Help! I Failed to Appear in Fulton State Traffic Court!

If you miss court for a traffic ticket in Fulton State Court,  you are likely in FTA status. This means that you failed to appear for your court date, and it is probable that your driver’s license has been suspended. The tricky thing about FTAs is that you likely don’t even know that you missed court until you are pulled over and an officer tells you that your license is suspended.

The court will not lift your FTA suspension until you deal with the underlying traffic charge. This could mean just paying a fine, but it may also require an in court appearance. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the process quickly and effectively and get you on the road to reinstating your license.

The lawyers at W. Scott Smith are experienced at helping clients resolve FTAs and guiding clients in the best way to resolve the underlying traffic charge. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation on how to move forward, resolve the FTA, and have your driver’s license reinstated.

First Offender Probation Revocation

If you are alleged to have violated your first offender probation, it is extremely important to have a knowledgeable attorney with you. The consequences can be severe. The judge has the right to bring you back, adjudicate you guilty and resentence you to the maximum punishment with credit for the time you were on probation.

Adjudicating you guilty means that it turns into a real conviction and it will no longer be taken off your record when you complete your sentence.  To give you an example, let’s say your sentence is 5 years, the max for the offense is 10 years and you violate your probation after 2 years. The judge can increase your sentence from 5 years to 10 years, but you would get credit for the 2 years. That would leave you with 8 years left and you would be a convicted felon.

It is important to remember that just because you violate your probation the judge will automatically do that. It really comes down to what the violation is. If it is a technical violation, i.e. not paying the probation fees, failure to report, it is unlikely that a judge will revoke your fist offender status and resentence. However, if you pick up new charges or violate a special condition, the chances are higher that your first offender status is in danger.

If you are alleged to have violated your first offender probation, give us a call for a free consultation.

Cherokee County Sexual Battery Attorney

Georgia law makes it illegal to intentionally make physical contact with the intimate parts of the body of another without their consent under O.C.G.A. 16-6-22.1(b). It defines intimate parts as the genital area, but also inner thighs, buttocks, and breasts of a female.  Skin to skin contact is not required, and physical contact through clothing is sufficient.

Sexual Battery is typically a high and aggravated misdemeanor. High and aggravated misdemeanors have harsher sentencing than standard misdemeanors, including a fine of up to $5,000. If sentenced to custodial time on a high and aggravated misdemeanor, it is typical to not be eligible to earn good time credit or be eligible for earlier release. If convicted of sexual battery against a child under 16, it is a felony offense carrying punishment of one to five years imprisonment. When convicted of sexual battery against someone over 16 years old, the State of Georgia considers it a felony offense carrying one to five years imprisonment. Similarly, when convicted of Sexual battery for the second time, Georgia will treat it as a felony offense. Both misdemeanors and felonies appear on criminal histories.

There are defenses to Sexual Battery in Georgia. First of all, a defense would be if the incident did not occur.  Additionally, having the other party’s consent is a valid defense. The law requires actual proof of the victim’s lack of consent in order to be convicted of sexual battery.

If you or a loved one has been charged with Sexual Battery in Cherokee County or anywhere in Georgia, call the Law Office of W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999

Georgia’s Weed Laws: What’s Legal and What’s Not

 

In the recent past, marijuana laws have begun to enter a grey area in regards to legality. While it is still illegal Federally, many states have either relaxed or completely legalized marijuana use. Here is where Georgia stands:

  1. Medical Marijuana: Georgia’s stance on medical marijuana use is limited. Qualified patients with specific conditions like those suffering from severe seizures, certain forms of cancer, and terminal illness may possess cannabis oil with no more than 5% THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) if they have a valid registration card.
  2. Recreational Use: Recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state of Georgia.
  3. Cultivation and Distribution: cultivation, sale, and distribution of marijuana is all illegal for not only recreational purposes but also for medical purposes.
  4. CBD Products: CBD derived from hemp is actually legal at the federal level, and CBD products with very low THC content (less than 0.3%) are legal.
  5. Delta 8, etc: Delta-8 and Delta-9 are popular cannabinoids that do not contain THC, although many users report quasi-high effects similar to marijuana. As of now, these cannabinoids and their derivatives are legal under Georgia law.
  6. Penalties: Penalties for possession of marijuana vary based on the amount in possession as well as whether it is a first offense. Marijuana more than an ounce is considered a felony, whereas anything less than an ounce is a misdemeanor. Because of the variance, penalties can range from a simple citation to jail time and hefty fines.

If you’ve been arrested or cited for possession of marijuana, give our office a call TODAY.

Help! I Failed to Appear in Gwinnett Recorder’s Court!

If you miss court in the Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court, you are likely in FTA status. This means that you failed to appear for your court date and it is probable that your driver’s license has been suspended. The tricky thing about FTAs is that you likely don’t even know that you missed court until you are pulled over and an officer tells you that your license is suspended.

The court will not lift your FTA suspension until you deal with the underlying traffic charge. This could mean just paying a fine, but it may also require an in court appearance. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the process quickly and effectively and get you on the road to reinstating your license.

The lawyers at W. Scott Smith are experienced at helping clients resolve FTAs and guiding clients in the best way to resolve the underlying traffic charge. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation on how to move forward, resolve the FTA, and have your driver’s license reinstated.

Child Molestation in Cobb County

Child Molestation is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. If you are arrested in Cobb County for child molestation, 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 child molestation. The Cobb County District Attorney’s Office has a unit called the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit and they zealously prosecute these cases and they are very prepared. Many allegations of child molestation are false. Even if you know the allegation of child molestation against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.

If you are arrested, you will be on a calendar the next day for First Appearance. At this hearing, the Cobb 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 child molestation. You will then need to file a motion for a formal bond hearing and a preliminary hearing. These hearings take place at the Cobb County Magistrate Court on the Marietta Square.  It is crucial to get an attorney retained to be at the First Appearance hearing at the Cobb County Magistrate Court.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-4 defines child molestation as follows:

A person commits the offense of child molestation when such person: Does any immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of or with any child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the accused OR by means of electronic device, transmits images of a person engaging in, inducing, or otherwise participating in any immoral or indecent act to a child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the person.

Child Molestation is a specific intent crime. Whether the accused has the requisite intent when he committed the act of child molestation is up to a jury. The jury can infer the requisite intent of “arousing or satisfying sexual desires” from the commission of the act. However, proof of the accused’s actual arousal is not required. Intent can be inferred from the testimony of the victim or from the actions of the accused.

No penetration is required for child molestation. All that is required is the touching of the child’s body along with the requisite intent. It does not matter whether the child was clothed or unclothed in determining whether the act was immoral or indecent.

The indictment does not have to allege the specific details of the child molestation. It can use general language of the statute.

The punishment for child molestation is a mandatory of 5 years to 20 years in prison. If it a second conviction for child molestation then it can be life in prison or a mandatory 10 years up to 30 years in prison.

If someone is making an allegation of child molestation against you in Cobb County, it is imperative that you do not talk to the police, do not talk to the person who is accusing you of child molestation and call us. Time is of the essence to properly investigate the allegations.

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. We also have a second office near the Cobb County courthouse.

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

Georgia’s 90 Day Bond Rule

If you or a loved one have been arrested in Georgia, you may have heard about the 90-day bond rule but be confused about what this rule means.

O.C.G.A. §17-7-50 says that a person who is arrested must have their case indicted (formally charged) within 90 days or they are legally entitled to a bond. If prosecutors fail to meet this deadline, an accused person may file a motion for bond and the Court MUST grant them a bond. This rule does not tell a judge that a bond must be set at a certain amount, only that a bond must be set. So, even though a bond must be set if your case is not indicted within 90 days, the bond may be more than you can afford.

The 90-day bond rule is not automatically enforced, however. You must have a lawyer file a motion for bond and show the Court that 90 days have elapsed without indictment. If you believe that your loved one has been in custody without being indicted for over 90 days and without a bond, call us at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Deception in Cobb County

Theft by deception is a charge that is defined in O.C.G.A. 16-8-3. Theft by deception occurs when a person “obtains property by any deceitful means or artful practice with the intention of depriving the owner of the property”. The statute goes on to explain that a person deceives if he intentionally:

  • Creates or confirms another’s impression of an existing fact or past event which is false and which the accused knows or believes to be false
  • Fails to correct a false impression of an existing fact or past event which he has previously created or confirmed
  • Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved
  • Sells or otherwise transfers or encumbers property intentionally failing to disclose a substantial and valid known lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, whether such impediment is or is not a matter of official record
  • Promises performance of services which he does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed. Evidence of failure to perform standing alone shall not be sufficient to authorize a conviction under this statute.

The potential punishment following a conviction for theft by deception depends on the value of the property that was the subject of the theft. If the value of the property was more than $24,999.99, the possible punishment is 2 to 20 years in prison. If the value of the property is $5,000.00 to $24,999.99, the possible punishment is 1 to 10 years in prison. If the value of the property was $1,500.01 to $5,000.00, the possible punishment is 1 to 5 years in prison. If a person is convicted of a third offense of theft by deception, an individual is automatically convicted of a felony and may face 1 to 5 years in custody.

As you can see, the potential punishment for theft by deception is serious. However, there are defenses!  For example, if the state cannot prove that there was intent to deceive another person, an individual cannot be convicted of theft by deception. If you are charged with theft by deception in Cobb County, it is very important that you are represented by a lawyer experienced in handling cases like these. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith work tirelessly to zealously defend their clients. Call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

My Dream Career as A Criminal Defense Lawyer

I graduated from law school in May, 2004. It is hard to believe it has been 20 years, this week, since I left Georgia State University College of Law. I had no idea why I wanted to go to law school. I found no passion or meaning working as a financial analyst for a large corporation and quit to go back to school in the fall of 2001. Everyone I knew in law school had a reason for why they wanted to become a lawyer except me. I just figured it was better than what I had been doing which was working in a cubical for a corporation that was eerily similar to Office Space.

I lucked into my dream career. A career I never envisioned before law school.

The one thing of the past 20 years that I am most proud of is that an introvert, who barely spoke as a kid and who hates public speaking, tries and wins major felonies. I work in a world of extroverts. As an introvert, I have to spend more time preparing in order to develop the spontaneity needed in a jury trial.

There is no other job I can think of that I would want to do more than that of a criminal defense lawyer. The defense lawyer-client relationship is like no other. It brings two very different people together who are caught up in a high stakes battle over freedom and in some cases even life. A client will tell the defense lawyer secrets that must be carried to the grave.

The thing I think I love most about this job is the competition. It is rare to have a job where you compete against a formidable adversary and then have strangers declare a winner and loser. It is a job that you can literally save someone’s life and keep a family together. It is also a job where you can be rejected by the jury and have someone you have grown to care about hauled away for life in a steel cage. In those cases, a little piece of myself goes with them. Regardless of what my client may or may not have done, I never judge them or lecture them. Everyone, regardless of the monstrous thing they might have done, is entitled to one person who speaks for them and tries to help save them. And quite a few are actually innocent. But guilt or innocence makes no difference in the preparation and advocacy.

I have spent the last 20 years trying to make civility in the courtroom a hallmark. I have never raised my voice at a prosecutor, judge or anyone else in the courtroom. The public views lawyers poorly and I think it is incumbent on my profession to do better. As a lawyer, you have to be a zealot for your client. But you can zealously advocate while also acting civil, ethical and professional at all times. The prosecutor and judge are rarely, if ever, the enemy. They are integral parts of our criminal justice system.

I hope to spend the rest of my life in the criminal courts standing next to the accused and giving them a voice. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution demands it. Whether the accused is guilty or innocent does not matter. They are entitled to be treated fairly.

I often think about the quote of the late Albert Krieger:

“The criminal defense lawyer marches into the pit, often unloved by everyone in the courtroom, but with the courage, strength and mind to make our Constitution live as a vibrant being in that courtroom on behalf of someone who at that moment stands for all the principles of freedom and dignity. It is a chore in many respects, it is difficult in all respects. It is tiring. It is demanding. But it is what we signed up for.”

 

 

Georgia’s New Law on Bail Bonds

Governor Brian Kemp recently passed a new law that will go into effect on July 1, 2024 radically changing how Georgia courts grant bonds.

What are the types of bonds in Georgia?

  • Unsecured Judicial Release (formerly known as “signature bonds”)
    • Bonds that require no money in order to be released
  • Cash bonds
    • Bonds requiring that cash must be paid in full to be released without use of a bonding company
  • Surety Bonds
    • Bonds posted by bonding companies who then charge the defendant a percentage of the bail amount set by the Judge
  • Property bonds
    • Use of real estate as collateral instead of paying the bond in cash

Unsecured Judicial Release (UJR Bonds) are routinely used in minor offenses in Georgia.  However, under Georgia’s new law, there are 30 new crimes, including 18 that are typically misdemeanors, that can no longer be granted Unsecured Judicial Release. Instead, the new additions to what are considered “bail restricted offenses” shall only be eligible for release through cash, surety or property bonds. To be put simply, you will now need cash to get out on bond for the below charges.

Georgia’s 30 New Crimes Now Considered “Bail-Restricted Offenses”

  1. Reckless stunt driving, 2nd or subsequent offense
  2. Promoting or organizing an exhibition of drag races or laying drags.
  3. Laying drags.
  4. Reckless driving, 2nd or subsequent offense
  5. Fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.
  6. Obstruction of a law enforcement officer.
  7. Criminal trespass, 2nd or subsequent offense
  8. Theft by taking, 2ndor subsequent offense
  9. Theft by deception.
  10. Theft by extortion.
  11. Destruction, removal, concealment, encumbrance, or transfer of property subject to security interest.
  12. Purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution, or sale of controlled substances or marijuana.
  13. Exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults, elder persons, and residents or obstruction of an investigation.
  14. Voluntary manslaughter.
  15. Cruelty to animals.
  16. Violation of oath by a public officer.
  17. Financial transaction card fraud.
  18. Financial transaction card theft.
  19. Identity fraud.
  20. Racketeering and conspiracy.
  21. Trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude.
  22. Failure to appear, 2nd or subsequent offense.
  23. Domestic terrorism.
  24. Inciting to riot.
  25. Unlawful assembly.
  26. Possession of tools for commission of a crime.

These new crimes added to the list of “bail-restricted bonds” can no longer be granted an UJR bond and will require cash through a surety or a property bond in order to be released.

The new law will also require that no repeat offender, defined as someone who has been previously arrested for any felony within seven years, be granted an Unsecured Judicial Release, on any crime including very  minor offenses.

It also criminalize charities, nonprofits, and individuals who post more than three bonds a year. The law will require that these entities must submit to the same legal requirements of any professional bonding company.

This new law will take place July 1, 2024. Please call the Law Office of W. Scott Smith PC at 404-581-0999 if your loved one has been arrested and you have questions about obtaining a bond in Georgia.