Georgia Criminal Law – Pointing a Pistol at Another

Responsible gun ownership requires education and care. In 2020, there were 98 unintentional gun related deaths in Georgia, 33 more than the previous year.[1] In an effort to eliminate these unintentional deaths and protect the public, the Georgia legislature enacted O.C.G.A. § 16-11-102.

The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-102 makes it a criminal offense to “intentionally and without legal justification points or aims a gun or pistol at another, whether the gun or pistol is loaded or unloaded.”

Proving the element of intent is key in prosecuting this offense. The accidental or unintentional pointing of a weapon at another is not an offense. Parsons v. State, 16 Ga. App. 212 (1915). To aim a weapon at another is to point it intentionally. Livingston v. State, 6 Ga. App. 805 (1909). Intent may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the pointing. Hawkins v. State, 8 Ga. App. 705 (1911).

This offense is distinguished from the offense of aggravated assault in that if the pointing of a firearm places the victim in reasonable apprehension of immediate violent injury, then the felony of aggravated assault, rather than the misdemeanor of pointing a gun, has occurred.  Overton v. State, 305 Ga. 597 (2019); Savage v. State, 274 Ga. 692 (2002). But, simple assault and pointing a gun or pistol at another are both misdemeanors and included in greater crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Morrison v. State, 147 Ga. App. 410 (1978).

Punishment

A conviction under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-102 results in a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is 12 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine or both. The sentencing judge also has the authority to impose additional terms and conditions such as community service, firearms safety course, etc.

 

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.

 

[1] https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/congress/ga

Georgia Ignition Interlock Device Limited Permit after DUI Arrest

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

  1. After the accused has been arrested, the officer on the scene 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 interlock device in his/her vehicle for the duration of the suspension. However, in this blog we will solely discuss the latter.

INTERLOCK DEVICE

If the DUI arrest mirrored the situation described above in subsection (1), the accused has 30 days from the arrest to install an interlock device in their vehicle AND apply for an interlock device permit with the Georgia Department of Driver Services. The installation of the interlock device must be installed PRIOR to applying for the permit and it must be installed for a period of 12 months. In Georgia, this has become a viable alternative to a license suspension if the accused after a DUI arrest has refused to comply with a breath, blood, or urine sample.

However, not everyone who is arrested with a DUI will be eligible to install an interlock device in their vehicle as an alternative to a license suspension. The following must pertain to the accused in order for the accused to be eligible to install an interlock device in their vehicle:

  • Must have a Georgia driver’s license;
  • Be 21 years or older;
  • Have no other active license revocations or suspensions; and
  • No previous DUI convictions in the last five years.

Additionally, if the accused meets any of the following criteria, he/she is not eligible for an interlock device:

  • Drivers with out-of-state licenses;
  • Drivers with an ALS suspension in the previous five years;
  • Drivers whose DUI case involved an accident with serious injury or death;
  • CDL drivers, unless the license is downgraded to non-commercial during the suspension.

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we understand that there are grave consequences following a DUI arrest, including the possibility of a license suspension. Therefore, our attorneys are knowledgeable about all possible options for our clients and we work tirelessly to advocate for them. Therefore, if you have been arrested for a DUI and are potentially facing a license suspension, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Conversion Arrest in Georgia

In Georgia, like other theft offenses, a theft by conversion charge can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property converted. According to § O.C.G.A. 16-8-4, theft by conversion occurs when a person lawfully obtains another individual’s funds or property and then unlawfully converts such property to his/her own use.

In order to convict an accused for theft by conversion, the elements of the offense must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused lawfully obtained funds or property of another;
  • The funds or property were obtained by an agreement between the accused and the owner;
  • The agreement required that the accused used the funds/property for a particular purpose;
  • However, instead, the accused knowingly converted the property for his/her own use.

Value of Property

In determining whether the theft by conversion charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the property converted. In Georgia, funds or property valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the property in question is valued at a price greater than $500, the prosecution may file felony charges against the accused.

In these types of cases, the value of the property is determined by properly measuring the fair cash market value either at the time and place of the alleged theft or any stage during the receipt or concealment of the property in question.

Defenses

An experienced criminal defense attorney can assert affirmative defenses to either request a reduction in the penalties of a theft by conversion conviction or receive a dismissal of all charges. Thus, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations.

Such affirmative defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of intent;
  • Consent;
  • Accused used the property as intended;
  • Innocence;
  • Intoxication, if it negates intent;
  • Charges should be reduced, because the property value was less than the prosecution alleged.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by conversion, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious offense. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by conversion, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Deception Arrest in Georgia

According to § 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. However, deceitful means does not include statements of exaggeration that are unlikely to deceive the rightful owner or false statements as to matters that have little to no financial significance.

Some examples of theft by deception include, but are not limited to:

  • Billing someone for a job that an accused did not complete;
  • Making false statements to persuade the rightful owner to let the accused take their property;
  • Selling property when the accused knew that there was a lien/ some other loan attached to it.

Value of Property

In determining whether the theft by deception charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the property stolen. In Georgia, goods or property valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the property or goods in question are valued at a price greater than $500, the prosecution may file felony charges against the accused.

Defenses

An experienced criminal defense attorney can assert affirmative defenses to either request a reduction in the penalties of a theft by deception conviction or receive a dismissal of all charges. Thus, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations.

Some affirmative defenses to theft by deception include, but are not limited to:

  • Actual innocence;
  • Lack of intent;
  • Future payment: In Elliott v. State, 149 Ga. App. 579 (1979), the court found that the accused could not be convicted for theft by deception when he arranged to pay for the goods in question by making a promise to the rightful owner of future payment. The court found that there was no theft by deception, because there was no false representation made, the accused made a good faith promise of future payment;
  • Charges should be reduced, because the property value was less than the prosecution alleged;
  • Continuous criminal act: if the prosecution alleges that multiple items were stolen; an experienced criminal defense attorney could instead argue that the string of thefts constituted only one continuous crime. This would reduce the number of counts of theft that the State of Georgia has brought forward against the accused, and likely, will reduce the sentencing of such a charge.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by deception, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious offense. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by deception, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Taking Arrest in Georgia

In Georgia, a theft charge can encompass either misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on the value of the goods or property in question. If you have been arrested for theft, you could be charged with any of the following: theft by taking, theft by deception, theft by conversion, theft by shoplifting, and so on. However, the most commonly charged theft that appears in Georgia is theft by taking. According to O.C.G.A. § 16-8-2, theft by taking occurs when a person unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which property is taken or appropriated. Typically, this occurs when the property is taken without the knowledge of the victim at the time of the alleged offense.

Value of Goods

In determining whether the theft by taking charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the goods/property, which were allegedly stolen, taken, and/or appropriated. Property or goods valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the goods in question are valued at a price greater than $500, the State of Georgia could charge you with a felony offense.

Penalties

In misdemeanor theft by taking cases, a conviction could result in no more than a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, following a felony theft by taking conviction, a judge could sentence you between 1-10 years in prison.

Due to the severity of the punishment for a theft by taking conviction, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can defend these allegations by either getting the charges dismissed by bringing forth defenses to such allegations or requesting a reduction in the penalty of such charges.

Defenses

Here are some common defenses for theft by taking cases in Georgia:

  • There was no theft;
  • Acted under an honest claim of right or ownership of property;
  • Charge should be reduced depending on the value of the goods and amount taken;
  • There was no intent to steal;
  • The accused was unaware that the property was of another;
  • The intention was to borrow the item, not to steal it;
  • Intoxication, if it negates the intent element.

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by taking, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by taking, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Shoplifting Arrest in Georgia

In Georgia, a theft by shoplifting charge can be prosecuted in municipal court, state court, or even superior court. The State of Georgia may allege that the accused violated a city municipal ordinance, a law in which the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, or in more serious cases, a felony.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14, theft by shoplifting occurs when a person, working alone or with others, takes merchandise without paying for it and with the intent to either deprive the owner of any part of the value of the item or to appropriate the item for their own use.

When committing the offense of theft by shoplifting, it can occur in many different forms:

  • Concealing the goods;
  • Altering the price tag;
  • Transferring the item from one container to another;
  • Switching the price tag from another item to the item in question; or
  • Wrongfully causing the price to be less than the original price stated.

Value of Goods/ Property

In determining whether the theft by shoplifting charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the stolen goods. In Georgia, property or goods valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the goods in question are valued at a price greater than $500, the prosecution may file felony charges against the accused.

Furthermore, the State of Georgia can prosecute an accused for a felony offense if he/she allegedly stole items from three different stores in the same county, within seven days of each other, if the cumulative value of the goods stolen exceeds $500. Additionally, an accused’s criminal history of past theft may impact his/her sentencing or punishment.

Penalties

In misdemeanor theft by shoplifting cases, a conviction may result in no more than a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, following a felony theft by shoplifting conviction, a judge could sentence you between 1-10 years in prison. As stated above, past criminal history plays a role in penalties following a conviction for theft by shoplifting.

Due to the severity of the punishment, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can defend these charges by either getting them dismissed by bringing forth affirmative defenses to such allegations or requesting for a reduction in the penalty of such charges.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by shoplifting, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by shoplifting, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Shoplifting Charges in Rockdale County, Georgia

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

 

The Offense

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Punishment

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

How it Works in Rockdale

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Rockdale County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Rockdale County by filing an “accusation.” An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case.

 

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

 

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

 

Contact Us

 

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

 

 

 

Interference with the Custody of a Minor in Georgia Criminal Law

An “interference with custody” criminal charge in Georgia usually arises in the context of a family law dispute where one parent retains custody of a child longer than they are allowed to under a custody agreement. The purpose of statute criminalizing interference with custody is to protect custody interests of child’s lawful custodian from interference by another person. Thompson v. State, 245 Ga.App. 396 (2000). This article will explore the nature of the offense, case law interpretation of the charge, and the possible punishment if convicted.

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-45: a person commits the offense of interference with custody when without lawful authority to do so, the person:

  • Knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any child or committed person away from the individual who has lawful custody of such child or committed person;
  • Knowingly harbors any child or committed person who has absconded; provided, however, that this subparagraph shall not apply to a service provider that notifies the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the child’s location and general state of well being as soon as possible but not later than 72 hours after the child’s acceptance of services; provided, further, that such notification shall not be required if:
    • The service provider has reasonable cause to believe that the minor has been abused or neglected and makes a child abuse report pursuant to Code Section 19-7-5;
    • The child will not disclose the name of the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian, and the Division of Family and Children Services within the Department of Human Services is notified within 72 hours of the child’s acceptance of services; or
    • The child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian cannot be reached, and the Division of Family and Children Services within the Department of Human Services is notified within 72 hours of the child’s acceptance of services; or
  • Intentionally and willfully retains possession within this state of the child or committed person upon the expiration of a lawful period of visitation with the child or committed person.

A person commits the offense of interstate interference with custody when without lawful authority to do so the person knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any minor or committed person away from the individual who has lawful custody of such minor or committed person and in so doing brings such minor or committed person into this state or removes such minor or committed person from this state.

Case Law

Defendant could not be convicted of interference with custody of a minor based on his conduct in picking up the victim and her friend after they left school in the middle of the school day, or for his conduct in having the victim at his house when she was supposed to be in school; the plain language of the statute required defendant to entice the child away from an individual having custody, and the school was not the lawful custodian of the victim or her friend. Owens v. State, 353 Ga.App. 848 (2020).

Defendant could not be convicted of interference with custody based on his act of taking a truant 15-year-old female to his apartment, in absence of evidence that female’s mother desired to exercise custody over female at that time but, because of defendant’s actions, was unable to do so. Thompson v. State, 245 Ga.App. 396 (2000).

Penalty if Convicted

On conviction of for a first offense, the defendant shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $200.00 and no more than $500.00 or shall be imprisoned for not less than one month nor more than five months, or both. A second conviction is punished as a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $400.00 and no more than $1,000.00 or shall be imprisoned for not less than three months nor more than 12 months, or both. Upon a third or subsequent conviction, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one and no more than five years.

A person convicted of the offense of interstate interference with custody shall be guilty of a felony and shall be imprisoned for not less than one year and no more than five years.

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.

 

 

Felony Murder in Georgia

In Georgia a person will be convicted of felony murder in this State “when, in the commission of a felony, he causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.”  In determining whether a felony meets that definition, the Court will tell the jury to consider the circumstances under which the felony was committed.  Further, there must be some connection between the felony and the homicide.

 

Here is a breakdown of the felony murder statute and the elements the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

 

  1. In the commission of a felony

 

The homicide must have been done in carrying out the unlawful act and not collateral (accompanying but secondary) to it. It is not enough that the homicide occurred before or after the felony was attempted or committed.

 

The only limitation on the type of felony that may serve as an underlying felony for a felony murder conviction is that the felony must be inherently dangerous to human life.

 

For a felony to be considered inherently dangerous, it must be “dangerous per se” or it must “by its circumstances create a foreseeable risk of death.”

 

The reason for the felony murder rule is to furnish an added deterrent to the perpetration of felonies, which create a foreseeable risk of death. This function is not served by application of the rule to felonies not foreseeably dangerous.

 

Some common crimes that qualify for felony murder include:

 

  • Aggravated assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Firearms offenses; in some cases possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
  • Kidnapping
  • Narcotics offenses or VGCSA – including sale of drugs
  • Party to a crime
  • Sexual assault

 

 

  1. Causes the death of another person.

 

The person charged must directly cause the death of the victim to be convicted of felony murder.  For example, a defendant may be convicted of felony murder based on the underlying felony of distributing a controlled substance if the defendant directly causes the death of the victim while in the commission of the felony.

 

  1. You do not need malice.  

 

There are two types of Malice.  A specific intent to kill is “express malice,” whereas an intent to commit acts with such a reckless disregard for human life as to show an abandoned and malignant heart amounts to “implied malice.”

Malice is where the actor acted deliberately knowing his conduct was dangerous or reckless and he was not concerned as to whether anyone was harmed or not.  So what is less than malice?   Can the action be as low as gross negligence or even less than negligence?

Georgia Criminal Law – Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is an offense that occurs very frequently in today’s climate, especially during this past summer where protests over racial injustice and police brutality in Atlanta filled the streets. Even with the frequency of this charge, a conviction for disorderly conduct can have grave consequences. For some clients, this is their first interaction with police and their concerns include: jail time, a permanent criminal record, and possibility of trial. All these concerns are very real when facing a disorderly conduct arrest and/or conviction and it is strongly recommended to speak to a criminal defense attorney when one is facing such charges.

The Offense

In Georgia, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor. Georgia Criminal Code § 16-11-39 states that an individual commits disorderly conduct when they act in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person, which causes that person to fear for their safety. It can also occur where the individual acts violently toward another’s property, placing that property in danger of being damaged or destroyed. It can even occur where an individual uses provoking language or “fighting words” in which could create a violent encounter with another or by threatening a “breach of the peace.”

“Fighting Words”

An individual can be convicted of disorderly conduct solely based on the utterance of “fighting words.” Fighting words are known as abusive words or phrases that are directed at another and by their very utterance inflict injury or provoke a violent reaction. The focus is primarily on the nature of the words and the circumstances in which they are spoken rather than on the response to those words. This type of language is not protected under our constitutional right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. “Fights words” can be the sole cause for a conviction of disorderly conduct.

“Breach of the Peace”

“Breach of the peace” generally covers conduct that disturbs the public peace and quiet of the community. An individual who uses “fighting words” or abusive language, without being provoked by another, in which by its very nature could create a public disturbance, can be arrested and/or convicted of disorderly conduct.

Punishment

Many municipalities have their own disorderly conduct ordinances, one of which is the City of Atlanta. This means that, in those cities, a person may be charged with either a violation of state law or municipal law. The penalties can be different for each, but in general, a first conviction of disorderly conduct carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Disorderly conduct charges are subjective in nature and can be worked out with the prosecution, as well as dismissed at trial.

Contact Us

Being arrested for disorderly conduct can be a stressful event in anyone’s life and it is always recommended to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all your possible options when facing this type of charge. We are also experienced in all other misdemeanor offenses and strive to protect our clients’ rights throughout this process. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with disorderly conduct, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.