleged or they simply just want to put this chapter of their life behind them, even though they’re innocent, it’s vital to consult with an attorney.  At the very least, an attorney can discuss the implications of being convicted of Family Violence Battery.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Family Violence Battery can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every Family Violence Battery case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with Family Violence Battery, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

Georgia Criminal Law: Drug Trafficking in Gwinnett County

Drug trafficking charges are different from other drug crimes, such as possession, possession with intent to distribute, drug distribution, and drug manufacturing. The key difference between drug trafficking and these other drug charges is quantity. Because of the large amount of drugs involved in trafficking charges, the punishment is significantly higher and may result in the imposition of a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

This blog serves to explain the drug trafficking laws and how these cases are handled in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Why Gwinnett County? Gwinnett County is a highly populated and geographically vast jurisdiction that sees a high number of drug trafficking cases on an annual basis. Therefore, it is important to know what to expect from the prosecutors (District Attorney’s Office) and the Court itself when facing these charges.

The Law

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31, makes it a criminal offense to sell, manufacture, delivers, or brings into the State, cocaine, illegal drugs, and marijuana is guilty of drug trafficking. The code section separates the law by drug and by quantity.

Trafficking cocaine is defined as any person who sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or knowingly possesses 28 or more grams[1] of cocaine. If the quantity of cocaine is between 28 grams and 200 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and shall pay a fine of $200,000. If the quantity of cocaine is between 200 grams and 400 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and shall pay a $300,000 fine. Lastly, if the quantity of cocaine is 400 grams or more, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years and shall pay a fine of $1,000,000.

For morphine and opium (including heroin), a person is guilty of trafficking if they sell, manufacture, deliver, bring into this state, or possess 4 grams or more of the substance. If the quantity involved is between 4 and 14 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 5 years and shall pay a fine of $50,000. For between 14 grams and 28 grams, the sentence is at least 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000

Trafficking marijuana is defined as selling, manufacturing, growing, delivering, or possessing more than 10 pounds or marijuana. If the amount of marijuana is greater than 10 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds, the law requires a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentence plus a $100,000 fine. If the quantity involved is greater than 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds, there is a 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $250,000 fine. Finally, if the quantity of marijuana is greater than 10,000 pounds, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 15 years as well as a fine of $1,000,000.

For methamphetamine and/or amphetamine, any person who sells, delivers, or brings into this state or who possesses 28 grams or more is guilty of trafficking. If the quantity is greater than 28 grams but less than 200 grams the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and pay a fine of $200,000. For quantities greater than 200 grams but less than 400 grams, it is a 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $300,000 fine. If the quantity is greater than 400 grams, the mandatory minimum prison sentence is 25 years plus a $1,000,000 fine.

Although the above sentences are described as “mandatory minimum prison” sentences, there are a few limited ways in which someone convicted of trafficking may be sentenced to less prison time than what is required by the mandatory minimums: (1) If the defendant provides “substantial assistance” to the government in identifying, arresting, and/or convicting other people involved in the drug conspiracy, the prosecutor may move the court to reduce or suspend part or all of the defendant’s sentence; (2) by agreement of the parties through a “negotiated plea”; or (3) the judge may depart from these mandatory minimums if certain mitigating factors exist (no prior felonies, no firearm used, defendant not head of conspiracy, nobody was injured as a result of criminal conduct, or if the interests of justice would not be served by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence).

Gwinnett County

If you have been arrested in Gwinnett County for drug trafficking, the first and most important step is getting a bond. Only a superior court judge may set bail on a trafficking charge. When considering whether to grant a bond the judge analyzes four factors, whether the defendant is a significant risk of:

  • Fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court
  • Posing a threat or danger to any person
  • Committing a felony while on pre-trial release
  • Intimidating witnesses

An experienced attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to consent to a bond in the case if you have ties to the community and meet the above factors. In Gwinnett County, bonds for trafficking range from $65,000 up to $125,000. The judge may also impose non-monetary restrictions (house arrest, no contact provisions, GPS ankle monitor, curfew, etc.). There is always the possibility, however, that a judge will deny setting a bond in the case, even if the bond was consented to. If the prosecutor will not agree to a bond, then the defendant will have to go before the judge and offer evidence of defendant’s ties to the communities (length of residence, family ties, employment status and history, history of responding to legal process – failure to appears or probation violations, lack of criminal history). The judge will normally set a “surety bond” where the defendant is only responsible for posting 10% of the overall bond amount and a bond company pays the rest (percentage varies depending on bond company).

If a bond is granted, the next step is fighting the case. Once all the evidence is gathered through the discovery process and our firm’s own independent investigation, we then communicate with the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office in an attempt to discuss a resolution. If these preliminary discussions are to no avail, we then proceed to file a “motion to suppress” illegally obtained evidence. If granted, the prosecution would not be able to proceed with the case. If denied, and the prosecutor is unwilling to dismiss or reduce the charges then we would be fully prepared to try the case before a jury. There are several defenses available to someone charged with drug trafficking:

  • Insufficient Drug Quantity (a motion to inspect evidence could reveal the weight of the substance does not meet the quantity as required in order to charge trafficking)
  • No Possession – Actual or Constructive (this defense asserts the defendant did not knowingly possess the substance in question, directly or indirectly)
  • Equal Access to Drugs (this defense relates to other individuals having access to the container or area in which the drugs were found, thereby raising doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the drugs)
  • Illegally Obtained Evidence (this is the basis of a successful motion to suppress)

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested for drug trafficking, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.

 

[1] With a minimum purity of 10% or more of cocaine as described in Schedule II