Theft by Deception in Dekalb County

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

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

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

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

Failure to Maintain Lane: A Cop’s Most Used Weapon in DUI’s

In the State of Georgia, police officers can use the offense of “failure to maintain lane” as a tool to initiate a traffic stop and potentially investigate a driver for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). This offense occurs when a driver fails to stay within their lane while driving on the road.

When a police officer observes a vehicle crossing lane lines, or exhibiting other signs of erratic driving that may indicate impairment, they can use this as reasonable suspicion to pull the driver over. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-48 states that “a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane.” It prohibits drivers from leaving their lane until they have determined that a lane change can be made safely. NOTE: weaving within your lane is NOT a failure to maintain lane- the vehicle must cross or touch lane lines. Once the vehicle is stopped, the officer may then proceed with further investigation, which could include administering field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests to determine if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It’s important to note that while failure to maintain lane can be a legitimate reason for a traffic stop, officers must still follow proper procedures and have reasonable suspicion of DUI to detain and arrest a driver. This means they must observe additional signs of impairment beyond just the lane deviation. It is usually accompanied by “bloodshot eyes”, or “odor of alcohol.” If you get pulled over for a DUI, call us immediately.


What Does It Mean If I Have Been Charged With “DUI Less Safe”?

It is commonly known that driving with a BAC above 0.08 is considered driving under the influence in Georgia. But, the police may still charge you with DUI if your BAC is below 0.08 if they feel that you are less safe to drive than you would have been if you had not consumed alcohol.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 (a)(1) states that “a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive”. This simply means that you may still be charged, and convicted of, DUI even if your BAC registers at a level below 0.08.

If you have been charged with DUI less safe, it is important that you hire an experienced DUI attorney to fight to protect your driver’s license and to prevent the long-term consequences that come with a DUI conviction. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith are experienced with the nuances associated with a DUI case and will work to protect you and resolve your case with the best possible outcome. Call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Pre-trial Diversion: What Is It?

Pre-trial diversion programs aim to provide individuals with an opportunity to address underlying issues that may have contributed to their involvement in a certain crime. It’s essentially an alternative pathway that allows for charges to be dismissed upon the completion of the program.


  • Eligibility: Not everyone is eligible. Pre-trial diversion programs are reserved for people in more minor offense crimes without an extensive criminal history.
  • Participation: If accepted, clients agree to participate in activities that include community service, drug and/or alcohol counseling, and educational programs like anger management classes or victim impact panels.
  • Supervision: Generally, participants are supervised by a case manager. If you are enrolled in a pre-trial diversion program, it is important to keep your case manager updated on any classes you’ve completed, or community service hours completed.
  • Consequences of failure: failure to comply with the program or committing another offense can result in reinstatement of the criminal charge and further prosecution.
  • Benefits: the main benefit of pre-trial diversion is to avoid criminal conviction. If you complete the program, your case and all the charges associated with the case are generally dismissed by the court. The program also provides an opportunity to rehabilitate behavior that could lead to further criminal convictions related to the original, underlying crime.


In general, pre-trial diversion programs offer a viable and attractive option for individuals who do not want a case to go to trial but want the charges dismissed by the court.

HGN: A scientifically reliable indicator?

Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) is a condition where the eyes involuntarily jerk or twitch as they move laterally, typically observed when an individual’s gaze is directed to the side. During a DUI stop, an officer may conduct the HGN test by moving an object (such as a pen or finger) horizontally across the person’s field of vision while observing the eyes for any signs of nystagmus.

While HGN can indicate impairment, its reliability as a sole indicator is questioned for several reasons:

  1. **Subjectivity**: Interpretation of nystagmus can vary between officers, leading to inconsistent results. Factors such as lighting conditions, the officer’s experience, and the subject’s eye characteristics can influence the observations.
  2. **False Positives**: Nystagmus can be influenced by various factors other than alcohol or drug consumption, such as fatigue, certain medical conditions, prescription medications, or even environmental stimuli like flashing lights.
  3. **Lack of Specificity**: HGN is not specific to alcohol impairment and cannot distinguish between alcohol and drug impairment. Different substances affect the body differently, and HGN alone cannot pinpoint the specific substance causing impairment.

Therefore, while HGN can be a useful tool in conjunction with other field sobriety tests and evidence, its limitations make it unreliable as a standalone indicator of impairment in DUI cases.

Behavioral Incentive Dates

In Georgia, a person who is convicted of a felony for the first time and sentenced to straight probation, or less than 12 months imprisonment followed by probation, is entitled to receive a Behavioral Incentive Date (also known as a BID). A BID is a date that the court sets for the probation to end early, provided that the individual has successfully completed their probation and not violated any terms of their probation.

When a person is convicted of a felony for the first time or is charged with a felony and enters a plea under the First Offender Act or conditional discharge, Georgia law says that the judge must include a BID that is no more than 3 years from the date that the sentence is imposed. (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-1 (a)(1)(B)(i)). A brand-new Georgia Court of Appeals case clarifies that even when a person is convicted of their first felony and chooses not to use their First Offender, the judge must include a BID. (Smalley v. State).

What does this mean for a person facing felony charges?  This means that if you are facing felony charges and sentenced to probation, the court MUST include a BID and that BID may not be more than 3 years from the date you are sentenced. So, for example, if you are sentenced to 10 years probation for your first ever felony, the judge must include a BID date and, if you successfully complete the terms of your probation and don’t have any probation violations, your probation will end on that BID.

It is important to have an attorney who understands things like Behavioral Incentive Dates when they are negotiating with prosecutors. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith are experienced at fighting to protect their clients and ensure that clients receive the best possible outcome for their case. If you are charged with a felony in Dekalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton, Rockdale, Henry, Cobb, or Cherokee County, call the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation and to find out how you can leverage the law regarding Behavioral Incentive Dates to your advantage.

I’m being charged as an accomplice but I didn’t do anything

Georgia law allows someone who did not directly commit a crime to be charged with the substantive offense. Most states call it being an accomplice, Georgia calls it party to a crime. However, merely being present when a crime is being committed is not enough to sustain a conviction.  To convict someone as a party to a crime, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person 1) intentionally causes another person to commit a crime under circumstances where that person would not be guilty in fact or because of legal incapacity; 2) Intentionally aids or abets in the commission of a crime; or 3) intentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to commit the crime.

All of that means that you actually have to do something to assist with the crime. For example, if you take a friend to the bank and while they are inside, they rob the bank. After the robbery, they get back into your car and tell you they robbed the bank. If you drive them away from the scene, you can be charged and convicted of the robbery even though you never stepped foot in the bank.

If you have been charged as a party to a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for you. Give us a call at 404-581-0999 for a free case consultation.

Rape Shield in Georgia

If you are charged with Rape in the State of Georgia, it is imperative that you retain a sex crimes defense attorney immediately. There are rules in Georgia that protect the alleged victim from having her character attacked.

O.C.G.A. 24-4-412 prohibits certain evidence from being introduced at trial. This is known as the Rape Shield Statute. The evidence that is excluded from trial include, but not limited to, evidence of the alleged victim’s marital history, mode of dress, and general reputation for promiscuity, nonchastity, or sexual mores contrary to the community standards.

The Rape Shield Statute contains an exception to its exclusionary rule. The past sexual behavior of the complaining witness is not admissible unless the trial court found that the past sexual behavior directly involved the participation of the defendant and found that the evidence expected to be introduced supported an inference that the defendant could have reasonably believed that the complaining witness consented to the conduct complained in the prosecution.

Do not think that if you are charged with Rape in Georgia that you can attack the alleged victim for her past sexual behavior or think that just because she was dressed a certain way that you can argue that to the jury. The laws in Georgia protect rape victims from a character assassination in Georgia.

If you want to bring in evidence that fits the exception to the Rape Shield Statute, then the defendant shall notify the court of such intent, whereupon the court shall conduct an in camera hearing to examine the accused’s evidence. At the conclusion of this hearing, if the court finds that any of the evidence introduced at the hearing is admissible or is so highly material that it will substantially support a conclusion that the accused reasonably believed that the complaining witness consented to the conduct complained of and that justice mandates the admission of such evidence, the court shall by order state what evidence may be introduced by the defense at the trial of the case and in what manner the evidence may be introduced.

So, if you are accused of Rape, it is important to write out a log of every interaction you have had with the alleged victim, exactly what you remember talking about with the alleged victim and any evidence or witnesses that may help you establish that you believe consent was given.

In a Rape case, your life is literally hanging in the balance. Do not think that just because you believe you had consent and just because you know it did not happen, that the case will just go away or the judge and jury will just understand your side. Once you are accused of Rape, you need to go on offense in your preparation and show that either 1) you were misidentified as the person accused of rape or 2) you had consent of the alleged victim.

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.

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.

Georgia DUI

When you are pulled over for suspicion of a DUI, the officer will conduct a test called “horizontal gaze nystagmus” or HGN for short. This is the test where an officer will ask you to follow either their finger or a pen to see if the eyes involuntarily jerk or twitch as your eyes move laterally.

The test must be done correctly. The officer must place the stimulus (usually a pen or their finger) 12 to 15 inches away from your nose and slightly above eye level. Then the officer must move the stimulus in a stage consisting of 14 passes. The first stage of passes has the officer moving the stimulus from left to right to center for at least two seconds to check or equal tracking of the pupils.

The second stage has the officer place the stimulus from the center position to your left and back to the center. They will repeat this for the right eye. The stimulus should be moved at a speed that takes at least two seconds from the center position to the side position.

The third stage of passes is designed to determine whether the person has distinct nystagmus at the point in which your eye is fully moved to one side and cannot move any further. The stimulus moves from center to the side taking at least two seconds, holding at the side for at least four seconds, and then moved back to the center in at least two seconds.

The final stage is a set of four passes designed to determine if the onset nystagmus occurs before your eye moves to a 45-degree deviation. It must take at least four seconds to move the stimulus from your center to a spot around your shoulder. The stimulus must be held long enough to confirm the onset nystagmus. Each of the passes in this phase must take at least eight seconds, with a three second count out, a two second count hold, and a three second count back.


It is vital to note that the entirety of the HGN test must take AT LEAST 82 seconds- usually around 90 seconds. If the officer is well under that time, then they employed the test incorrectly and the HGN test can be excluded from any evidence that could indicate potential impairment. The stimulus must also remain in the 12 to 15 inch range from your nose and its path cannot loop or curve. If it does, then the officer did not administer the test properly. If you’re pulled over for a DUI, make sure you know the process for HGN evaluation and call our office today.

The Crucial Role of Hiring a Lawyer If You’ve Been Arrested in Atlanta

Facing arrest can be a harrowing experience, particularly in a bustling city like Atlanta, where legal procedures can be complex and consequences severe. In such situations, hiring a criminal defense lawyer is not just advisable; it’s imperative. Here’s why:


  1. **Legal Expertise**: Attorneys specializing in criminal defense possess extensive knowledge of the law, including local ordinances and courtroom procedures specific to Atlanta. They understand the nuances of the legal system, enabling them to build a robust defense strategy tailored to your case.


  1. **Protection of Rights**: When arrested, individuals are entitled to certain rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to legal representation. A skilled lawyer ensures that your rights are upheld throughout the legal process, safeguarding you from potential abuses of power or procedural errors.


  1. **Strategic Counsel**: Lawyers analyze the details of your case, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and potential legal options. They provide strategic counsel on how to navigate the complexities of the legal system, including whether to plead guilty, negotiate a plea bargain, or proceed to trial.


  1. **Mitigation of Penalties**: In the event of conviction, attorneys work tirelessly to mitigate penalties and minimize the long-term consequences of criminal charges. This may involve negotiating reduced charges, advocating for alternative sentencing options, or pursuing avenues for rehabilitation and community service.


  1. **Evidence Examination**: Lawyers have the expertise to scrutinize evidence presented by the prosecution, identifying inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or violations of due process. They may uncover mitigating factors or exculpatory evidence that could strengthen your defense or lead to the dismissal of charges.


  1. **Emotional Support**: Being arrested can be emotionally taxing, causing stress, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future. A compassionate lawyer not only provides legal guidance but also offers emotional support, reassuring you and your loved ones during this challenging time.


  1. **Familiarity with Court System**: Local attorneys in Atlanta have established relationships with judges, prosecutors, and court personnel. This familiarity with the local court system can be advantageous, as it facilitates smoother communication, negotiation, and advocacy on behalf of their clients.


  1. **Preservation of Reputation**: A criminal record can have far-reaching implications, affecting employment opportunities, housing options, and personal relationships. By vigorously defending your case, lawyers strive to protect your reputation and minimize the stigma associated with criminal charges.


  1. **Cost-Effective in the Long Run**: While hiring a lawyer may incur upfront costs, the investment can save you money in the long run. Skilled legal representation increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome, potentially avoiding costly fines, lengthy imprisonment, or other financial repercussions associated with criminal convictions.


  1. **Peace of Mind**: Ultimately, hiring a lawyer provides peace of mind knowing that you have a knowledgeable advocate fighting for your rights and best interests. Whether navigating pre-trial negotiations, challenging evidence in court, or representing you at trial, a competent attorney can significantly impact the outcome of your case.


In conclusion, if you find yourself facing arrest in Atlanta, don’t underestimate the importance of hiring a qualified lawyer.  I have over 24 years of criminal experience. In our firm we have over 100 years of legal experience.  From protecting your rights to providing strategic counsel and emotional support, legal representation is indispensable in navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system and securing a brighter future.


Call our office for a free consultation today.