Theft by Receiving Stolen Property in DeKalb County

A person commits the offense of theft by receiving stolen property when s/he receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property which s/he knows or should have known was stolen unless the property is received, disposed of, or retained with the intent to restore it to the owner. “Receiving” means acquiring possession or control or lending on the security of the property.  OCGA § 16-8-7. Guns and cars are the most common property associated with theft by receiving stolen property charges.

In order to sustain a conviction for theft by receiving the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused KNEW the property was stolen. That knowledge can be inferred (i.e. should have known) by circumstances that would be suspicious to an ordinary prudent person. For example, if you buy a brand-new Mercedes G Wagon for $5,000 and it turns out to be stolen, a jury is authorized to believe you knew it was stolen. It would be unreasonable to the average person that a brand-new car that normally costs upwards of $200,000 would be sold for $5,000. Now if we are talking about a Nissan Ultima, that $5,000 price cannot show knowledge that it was stolen because the price is reasonable. Certain damage to a vehicle, like a broken steering column or the locks being punched out, can also imply the necessary knowledge. It is much more difficult for the state to prove knowledge of a stolen gun. The Georgia appellate courts have found that purchasing a gun on the street at a reduced price or the gun being labeled “for law enforcement use” is not enough but it can be shown if the serial number has been filed off.

If you or a loved one has been charged with theft by receiving stolen property, give us a call for a free consultation.

Child Cruelty in Fulton County

In Georgia, there are three types of child cruelty- 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree.

  • 1st degree child cruelty occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child willfully deprives a child of necessary sustenance to the point that the child’s health or well-being is jeopardized OR when a person maliciously causes a child under 18 cruel or excessive mental or physical pain. 1st degree child cruelty is a felony and, if you are found guilty, you will be punished by 5 to 20 years in prison.
  • 2nd degree child cruelty occurs when a person acts or fails to act in a way that demonstrates a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others and that act or failure to act causes cruel or excessive mental or physical pain to a child under 18 years old. 2nd degree child cruelty is also a felony and, if you are found guilty, you will be punished by 1 to 10 years in prison.
  • 3rd degree child cruelty occurs when a person is the primary aggressor intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony or family violence battery OR when a person knows that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the person commit a forcible felony or family violence battery. A person convicted of 3rd degree child cruelty is guilty of a misdemeanor.

As you can see, the punishment for child cruelty can be severe. It is important that you hire a lawyer experienced in defending child cruelty cases. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith will zealously defend you against child cruelty allegations. If you find yourself accused of child cruelty, call our office at 404-581-0999 today for a free consultation.

Rules of the Waterways: Know Your Boating Laws

Summer is here, which means that people across the state are making time to get out on the water in their boat or personal watercraft. It’s important to know Georgia’s Boating Laws before heading out on the water. Here are some laws that are commonly broken that you should be aware of:

  • Boat operators must slow to idle speed when they are within 100 feet of docks, piers, bridges, shorelines, or people in the water. Many times, these are designated with “no wake zone” or “idle speed only” signs.
  • Never operate your boat faster than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions.
  • Boat operators should pass on the right side and stay as far right as possible when rounding bends and curves or overtaking/passing other boats.
  • Never overload your boat. Overloading is loading the boat beyond the recommended capacity shown on the capacity plate installed by the manufacturer.
  • All boats in Georgia are required to carry at least one Coast Guard approved, wearable life jacket on board for each passenger. Adults are not required to actually wear the life jackets, but children under 13 are required to wear them.
  • Passengers riding on the bow or gunwale is strictly prohibited.
  • Much like driving a car, you can receive a Boating Under the Influence citation if your BAC is above .08 if you are over 21 years old, or .02 if you are under 21.

 

It is important to know the rules of the waterways because not adhering to boating laws can be costly, as boat police never hesitate to issue citations. If you’ve been pulled over while boating in Georgia do not hesitate. Give us a call TODAY.

Child Molestation in Cherokee County

Child Molestation is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. If you are arrested in Cherokee County for child molestation or aggravated 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 Cherokee 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 Cherokee 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 Cherokee County Courthouse.  It is crucial to get an attorney retained to be at the First Appearance hearing at the Cherokee County Courthouse.

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.

Boating Under the Influence in Hall County

Georgia law makes it a crime to operate a boat or other moving water vessel (for example, a jet ski) under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination on a public waterway. The legal blood alcohol content for someone over 21 is the same as it is for a car: .08. The legal limit for someone under 21 is .02. Even if you are under the legal limit, you can be charged with BIU less safe, meaning that you were under the influence to the extent it was less safe to operate the vessel. If you have a child under 14 on board, you will also be charged with the separate crime of child endangerment. If you get a BUI after a boating accident, you may also be charged with serious injury by vessel or homicide by vessel.

There are two important differences between boating under the influence and driving under the influence. The first is that officers don’t need probable cause to stop your boat. Officers are allowed to stop and board any vessel operating on a public waterway to perform safety checks. If officers suspect that you are impaired, they can ask you to perform field sobriety tests and read you the implied consent law. Implied consent means that your ability to operate a vessel is conditioned on you submitting to chemical tests of your blood, breath, or urine. If you refuse testing or your BAC is above .08, your license to operate a vessel may be suspended for a minimum of one year. That brings us to the second important difference between a BUI and a DUI. For a DUI you have 30 days from the date of arrest to submit an appeal of your license suspension to DDS. You only have 10 days to file the suspension appeal for a BUI and it must be submitted to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. A suspension of your boating license or conviction of BUI does not affect your ability to drive a car.

The penalties for the first conviction of BUI are a fine between $300 and $1,000; a period of incarceration of 10 days to 12 months but, the time to serve can be suspended, stayed, or probated except if your BAC is over .08 then you must serve a minimum of 24 hours; a minimum of 40 hours of community service; completion of a DUI alcohol or drug risk reduction program; and a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation and complete any recommended treatment. The penalties increase with each BUI conviction.

If you or a loved one has been charged with boating under the influence it is important to have a knowledgeable advocate. Give us a call at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

I Got Caught Speeding. Now What?

If you’ve spent any time driving in Atlanta, I’m sure you’ve either witnessed another driver speeding or sped yourself. Ramifications from a speeding ticket vary based on your speed:

  • 15-18 mph over: 2 points
  • 19-23 mph: 3 points
  • 24-33 mph: 4 points
  • 34+: 6 points

In Georgia, if you accumulate 15 points in a 24 month period, your license will be suspended. If you are looking to reduce the number of points on your license, we always recommend taking a DDS-approved Defensive Driving course. A certificate of completion from one of these driving courses can reduce the number of points on your license by seven within a five year period.

The fine amount will depend on your exact speed but can range anywhere between $25-$1,000 or more. It is important to note that if you are traveling 75 mph+ on a 2-lane highway or 85+ on a 4-lane highway, you will be subject to a super speeder fine. In Georgia, this means that there is an additional $200 fine. You must pay the super speeder fine within 120 days or you will face a license suspension.

If you’re caught speeding, give our office a call IMMEDIATELY. Know your rights!

Possession of Tools – Cobb County Criminal Defense Attorney

Georgia law criminalizes the possession of tools for the commission of a crime. In fact, it is a felony offense. If you are arrested in Cobb County for Possession of Tools, the First Appearance hearing will be the initial court appearance in front of a Judge. This occurs within 48 hours of an arrest without a warrant, or 72 hours if there was an arrest warrant. The Cobb County Judge will notify the person of the charges, as well as set bond at this stage.

If arrested in Marietta and Cobb County for Possession of Tools, the case will be prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office. The next court date will be the Arraignment and takes place at the Cobb County Superior Court.

Not all tools in your possession will result in criminal charges. The law states it is unlawful to possession any tool, explosive, or device commonly used in burglary, theft, or another crime, with the intent to make use thereof in the commission of a crime.

Examples of tools that can result in criminal charges are crowbars and glass break devices. For example, you could be arrested if found looking inside someone’s car windows late at night with a glass break tool in your hand. The tools do not have to do with burglary to fall under this crime. For example, we routinely see pipes and scales charged as Possession of Tools, as these items are used to commit crimes of Possession of Drugs. In these instances, the rule of Lenity applies, which is discussed below under the Defenses section

 

What is the sentence for Possession of Tools in Cobb County?

The sentence for Possession of Tools is a 1 to 5 year imprisonment sentence. Possession of tools is a felony offense, which is sentenced more harshly than misdemeanors. This is found at O.C.G.A. § 16-7-20.

 

What are Possible Defenses to Possession of Tools in Cobb County?

First, the mere possession of a common instrument is not a crime. A screw driver can be used to commit crimes, but it can also be used for numerous other lawful purposes. The same goes with wire cutters, flashlights, and gloves. These items are commonly used for all sorts of lawful and legitimate activities. The State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was intent to use the tool to commit a crime. It is an incredibly high standard, especially since tools are used for so many other purposes.

Additionally, any time contraband is found, a thorough investigation must be conducted by a criminal defense attorney very quickly after arrest, into whether or not a valid, lawful, and constitutional search had occurred. We all have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. An officer cannot search your car without probable cause of a crime occurring, and then later charge you after finding a tool common in burglaries. In this instance, the tools found could be suppressed, and the case subsequently dismissed.

Other defenses fall on whether or not the tool is one that is commonly used for the commission of the crime. The State must not only prove possession of a tool but it must be one that is commonly used to commit crimes. For example, Georgia law has held that body armor is not a tool commonly used in armed robbery, and thus there is insufficient evidence to show proof Possession of Tools. Georgia law has also held a two-by-four was not a tool for purposes of this statute in an Armed Robbery case because it is not commonly used in armed robberies.

The rule of lenity may also apply in felony Possession of Tools cases. For example, if the conduct alleged falls within both felony Possession of Tools and misdemeanor Possession of Drug Related Object, then the Lenity rule requires that person be subject to misdemeanor penalties.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for POSSESSION OF TOOLS in Cobb County, W. Scott Smith is here to offer a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Child Cruelty in Gwinnett County

In Georgia, there are three types of child cruelty- 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree.

  • 1st degree child cruelty occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child willfully deprives a child of necessary sustenance to the point that the child’s health or well-being is jeopardized OR when a person maliciously causes a child under 18 cruel or excessive mental or physical pain. 1st degree child cruelty is a felony and, if you are found guilty, you will be punished by 5 to 20 years in prison.
  • 2nd degree child cruelty occurs when a person acts or fails to act in a way that demonstrates a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others and that act or failure to act causes cruel or excessive mental or physical pain to a child under 18 years old. 2nd degree child cruelty is also a felony and, if you are found guilty, you will be punished by 1 to 10 years in prison.
  • 3rd degree child cruelty occurs when a person is the primary aggressor intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony or family violence battery OR when a person knows that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the person commit a forcible felony or family violence battery. A person convicted of 3rd degree child cruelty is guilty of a misdemeanor.

As you can see, the punishment for child cruelty can be severe. It is important that you hire a lawyer experienced in defending child cruelty cases. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith will zealously defend you against child cruelty allegations. If you find yourself accused of child cruelty, call our office at 404-581-0999 today for a free consultation.

DUI Less Safe: What is It?

If you’ve been pulled over for a DUI you may have seen a charge on the citation saying “DUI Less Safe.” There’s a lot of confusion about what this actually means. What people most commonly think of is “DUI Per Se” meaning that the authorities have a numerical reading of your blood alcohol content through blood, breath, or urine. If you’re over 21 years old, that means your BAC was above a .08.

On the other hand, “DUI Less Safe” essentially means that the driver is considered less safe to operate a vehicle due to alcohol or drug impairment, regardless of whether they meet the specific BAC threshold for DUI Per Se. DUI Less Safe is common in two scenarios, the first being a refusal of tests that may indicate impairment due to a BAC reading. If a police officer sees certain driving and/or physical manifestations that could indicate alcohol impairment and the driver refuses to perform any sobriety tests, they will usually issue a citation with DUI Less Safe because they do not have the BAC reading to issue DUI Per Se. The second scenario when DUI Less Safe is used is when your blood, breath, or urine shows that there is alcohol in your system, but the BAC is less than .08. Although it may seem strange to receive a DUI when your BAC is under the legal threshold for DUI Per Se, it does happen because the officer has deemed the driver “less safe” to operate a vehicle due to impairment.

If you or a loved one has gotten pulled over for a DUI in Georgia don’t hesitate! Call our office TODAY.

Child Hearsay in Georgia

If you are charged with child molestation, cruelty to children, or any crime, in Georgia, where a child is the alleged victim, the State will fie a Motion to Admit Child Hearsay testimony.

This is pursuant to O.C.G.A. 24-8-820. This status is the Georgia Child Hearsay Statute.

O.C.G.A. 24-8-820 reads as follows:

(a) A statement made by a child younger than 16 years of age describing any act of sexual contact or physical abuse performed with or on such child by another or with or on another in the presence of such child shall be admissible in evidence by the testimony of the person to whom made if the proponent of such statement provides notice to the adverse party prior to trial of the intention to use such out-of-court statement and such child testifies at trial, unless the adverse party forfeits or waives such child’s testimony as provide in this title, and, at the time of the testimony regarding the out-of-court statements, the person to whom the child made such statement is subject to cross-examination regarding the out-of-court statements.

All that is required is:

  1. Notice to the defendant of the State’s intention to use such statements.
  2. The child testifying at trial, unless the defendant waives it.
  3. The person to whom the statements were made is subject to cross-examination.

You will need to be prepared to challenge the credibility and the underlying facts of any witness who takes the stand against you and claims that the child made statements to them about the sexual contact or physical abuse. Do not waive the child’s presence at trial. Make the child testify.

In cases of child molestation, there is rarely physical evidence. The entire case comes down to credibility. It is the defendant’s credibility vs. the child’s and the child’s witness’s credibility. Do not forfeit the right to a thorough cross-examination of the child and their witnesses.

These child hearsay witnesses can include testimony of physicians, investigators, parents, other family members, forensic interviewers and any other person who spoke to the child about the allegations.

You must be prepared to challenge each of these statements.

Child Molestation and Cruelty to Children carry severe penalties in Georgia. Do not make statements to the police about the allegations. You must hire a qualified attorney and be prepared to vigorously fight your case at trial.

Please call us at 404-581-0999 if you are charged with any crime involving a child in Georgia.