Georgia Public Drunkenness Attorney

As holiday parties and events are in full swing, you may wonder the best way to stay clear of police encounters after a night out of drinking. The most obvious way to avoid trouble after a night out is to use a rideshare or designated driver, so as not to drive while intoxicated. But what about simply being drunk in public? Could that land you in jail for the night too?

Drinking to the point of being intoxicated is not always against the law. However, when your condition is made manifest by “boisterousness, by indecent conditions or act, or by vulgar, profaine, loud, or unbecoming language,” you can be arrested for the charge of Public Drunkenness.

Under O.C.G.A § 16-11-41 it is a misdemeanor offense to be intoxicated in a public place, or in the outskirts of a private residence other than your own, or one you are invited to be on. But it is only against the law if your intoxication  is manifested by boisterous, vulgar, loud, profane, or unbecoming language, or by indecent condition. Simply being drunk without an outward manifestation is not against the law in Georgia as mere drunkenness in a public place is not enough to be convicted.

As you can see there is a defense to the charge of Public Drunkenness in Georgia. If convicted, however, it is a misdemeanor crime that can remain on your criminal history forever. The maximum penalty in a Public Drunkenness case in Georgia is 12 months to serve in custody, and a $1,000 fine, or both.

If you have been arrested or cited for Public Drunkenness in Georgia, call W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999. A night out on the town should not have lasting consequences and our lawyers are on call to assist you.

HGN and Head Trauma

If you have been pulled over in Georgia on suspicion of DUI, the investigating officer will probably ask you to perform a battery of standardized field sobriety tests. This request may take the form of any number of questions, such as “can we just check to see if you are safe to drive?” or “we want to perform some tests before we let you on your way, is that alright?”. These tests are not required, and declining to perform these tests cannot be used against you in a prosecution of DUI. For this reason, it is better to decline to perform any tests, no matter how much reassurance the police officer gives you that they are “just to make sure you are safe on the roads.”

Still, many people opt to perform the tests, either because they don’t see the harm, they wish to be congenial with the officer, or because they don’t know that they can decline to perform the tests. If you choose to perform the tests, the officer may ask you if he can “take a look at your eyes.” This is an indication that he is about to perform the first of three standardized field sobriety tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus.

This test is considered to be a “scientific” test, and because of this, it is important that the officer comply with his training as exactly as possible. The test must begin with a number of questions designed to medically qualify the participant. The officer is trained that he must ask you whether or not you have recently had any head, neck, or brain injuries, as these kinds of trauma can affect whether someone exhibits nystagmus, even if not under the influence of alcohol. It is common practice to ask whether or not the subject has “any eye problems” or vision issues, but this is not enough. The officer must also determine that it is appropriate to use this test. If the subject has been in a recent accident, suffering from whiplash, a concussion, vertigo, or some other balance and coordination related condition, the HGN test may not be accurate or reliable.

If you have been in an accident at the time of your DUI investigation, the officer may have overlooked potential head trauma before administering this test. As a result, the “clues” of the test may be unreliable, and could be subject to suppression before trial.

It is important to understand your rights and protections when you are charged with DUI. If you want an attorney that is knowledgeable about DUI police training and procedure, call our office for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine A. Edmonds.

Have you been charged with Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in Cobb County?

In Georgia, if you have been convicted of a felony the law does not allow for you to have a firearm.  If you are caught being in possession of a firearm, and you are a convicted felon, you can be punished by a sentence of 1-10 years.

What is possession?

Possession of a firearm can be actual or constructive.  Actual possession means that the person has direct control of the firearm i.e. on their person, in their vehicle, etc. Constructive possession is having knowledge of the firearms location and knowledge of its existence being near you but not on your person. For example, living in the same house with someone who has firearms is illegal and you can be charged.

Sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon?

A first-time conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by a sentence of 1-5 years in prison.

A second or subsequent conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by a sentence of 5-10 years in prison.

If you or someone you know needs help with weapon charges in Cobb County, having a lawyer help you through the process can ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

How Hearsay Rules Apply in a Probation Revocation Hearing

If you are on probation for an offense in Georgia, your probation comes with certain conditions. If you are accused of violating your probation, the judge may be able to revoke your probation and sentence you to jail time if the state can show that you violated the conditions of your probation by a preponderance of the evidence. It is important that you have an experienced attorney by your side to protect your rights during your probation revocation hearing.

The rules of evidence still apply in a probation revocation hearing, including how the State may use hearsay statements to prove that you are guilty of violating your probation if a witness is unavailable to testify to the facts that prove the violation.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Grimes v. State, the defendant was accused of violating the conditions of his probation in Henry County when he allegedly made violent contact with individuals he had been ordered to stay away from as a condition of his probation. Rather than calling the alleged victim to testify during the hearing, the State relied on the testimony of a responding police officer and the alleged victim’s 911 call to relay the information needed to prove that the defendant had violated his probation.

The Court of Appeals held that this testimony was hearsay and should not have been admitted during the hearing because it violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process. The Court of Appeals instructed that the trial court should have, at a minimum, looked into the reasons for the alleged victim’s absence. Additionally, the Court of Appeals held that the hearsay testimony was not reliable because it did not fit into any of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.

If you are on probation and are being accused of violating the conditions of your probation, it is important to have an attorney by your side who understands the rules of the process. At W. Scott Smith, our attorneys specialize in protecting the constitutional rights of our clients. If you are facing a probation revocation hearing, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Statutory Rape

Statutory Rape is a serious crime in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-3 defines Statutory Rape as engaging in sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years old who is not your  spouse.

Statutory Rape requires corroboration and cannot stand solely on the unsupported testimony of the victim.

In Georgia, it is not a defense to Statutory Rape that the accused believed the victim was of the age of consent.

Many people have the idea that if they have consensual sex, then they did not break the law. That is not true.  Individuals who commit statutory rape in Georgia can face serious felony charges. In addition to a prison sentence, a person faces being put on the Sex Offender Registry and has limits on housing and job opportunities and loses their right to vote and own a firearm.

To be convicted of Statutory Rape, it is not necessary to fully penetrate the vagina or to rupture the hymen. Only slight penetration of the vulva or labia is sufficient. Proof of force is unnecessary for statutory rape.

The punishment for Statutory Rape is very serious. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-3 mandates that the sentence be from 1 to 20 years in prison. If the defendant is 21 years or older, then the mandatory sentence is 10 years up to 20 years in prison with at least one year on probation. If the victim is at least 14 years old but less than 16 years old and the person convicted is 18 years old and is no more than 4 years older than the victim, then it is a misdemeanor and a maximum of 12 months in custody.

If the defendant is over 21 and convicted of statutory rape, he or she cannot plead under the First Offender Act.

If you face charges in Georgia for Statutory Rape, it is imperative that you do not make any statements to law enforcement or to anyone else and immediately seek help from an experienced attorney handling Sex Offenses. You must protect your rights and take this matter very seriously.

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.

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.

Aggravated Assault in Cobb County

In Cobb County, Georgia, there are two types of assault offenses that an accused person may be convicted of: simple assault and aggravated assault. Generally, simple assault is classified as a misdemeanor where aggravated assault is a felony offense. In this blog, we will solely discuss the latter.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21, a person commits the offense of aggravated assault when he/she commits an assault in one of the following aggravating circumstances:

  • The accused has the intent to murder, rape, or rob;
  • The accused commits the assault with a deadly weapon or object in which could result in serious bodily injury;
  • The accused commits the assault with an object, which is likely or is actually used for strangulation; OR
  • The accused commits the assault without legal justification by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle.

When the accused person commits an assault in Cobb County in one of the above-mentioned manners the accused may be sentenced, if convicted, anywhere between 1-20 years in prison. However, the following offenses, as listed below, have different penalties due to the enhanced circumstances that surround the crime:

  • If the accused commits the aggravated assault upon a police officer while he/she is engaged in his/her official duties, the accused person may be sentenced to at least 10 years, but no more than 20 years, in prison if such assault occurs from the discharge of a firearm. However, when the aggravated assault does not involve the discharge of a firearm, the accused person may be sentenced anywhere between 5-20 years in prison;
  • Any person who commits an aggravated assault against the elderly may be sentenced to at least 3 years, but no more than 20 years, in prison. The same punishment is true for any person who commits the aggravated assault in a public transit vehicle or station;
  • If the accused commits the aggravated assault upon public school personnel or on school property, he/she may be sentenced anywhere between 5-20 years in prison;
  • If an aggravated assault is committed against a family member, as defined as “family violence” under Georgia law, the accused may be sentenced to at least 3 years, but no more than 20 years, in prison; and
  • Lastly, any person who commits an aggravated assault with the intent to rape a child under the age of 14 years old may be punished by a prison sentence of anywhere between 25-50 years.

 CONTACT US

Due to the severity of the penalties for an aggravated assault conviction, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained at defending such charges, we zealously advocate for our client’s rights, and we are knowledgeable about all possible options for an accused dealing with such serious allegations. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for aggravated assault in Cobb County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Aggravated Child Molestation in Cobb County

Aggravated Child Molestation is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. In fact, it is the worst crime that one can be accused of committing. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of aggravated child molestation in Cobb County. Many allegations of aggravated child molestation are false. Even if you know the allegation of aggravated child molestation against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself. All it takes is the word of the child, if believed, to convict you.

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

A person commits the offense of aggravated child molestation when such person commits an offense of child molestation which physically injures the child or involves an act of sodomy.

If the alleged victim was physically injured then it is not necessary for the state to prove sodomy.

It must be shown that the alleged victim was under 16 at the time of the act in order to be charged with aggravated child molestation.

Penetration or force is not a requirement of aggravated child molestation. The victim’s testimony that it was painful is sufficient to prove physical injury and no medical evidence is required to corroborate.

If you are convicted of aggravated child molestation in Cobb County, then the sentence will either be life imprisonment or a split sentence of a mandatory minimum of 25 years imprisonment and probation for life. The defendant will also have to be placed on the sex offender registry for life.

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

Do not wait until the  Cobb County District Attorney actually returns an indictment against you before seeking an attorney. Child Molestation cases can be proven solely on the victim’s own testimony. Therefore, it is vital that you immediately retain an attorney and get to work in defending yourself of these 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.

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.

Cobb County Immunity Motions in Felony Domestic Violence Cases

If a person is charged in Cobb County with a felony Domestic Violence charge, that person has the right to claim self-defense. Not only can the person claim self-defense at trial, but the person also has the right to file what is called an immunity motion under O.C.G.A. § 16-3-24.2.   

This is a legal motion made pre-trial, whereby a person can assert that their self-defense claim is so strong that the Court cannot allow the prosecutor to continue with the case. Once the motion is filed, the Court must hear and rule on the motion prior to trial.  

In an immunity motion the burden is on the defense to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that they should win on the self-defense theory. Once the defense has raised the self-defense claim, the State then has the burden of disproving the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will hear testimony, consider evidence, and make a ruling. Two outcomes can occur:  

  1. If the Court finds that the defense presented sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and persuaded the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will grant the motion and dismiss the case.  
  2. If the Court finds that the defense did not present sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and did not persuade the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will deny the motion and the case will proceed to trial. 

The advantage to filing this type of motion is that it can protect a person who is charged with felony domestic violence from the risk of uncertainty of going to trial. If the motion is not successful, the person charged, still has every right to fight the charges at trial. These motions can be very beneficial, in the right case, for the person charged with felony domestic violence.  

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a felony domestic violence charge, in Cobb county, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.  

 

Cobb County – Aggravated Assault by Strangulation

We see it happening more and more often in Cobb County: 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 felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

Why was my Battery Family Violence case transferred to the Cobb 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 Cobb County 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 my Cobb County criminal 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 in Cobb County, you will be prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney’s office in Cobb County Superior Court and the stakes are certainly higher. Given the harsher penalties associated with violent felonies, it is imperative to seek a Marietta 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 Aggravated Assault by Strangulation case at 404-581-0999

Reducing a Lifetime CDL Disqualification to 10 Years in Georgia

If you are convicted of two DUIs in Georgia, your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is disqualified for your lifetime. However, new rules provide a process to allow your CDL to be reinstated after only ten years. If you meet the following requirements, you are eligible to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to 10 years:

  • At time of application, you must possess a valid Class C Georgia driver’s license. The term “valid” means that the license is not expired and is not cancelled, suspended, or revoked.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification you are applying to have reduced must have been in effect for a period of not less than ten (10) years.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on a conviction for homicide by vehicle in the first degree or serious injury by vehicle, you are not eligible to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to ten (10) years.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on the use of a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance; OR any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on a conviction for Human Trafficking, is not eligible to be reduced to ten (10) years.
  • In addition to the $210.00 non-refundable CDL Restoration Fee, your application must include the following supporting documents:
    • A certified seven (7) year Georgia motor vehicle report (MVR) dated within 30 days of application. Your driving history must be free of any convictions for the five (5) year period preceding date of application.
    • If your Lifetime CDL Disqualification is based on a violation that was alcohol related, you must include a clinical evaluation dated within 90 days of the date of application reflecting no substance abuse treatment necessary.
    • If your Lifetime CDL Disqualification is not based on a violation that was alcohol related, you must include a certificate of completion from a DDS-certified driver improvement clinic dated within 90 days of the date of application.
    • A copy of your current, unexpired United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) medical certificate card.

If you are approved to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to 10 years:

  • You will be eligible to obtain a Georgia Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which must be held for a minimum period of 14 days before becoming eligible to upgrade to a Georgia Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
  • You must complete and successfully pass all applicable knowledge and/or skills tests to obtain a Georgia CLP/CDL. You must also pay $35.00 for the CDL Application Fee, $10.00 for each CDL Knowledge Exam, and $50 for each CDL Road Skills Test attempt.
  • Any Georgia CDL you are issued will be restricted for first two (2) years to intrastate driving only.
  • You will not be eligible for a Passenger (P) endorsement on any Georgia CDL for the first two (2) years following issuance.
  • Restrictions may be removed after two (2) years if your driving history is free of any convictions.
  • No person whose Lifetime CDL Disqualification is reduced to ten (10) years shall ever possess a School Bus (S) or a HAZMAT (H) endorsement.
  • If you are convicted of a major traffic violation at any time after your Lifetime CDL Disqualification has been reduced to ten (10) years, you will be subject to a permanent lifetime disqualification.

 

If your CDL has been the subject of a lifetime ban, we can help you have the ban reduced.  This is a complicated process and having an experienced layer by your side is important. Please call our office at 404-581-0999 and let us help you have your driving privileges restored.