Georgia Criminal Law – Family Violence Battery in Fulton 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 Fulton County. This article aims to explain the nature of the offense, punishments, and how these cases are handled within Fulton 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)


A first conviction for Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1000 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 Fulton

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 Fulton County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Fulton 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.

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.” At this point, the case is assigned to a particular prosecutor and negotiations may begin. It is possible to resolve the case in a pre-trial diversion program. Successful completion of this program (fines, classes, counseling, community service, etc.) will result in the dismissal of the charges. Eligibility is determined by (lack of a) criminal history and the facts of the case. If the case is accused and not eligible for a diversion program, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching some plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, Fulton 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.

Fulton 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 – Pre-Trial Intervention in Fulton County Non-Complex Cases

Since December 12, 2007, Fulton County has designated certain non-violent felony cases to be processed expeditiously through a 9-week case management process within their “non-complex division.” In the non-complex division, “cases are monitored through timely indictment, opportunity for plea and arraignment, motions and trial. This handling of the felony non-complex calendar directly impacts the jail population, reducing length of jail stay and allowing those non-violent charges quicker resolutions, while allowing Superior Court judges to focus on managing and trying violent and more serious felony cases and other complex litigation.”

Because of this desire to resolve cases quickly, the State will often offer defendants plea offers at arraignment (very first court date). Generally speaking, a person accused of a felony should not enter a guilty plea at arraignment. This is because there has been no real opportunity to investigate the case, legal issues, and defenses. It is, however, highly suggested the person consider entering into Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) Program if offered. 

What is PTI?

PTI is a diversion program, which is essentially a contract between the person accused and the State. On one end of the contract the person agrees to perform certain conditions (usually community service, counseling, classes, a program fee, clean drug screens, etc.). If the person successfully completes these conditions within the set period of time, the State then agrees to not prosecute (or dismiss) the case.

In Fulton County Non-Complex cases, the assigned District Attorney (prosecutor) makes the decision whether to offer PTI. If offered and accepted, the case then goes to a coordinator with the PTI program and is temporarily removed from the Court’s docket. All communication and performance of the program goes through the diversion coordinator.

If offered and the person does not accept, the person has to decide whether to plead guilty or go to trial. Similarly, if you accept PTI, but for whatever reason, are removed from the PTI program, your case will be then placed back on the trial calendar. The benefit here is that removal from the program will not cause a guilty plea to go into effect. As a result, entering into PTI is a low risk high reward opportunity. A person may be removed for missing meetings, failing drug screens, or failure to communicate generally.  

Your Criminal History and What to Ask For

The benefit of PTI is that your case is dismissed upon successful completion. Ideally, your record should also automatically be restricted. A record restriction will prevent the general public from seeing the dismissed case on a background check through GCIC. A non-restricted record will show an arrest for the crime and that the crime was ultimately dismissed. Therefore, if you are offered PTI in Fulton Non-Complex, you want to ensure the prosecutor and PTI coordinator understand and agree in writing to an automatic record restriction. If this is not a written part of the PTI agreement, you will have to apply for record restriction yourself after completion of the PTI program.

Contact Us

An experienced attorney can assist you in obtaining a PTI offer, explaining the terms, and successfully completing the PTI program. If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 for afree case evaluation. You’ll find a local Attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf.

Georgia Criminal Law – Incest

In major sex offenses, the person charged faces an uphill battle. These types of offenses are inflammatory in our society and many people rush to judgment, deeming the person guilty from the onset. The truth is there are people who are wrongly accused of committing these types of offenses. This article serves to explore the nature of the laws against incest, what the penalties are, and applicable defenses.

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-6-22, a person commits the offense of incest when such person engages in sexual intercourse or sodomy, with a person he or she knows he or she is related to by blood or by marriage as follows:

  • Mother and child or stepchild;
  • Father and child or stepchild;
  • Siblings of the whole blood or half blood;
  • Grandparent and grandchild of the whole blood or half blood;
  • Aunt and niece or nephew of the whole blood or half blood; or
  • Uncle and niece or nephew of the whole blood or half blood

The Penalty

Incest is a felony and a conviction will result in between ten and thirty year’s imprisonment. If the victim was under the age of fourteen, the prison term is between twenty-five and fifty years. Furthermore, a person convicted of incest will be required to register as a sex offender.


Before we discuss applicable defenses, it is important to know what is not a valid defense to a charge of incest. It is not a defense that the intercourse was consented to by the victim. Consent is invalid where the victim is under the age of fourteen because that child is mentally incapable of giving consent.

One applicable defense to a charge of incest is that no sexual intercourse or sodomy occurred. But how does someone prove something didn’t happen? Evidence tending to establish issues with the victim’s credibility, bias, motives, or perception are beneficial to the defense. Also, one should consider obtaining an expert witness to analyze the case. An expert can assist in performing or rebutting forensic examinations of the alleged victim.

Another possible defense is that the parties involved simply do not meet the relationship required by law. The law is very strict as to which relationships apply and if the relationship falls outside of those stated under the law, a charge of incest will not stand.

Finally, the State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knows he or she is related to the other person. The law requires proof the defendant knew or should have known they are engaging in intercourse with someone who meets the relationship requirements. However, one cannot simply ignore such a relationship when, under the circumstances, the defendant should reasonably know of such as relationship.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 for a free case evaluation. You’ll a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf.

Georgia Criminal Law – Possession of Firearm by Convicted Felon

A felony conviction has serious consequences. It remains on your criminal record permanently, making jobs and housing extremely difficult to obtain. Aside from incarceration, probation, fines, counseling, and other conditions the sentencing judge may impose, a felony conviction also strips away certain constitutional rights. One of these rights is the right to possess a firearm. In enacting the below statute prohibiting the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the General Assembly has sought to keep guns out of the hands of those individuals who by their prior conduct have demonstrated they may not possess a firearm without being a threat to society. This article will explain the three key components of the criminal offense, the punishment, and defenses.

The Offense

It is illegal for any person who has been convicted of a felony to possess a firearm. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-131.

Felony convictions include: any person who is on felony first offender probation, felony conditional discharge probation, or has been convicted of a felony in Georgia or any other state (also includes U.S. territories and courts of foreign nations).

A “firearm,” includes any handgun, rifle, shotgun, or other weapon which will or can be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or electrical charge. Therefore, toys or non-functioning replicas do not qualify as weapons. However, it is important to note that even disassembled firearms or even projectiles by themselves constitute “firearms” under the statute.

To prove possession, the prosecution must establish has two requirements, a culpable mental state and the act of possessing a firearm. First, the prosecution must establish the person knowingly possessed  a firearm. Knowledge can be proven through direct evidence (person’s statement admitting possession) or through circumstantial evidence (firearm found on person’s bed side table and nobody else had access to the house). Possession can be further broken down into two categories, actual and constructive possession. Actual possession is what it sounds like. If you have a firearm in your hand (or holster, or in your waistband), you are in actual possession of a firearm. Constructive possession, however, is a situation where you have control or dominion over property without being in actual possession of it. For example, imagine you are seated in the front passenger seat of a vehicle along with the driver. The vehicle is pulled over, searched by police, and illegal drugs are found in the center console. Although neither you nor the driver was in actual possession of the drugs, you are both arguably in constructive possession of the drugs because of your mutual ability to access and control of the drugs.


A person convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon shall be sentenced to no less than one year and no more than ten years. If this is a second or subsequent conviction, the person shall be sentenced to prison for no less than five and no more than ten years. If the underlying felony was a “forcible felony” the person shall be sentenced to five years imprisonment. A forcible felony is defined as, “any felony involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person . . .”


There are several defenses available to a person charged with this offense. One is to challenge the underlying conviction. If the conviction is not a felony or was a felony but was discharged under the First Offender Act or conditional discharge sentence, then there is no underlying felony. This offense also does not apply to those who have been convicted but had their convictions pardoned by the state.

The next available defense is to challenge the required mental state; that the person was “knowingly” in possession of a firearm. You cannot be in possession of something that you have no knowledge of.

The defense may also challenge whether the person was in constructive possession. In Harvey v. State, the court found insufficient evidence the defendant was in constructive possession of a firearm (by a convicted felon) even though defendant’s name appeared on documents in closet of apartment where firearm was found; the gun was found on the floor next to an unidentified individual, defendant’s name was not on the lease, and defendant had no belongings inside the apartment. 344 Ga.App. 7 (2017).

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested, 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.

Criminal City Ordinance Violations in Metro Atlanta, Georgia

More and more municipalities are beginning to charge their citizens with city ordinance violations instead of state law violations when they are arrested for breaking the law in Georgia. Especially in municipalities like Atlanta and Sandy Springs. These violations are similar to their state law counterparts, charges like Disorderly Conduct, Theft by Shoplifting, and Possession of less than an ounce of Marijuana, but they have a different impact on your criminal history.

Police Officers will tell you they are cutting you a break when they only charge you with a city ordinance violation. They will often say, “don’t worry, it won’t show up on your criminal history.” That statement is only partly true. Every time you get fingerprinted after an arrest, whether it’s a city ordinance or a state law violation, a cycle will be created on your Georgia Criminal History. That cycle may only say city ordinance non-fingerprintable offense, but it will by a cycle on your history. Also the clerk’s office in the municipality where you were arrested or cited will have a record of your charge in their office. Many private background check companies go to all of the municipal courts in your area and search your name and date of birth for cases.

Having an attorney to represent your city ordinance violation in cities like Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Atlanta, Alpharetta, and Roswell will give you the best opportunity to make sure your case is dismissed and your record is restricted. Call us today for a free consultation, 404-581-0999.

Released on Copy of Citation in Georgia – Is it Still a Crime?

In Georgia, you don’t have to be arrested to be charged with a crime. All traffic offenses and certain other crimes allow officers to release you on a copy of citation. This includes city ordinance violations in many Georgia municipalities, all traffic offenses including DUI, some drug crimes, minor theft cases, and other crimes and misdemeanors. Just because you haven’t been arrested does not mean you aren’t facing a serious criminal charge that could be on your criminal record forever.

The good news is that because you weren’t arrested and fingerprinted, it means that arrest is not on your criminal history right now. But it very well could be later, and it is important to have the right Georgia criminal defense attorney on your side to prevent that citation from hurting you later.

The right Georgia criminal defense attorney can acquire all the evidence in the case and do everything they can to try and prevent you from being fingerprinted later and a cycle appearing on your Georgia Criminal History. Many municipalities require fingerprinting after conviction, or sometimes if you request a jury trial on your case. Once you are fingerprinted, that charge may appear on your Georgia criminal history and be available to people running background checks.

Also, just because you aren’t fingerprinted, doesn’t mean there is not a record of your case in the Clerk’s office where you are charged. Many background check companies are now going directly to local Clerk’s offices in your area looking for open and closed cases with your name and date of birth. Even if you weren’t arrested, and often if a case is dismissed and proper procedures aren’t taken, the charges of your case still show up in the Clerk’s record, potentially impacting your ability to find work in Georgia.

Our office of criminal defense attorneys will do everything we can to protect your criminal history. Call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Georgia DUI Law: DUI and Your Record

An arrest and/or conviction for DUI in Georgia will impact your record. There are two types of records, a criminal record, maintained by the Georgia Crime and Information Center (GCIC) and your driving record, also called a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR – maintained by the Department of Driver’s Services).

This article serves to explain how a DUI affects your record, both criminal and driving, and whether you can get a DUI taken off of your records.

Georgia Criminal Record

If you are arrested, booked, and fingerprinted, this information will be forwarded to GCIC and placed on your record. If you are applying for a new job, housing, or if your employer runs a background check on you, they will be able to see the arrest on your GCIC. Each arrest is reported as a “cycle,” which shows the date of arrest, the arresting agency, the offense charged, and a “disposition.” The disposition describes the outcome of the case. If the case is still pending, the disposition will show an arrest but no outcome. If you are convicted or the case was dismissed or reduced, the disposition will state as such.

If you are convicted of DUI, whether at trial or through a plea, it will remain on your record permanently. You will not be able to get the record restricted, you cannot get it expunged, you cannot use first offender. This remains true even if your DUI charge was reduced to Reckless Driving.

Georgia Driving Record

Your Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) is very similar to your GCIC. If you have been arrested for DUI and the officer takes your driver’s license in order to facilitate an administrative suspension of your license, your MVR will show a pending administrative license suspension. If this administrative potion of the case is dismissed, your MVR will be cleared up. However, if you are ultimately convicted of DUI through a plea or trial, your MVR will reflect this conviction and you can expect your insurance prices to rise because insurance companies have access to these MVR’s. This conviction will remain on your MVR permanently.

Contact Us

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

Statutory Rape Crimes in Georgia

by Mike Jacobs

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.

Sexual Assault and Rape Crimes in Georgia

by Mike Jacobs

Rape is a serious crime in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-1 defines rape as follows:

  1. A person commits the offense of rape when he has carnal knowledge of:
    1. A female forcibly and against her will or:
    2. A female who is less than ten years of age.

Carnal knowledge in rape occurs when there is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.  Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient and can be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence. The fact that the person allegedly raped is the wife of the defendant shall not be a defense to a charge of rape.

How do you define “force” in a rape case in Georgia? Force means acts of physical force, threats of death or physical bodily harm, or mental coercion, such as intimidation. Lack of resistance, induced by fear, is force.

The elements of Rape in Georgia are 1) penetration, 2) force, and 3) against her will. If the person is underage, then force is implied. If the person is above the age of consent, but due to mental incompetence or severe intoxication, then finding of constructive force based on penetration.

The law on Rape in Georgia does not require physical injury or semen.

A person convicted of Rape can be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, by imprisonment for life with the possibility of parole or by a split sentence that is a term of imprisonment for not less than 25 years and not exceeding life imprisonment to be followed by probation for life. Any person convicted of rape is subject to the sentencing provisions of O.C.G.A. §§ 17-10-6.1 and 17-10-7.

In addition, the person could be on the Sex Offender Registry for life.

A person convicted of rape can also be held to account for civil liability. Furthermore, if the rape was committed by the defendant while he was acting in his scope of his employment, his employer may also be held liable.

If you face charges in Georgia for 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 Rape cases in Georgia. You must protect your rights and take this matter very seriously.

The statute of limitation for a prosecution of rape is 15 years.

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.

Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes Crimes in Georgia

by Mike Jacobs

Enticing a child for indecent purposes is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of Enticing a child for an indecent act. Many allegations of enticing a child are false. Even if you know the allegation of enticing a child against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-5 defines Enticing a Child for indecent purposes as follows:

A person commits the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes when he or she solicits, entices, or takes any child under the age of 16 years to any place whatsoever for the purpose of child molestation or indecent acts.

The State must prove a joint operation of (1) the act of enticing a child and (2) the intention to commit acts of indecency or child molestation.

Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes is different than Child Molestation because of the extra element of asportation. The asportation element is satisfied with the taking involving physical force, enticement or persuasion. The evidence must show some movement of the child. It can be slight movement.

Indecent Acts means illicit sexual conduct. Because the statute refers to both indecent acts and child molestation, it is reasonable to assume that indecent acts are different than acts punished by the child molestation statute.

Neither consent nor lack of knowledge of the child’s age is a defense to prosecution under the Enticing a Child statute.

The statute is intended to protect children from sexual predators. It is unlawful to entice any child under the age of 16.

The punishment for Enticing A Child is a mandatory of 10 years imprisonment up to 30 years and at least 1 year of probation.

Do not wait until the State actually returns an indictment against you for Enticing a Child before seeking an attorney. 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.