HIT AND RUN

In Georgia, leaving the scene of an accident will most frequently be classified as a misdemeanor offense, and is defined as a “hit and run.” It can have serious consequences in the laws of our state, including collateral consequences, such as a suspension of the accused person’s driver’s license. According to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270, the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident, which results in an injury/ death of a person, or damage to another vehicle, has the duty to immediately stop after the accident. A driver also has the duty to return to the scene of the accident if he/she did not immediately stop their vehicle. When the driver has returned to the scene, he/she also has the following duties:

  1. The driver must give their name, address, and registration number of their vehicle;
  2. Upon request, show proof of their driver’s license;
  3. If any person is injured in the accident, the driver has the duty to assist the injured person; and
  4. If any person is unconscious or appears deceased, the driver must call 911.

A hit and run in Georgia usually will be classified as a misdemeanor, however, if the accident is the cause of a person’s death or serious injury, the accused could be charged with a felony offense, which includes a prison sentence of 1-5 years in custody. In all other cases, a hit and run will be classified as a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $1000 fine.

REDUCED CHARGES

An experienced criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecution to reduce a hit and run to a lesser offense. A hit and run charge will suspend an accused person’s driver’s license for a period of four months. Therefore, it is of vital importance to either be found “not guilty” of hit and run, or to reduce the hit and run to a non-suspendable offense.

The most common alternatives to a hit and run are (1) striking an unattended vehicle, or (2) duty to report. Striking an unattended vehicle, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-271, means that a driver collides with an unattended vehicle and did not immediately stop to locate the owner of the vehicle. Duty to report, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273, describes a circumstance where the driver is obligated to report an accident to the local police department when there are injuries to another party.

Both alternative charges are non-suspendable offenses. This means that there will not be a license suspension attached, if convicted. Therefore, because the accused will avoid a license suspension, reduced charges tend to be more favorable, and an experienced criminal defense attorney will attempt to negotiate for that resolution in order to save their client’s license.

Due to the complexity of a hit and run charge, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable of all possible options for their client, trained at defending such allegations, and zealously advocates for their client’s constitutional rights. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we do just that. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been cited or arrested for a hit and run, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

What to do if arrested for Possession of Drugs or Possession with Intent in Fulton County

If you are arrested for any drug offense in Fulton County, do not make any statements to the police. You will be taken to the Fulton County jail at 901 Rice Street. You will be on the first appearance calendar the following morning at 11:00. It is important to have an attorney for this court appearance.

At your first appearance hearing, the Magistrate Court judge will review the facts in the warrant and your criminal history and will decide whether to issue you a bond or not. There are a few options regarding bond. The first is they may give you an unsecured judicial release and make you report to pre-trial services. This allows you to get out of jail without paying any money. The next option is to give you a regular bond where you would have to go through a bonding company to be released. The final option is that they deny your bond. In Fulton County, in most drug cases, bond is set at first appearance.

Once you are released from the Fulton County jail, please ask any person who was with you that night to write out a statement of what they remember happening the night of the arrest. This could be helpful in preparing for the motions hearing and trial in Fulton County. It is also important for you to write out a statement of anything you remember regarding the incident. Only give this statement to your attorney.

It is important that you hire an attorney quickly as there are tight deadlines on filing a Motion to Suppress which is a constitutional challenge to the drug evidence. Most drug cases are either won or lost at the Motions hearing. If you wait too long, you will be unable to file a Motion to Suppress.

Being convicted of a felony drug offense in Fulton County carries many consequences, including, but not limited to, a felony drug conviction on your record, loss of gun rights, loss of voting rights and has a detrimental impact on your securing a loan from a bank or employment.

You are welcome to call us 24/7 at 404-581-0999 and we will be there with you for your First Appearance hearing at the Fulton County jail.

My lawyer told me they are hoping to get my DUI reduced. What can I do to help?

You may not know it, but you can play a huge role in helping your lawyer get the best deal possible for you in your DUI case. Many people assume that in their criminal case, they are at the mercy of the lawyers on both sides, and that they just have to wait until they hear something about an offer or a court date. This is not so. You have lots of power to affect the outcome of your case by being proactive and taking steps to complete required or recommended conditions for folks facing a DUI charge. Taking charge of your case by taking the following steps shows the solicitor that you are proactive and cooperative, and illustrates to the judge that you are taking the charges seriously and you want to handle the case quickly and responsibly. So, what can you do?

  1. Think about enrolling in a DDS-certified DUI School or Risk Reduction Class. There are dozens of convenient locations all over the state to choose from. The class is 20 hours long, and it costs $260 to enroll in the course. Many locations allow the class to be taken virtually or on weekends, so you should be able to easily find a location and time that works with your schedule. Click the following link for more information on finding a Risk Reduction class near you. Make sure that you provide the Certificate of Completion to your defense attorney or to the solicitor at your court date to show them that you have already started taking steps to handle your case. https://online.dds.ga.gov/ddsgeorgiagov/locations/certified-dui-schools.aspx
  2. Take a Defensive Driving class. DDS requires those who have been convicted of DUI to take a 6-hour certified Defensive Driving Class, and completion of the class is oftentimes a condition to getting a solicitor to agree to reduce your DUI charge to reckless driving or another lesser charge. The class is 6 hours and costs $95. Even if you have not been charged with DUI, but you have lots of points on your license, taking this class can remove up to 7 points from your license and reduce the cost of a traffic fine by up to 20%. This class also provides participants who complete the course with a Certificate of Completion that you can provide to your attorney or the solicitor in Court. Click the following link to see schools in your area: https://online.dds.ga.gov/ddsgeorgiagov/locations/driver-improvement-schools.aspx
  3. Talk to a professional and have an alcohol and/or drug evaluation. If you have been charged with DUI in Georgia, solicitors often want to make sure that there is not an underlying substance abuse issue. Reach out to mental health professionals in your area and make an appointment with a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. They will have you in to discuss your use of drugs and/or alcohol, and make a recommendation if they believe that, based on your discussions, you need treatment to address alcohol or drug use. Be honest with your counselor so that they can make the best treatment recommendation for you that they can. If you have been recommended treatment, go ahead and begin that recommended treatment. Taking that step to improve your relationship with drugs and/or alcohol can be empowering, and it shows the Court that you recognize that you may have an unhealthy habits, but that you are taking steps to improve your mental and physical wellbeing. We know several excellent professionals if you need any help getting started. Feel free to give us a call at the number below.

We attorneys work hard to make your experience smooth and efficient, but it may feel like your case is moving slowly, and distant court dates can hang over you and weigh you down. Checking one or two of the above items off of your list can help to expedite your case, ensure you get a better offer, and can empower you. You are as much a part of your case as the attorney, and we want you to be involved! We have access to resources and information to help you get through this. We want to help. If you have any questions, please contact our office at (404)-581-0999.

After my DUI arrest, the officer took my license. How can I get to work?

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Georgia and an officer took your license, you may be wondering how you can get to work, school, or even your court date without the risk of getting into trouble. If this is you, then take a look at the citation you were given when you were arrested and take a deep breath. At the bottom of the citation, you should see something that says “temporary driving permit.” Georgia law requires an officer who is arresting you for DUI to seize your license. The citation you receive acts as a temporary driving permit for a period of 45 days from the date you were arrested or while your ALS hearing is pending. For information on filing an ALS petition, please check out this blog post: https://www.peachstatelawyer.com/georgia-administrative-license-suspension-als-hearings-during-the-pandemic/

If your license was valid at the time of arrest, the officer MUST give you this permit. If you did not receive the permit and your license was valid, let us know so that we can contact DDS on your behalf.

This permit, unlike a restricted license or a limited permit, is functionally the same as your regular license. You can travel for work or leisure without restriction on this permit. Additionally, you can find your drivers license number on your citation and visit DDS.georgia.gov and select “check license status” to actually view whether or not your license is valid. So long as the website says your license is valid and you have the 1205 form, you should not have to worry about getting pulled over and not having your license on you. However, be sure to bring the 1205 form with you when you drive in case you are stopped.

If your license has been taken because of a DUI arrest, DO NOT WAIT. Call us today. You have 30 days from the date of the arrest to try to save your license, and on the 46th day after the arrest, the 1205 permit expires. We can help.

Call us at (404)-581-0999!

Being charged with Rape in Newton County

Rape is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. If you are arrested or under investigation, in Newton County, for rape, please do not make any statements to the police. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of rape. The Newton County District Attorney’s office zealously prosecutes these cases and they are very prepared. Many allegations of rape are false. Even if you know the allegation of rape against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.

If you are arrested, you will be on the calendar the following morning for First Appearance. At this hearing, the Newton County Magistrate Judge will read the warrants to you. They then might consider bond depending on the allegations but will likely deny bond in a rape case. You will then need to file a motion for a formal bond hearing in Newton Superior Court and a preliminary hearing in magistrate court. These hearings take place at the Newton County Courthouse in downtown Covington, Georgia. It is crucial to get an attorney retained to be at the First Appearance hearing at the Newton County jail.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-1 defines rape as follows:

When someone has carnal knowledge of (1) a female forcibly and against her will, or (2) a female who is less than 10 years of age. Carnal knowledge is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ. Against her ill means without consent. Forcibly means acts of physical force, threats of death or bodily harm, or mental coercion such as intimidation.

The elements that Newton County District Attorney’s office must prove to convict you are 1) penetration, 2) force, and 3) against her will. Physical injury is not an element.

The Newton County Superior Court has 5 judges. All are very fair and will give you a fair trial. The Superior Court Judges are Chief Judge John Ott, Judge Chevada McCamy, Judge Layla Zon, Judge Jeffrey Foster and Judge Kendall Wynne.

It is imperative that you do not walk into court on a rape charge in Newton County either without a lawyer or with a lawyer who does not handle sex crimes. Rape cases are very difficult to defend and require someone with the knowledge and experience to defend them.

The punishment for rape is a mandatory 25 years to life in prison. You need to put everything you have into the trial to win. Do not rely on an appeal to be successful. You must win your rape trial to avoid spending the rest of your life in prison.

I would be happy to meet with you any time for a free consultation to discuss your case, your rights and your defenses to these allegations. Our office is in downtown Atlanta.

Call me at 404-581-0999 and let’s schedule a time to meet and discuss your case.

It is your life, your criminal record and you deserve the best representation possible.

Rape in Henry County

Rape is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. If you are arrested or under investigation, in Henry County, for rape, please do not make any statements to the police. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of rape. The Henry County District Attorney’s office zealously prosecutes these cases and they are very prepared. Many allegations of rape are false. Even if you know the allegation of rape against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.

If you are arrested, you will be on the calendar the following morning for First Appearance. At this hearing, the Henry County Magistrate Judge will read the warrants to you. They then might consider bond depending on the allegations but will likely deny bond in a rape case. You will then need to file a motion for a formal bond hearing in Superior Court and a preliminary hearing in magistrate court. These hearings take place at the Henry County Courthouse in downtown McDonough, Georgia. It is crucial to get an attorney retained to be at the First Appearance hearing at the Henry County jail.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-1 defines rape as follows:

When someone has carnal knowledge of (1) a female forcibly and against her will, or (2) a female who is less than 10 years of age. Carnal knowledge is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ. Against her ill means without consent. Forcibly means acts of physical force, threats of death or bodily harm, or mental coercion such as intimidation.

The elements that District Attorney must prove to convict you are 1) penetration, 2) force, and 3) against her will. Physical injury is not an element.

The Henry County Superior Court has 3 judges. All are very fair and will give you a fair trial. The Superior Court Judges are Judge Brian Amero, Judge Holly Veal and Judge Pandora Palmer.

It is imperative that you do not walk into court on a rape charge in Henry County either without a lawyer or with a lawyer who does not handle sex crimes. Rape cases are very difficult to defend and require someone with the knowledge and experience to defend them.

The punishment for rape is a mandatory 25 years to life in prison. You need to put everything you have into the trial to win. Do not rely on an appeal to be successful. You must win your rape trial to avoid spending the rest of your life in prison.

I would be happy to meet with you any time for a free consultation to discuss your case, your rights and your defenses to these allegations. Our office is in downtown Atlanta.

Call me at 404-581-0999 and let’s schedule a time to meet and discuss your case.

It is your life, your criminal record and you deserve the best representation possible.

DUI IN COWETA COUNTY

Following a DUI arrest, the State of Georgia has the authority to suspend the driver’s license of the accused in a civil proceeding if one of the following occurs:

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

At this time, the accused has a few options. He/she can either appeal the license suspension or install an ignition interlock device in his/her vehicle for the duration of the suspension. However, the accused MUST make this decision before the deadline is up. The deadline to either install an ignition interlock or appeal a license suspension is 30 days from the date of arrest. If this is not done, there will be a license suspension put in place 45 days after arrest.

In Coweta County, if eligible, and if the accused refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, it is usually advisable to go the ignition interlock device route, instead of appealing the license suspension. If the license suspension is appealed, many police officers in Coweta County will require that the accused plead guilty to DUI in order to dismiss the 1-year license suspension. Therefore, if you have been charged with DUI, and refused the breath, blood, or urine test, and you want to fight your case, it is usually a better option to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle rather than appeal the license suspension.

THE OFFENSE/ PUNISHMENT

After either installing an ignition interlock device, or appealing the license suspension, the accused must also be ready to defend his/her criminal allegations. 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 0.08 grams or more at any time within 3 hours after such driving occurred, or there is any amount of an illegal controlled substance present in the accused person’s blood or urine.

The consequences of a first DUI conviction in the last ten years are at least 12 months on probation, DUI classes and courses, and community service. For a second DUI, the consequences are more serious. There is a mandatory sentence of at least 3 days in jail, heightened community service, and a requirement for an ignition interlock to be installed in the accused’s vehicle. Lastly, for a third DUI, there is a mandatory jail-time sentence of at least 15 days in custody.

Due to the severity of the consequences following a DUI arrest, it is imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we understand all the possible options for our clients, we are knowledgeable about all direct and collateral consequences of a DUI conviction, and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients. Therefore, if you have been arrested for a DUI in Coweta County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Fulton Aggravated Assault by Strangulation

We see it happening more and more often: Battery-Family Violence charges being upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. This means that the person originally arrested for a misdemeanor, can now be facing not only the misdemeanor of Battery-Family Violence, but also the serious offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

Why was my Battery Family Violence case transferred to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office?

Officers initially make the arrest decision, but prosecutors have the ability to draft up indictments to present to a grand jury based on the facts within the officer’s original report. If there is any mention that the person placed their hands on the victim’s neck, it is possible and probable that the case will be upgraded to a felony offense of Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. Given the fact that it is a felony, the case will be sent to be prosecuted in felony court also known as Superior Court, by attorneys who prosecute more serious cases.

What is Aggravated Assault Strangulation?

Georgia law states that a person commits the offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation when he or she assaults with any object, device, or instrument, which when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in strangulation. There are defenses in these cases as Georgia no longer defines what Strangulation means. The Georgia statute used to say that “Strangulation” is defined as impeding the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck of such person or by obstructing the nose and mouth of such person. Without that definition on the books anymore, it is very fact specific on whether or not the State can actually prove strangulation. In most cases, where there has been no loss of conscious, it will be difficult for the State to prove actual strangulation. Therefore, when the facts state that someone’s hands were placed on another’s neck, then arguably the person has committed a misdemeanor battery instead of the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

What does it mean for the case if I am now facing Aggravated Assault by Strangulation?

Having the case upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation can lead to much harsher sentence if you are found guilty.  The crime itself carries 1-20 years in prison, which can be stacked with the other crimes originally charged and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are charged with Aggravated Assault by Strangulation, you will be prosecuted by the Fulton County District Attorney’s office in  Fulton Superior Court and the stakes are higher. Given the harsher penalties associated with violent felonies, it is imperative to seek a Fulton County criminal defense attorney early on who can evaluate the case and immediately begin building the defense. Being proactive by speaking to a lawyer immediately after an arrest is the best way to ensure a strong defense when your case goes to court. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION about your Fulton County Aggravated Assault by Strangulation case at 404-581-0999

Possession of Drugs in Clayton County – Atlanta Drug Possession Lawyer

The legal system in Clayton County treats drug crimes seriously. If you have been arrested for the possession of drugs in Clayton County, you could be facing jail, fines, and probation. In order for the State to prove drug possession, it must be shown that the contraband was lawfully seized. If there was an illegal search, or an illegal seizure, the evidence must be suppressed, and the case dismissed.

If you have been arrested in Clayton County, the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. The Clayton County Superior Court is located at 9151 Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro, Georgia.  The first step following an arrest, is the First Appearance hearing. This is where the Judge will notify you of your charges and rights and then make a determination for bond. In Georgia, there are five factors Judges use to determine whether or not to release someone on bond. These are known as the Ayala factors (Ayala v. State, 262 Ga. 704 (1993)). Judges may issue a bond upon a finding of the following factors:

  • The person poses no significant risk of fleeing or failing to appear in court when required
  • The person poses no significant risk or danger to a person, property, or community
  • The person poses no significant risk of committing a felony while out on bond
  • The person poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing justice

Under the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, drugs are classified into 5 schedules based on their potential for abuse, tendency for addiction, and their recognized medical uses. Schedule I is considered to have the highest risk of physical and psychological dependency and are considered to have no medical use, while Schedule V is recognized to have lower risk of dependency and legitimate medical use. The following are common examples of drugs that the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have defended in the past.

Schedule I

Heroin, THC, LSD, and MDMA (ecstasy).

Schedule II

Cocaine, Codein, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Methadone, Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, Oxycontin, Percocet

Schedule III

Suboxone, Ketamine, Anabolic steroids

Schedule IV

Xanax, Ambien, Valium

Drug Possession Penalties in Fulton County

The penalties in Clayton County and in Georgia can be harsh following a conviction.  Possession of drugs in Georgia is a felony, except for marijuana if it less than an ounce. If it is your first offense and you are found guilty of a Schedule I or II drug, you are looking at 2-15 years in prison, intense probation, and high fines.

On second or subsequent offenses of Schedule I or II drugs, you are looking at at least 5 years in prison, and up to 30, with the possibility of similar probation and high fines as the first.

If you are found with Schedule III, IV, or V drugs, the penalty will be 1 to 5 years in prison. If it is your second or subsequent offense, you are facing 1 to 10 years prison time.

Additionally, if you are found guilty and a car was used during the felony, your driver’s license will be suspended.

How the State Proves Possession

The drugs do not have to be found on your person for you to be guilty of drug possession. Driving a car in which drugs are found is sufficient for the law to determine that you are in violation of the Controlled Substance Act. Even if the drugs are found thrown out or hidden, the State will still try to prove you were in possession. Depending on where the drugs were found, two people or more can be considered to have possession of the same drugs. Important facts for both the state and defense are whether or not paraphernalia or residue in plain view was found, and also whether you attempted to flee.

Additionally, drug crimes almost always implicate Fourth Amendment a analysis which can serve as a basis for suppression of the drugs. This means that if the State unlawfully searched or seized the drugs, the drugs are thrown out of evidence, and the case dismissed.

Talk to an Attorney

Because a conviction of drug possession carries lifelong consequences, it is important you speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable about drug possession laws in Georgia. Pleading guilty to any drug possession offense will have harsh penalties that we want you to avoid. Know your legal options and challenge the evidence so that you can move on from this arrest in the best way possible. Call us for a FREE CONSULTATION today at 404-581-0999 and mention this blog.

Civil Forfeiture – What does it mean?

Unfortunately you got stopped by the police while driving and you had something in your car that was illegal that resulted in your arrest – maybe your stash of THC cartridges, some loose leaf marijuana, and the cash you had been saving up.  Your main concern is of course the pending criminal case against you, but did you know the state can also seize the drugs, cash and even your vehicle?

It’s called civil forfeiture, and it’s legal in Georgia under the Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act.  The State can seize any assets it claims were used in furtherance of the illegal activity.  So what do you do?  You need to protect yourself in the criminal case and also in the civil forfeiture case.  You’ll know your property has been seized because you’ll be given a Notice of Seizure either by the police at the time of your arrest, or recently after.  Timing is important here, because you have only 30 days to notify the prosecutor’s office that you are asserting a claim on the property.  During this time you’ll want to gather all the documentation you have to show that your seized property was not used in furtherance of the illegal activity.  This could be proof of purchase of the vehicle, pay stubs from your employer, etc.  A knowledgeable attorney can file the notice of your claim with the proper documentation, ensuring that it gets to the right people.

From there the State will serve an official document on you called a Complaint.  They must do so within 30 days of receiving the notice of your claim.  Once you have been served with the Complaint, you then have only 30 days to respond by filing what is called an Answer.  Once all the paperwork is submitted, the court will hold a bench trial, usually within 60 days, to determine if your property should be returned to you.

This is a multi-step, technical process, and our law firm can help you navigate it to get your property back.  If you’re facing a criminal case with civil forfeiture of your property, call the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.