DeKalb County – Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer – Criminal Defense Attorney

Obstruction of a law enforcement officer can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case. The Statute governing Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer can be found at O.C.G.A. 16-10-24. If the case is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in DeKalb County, the DeKalb County Solicitor’s Office will prosecute the case, whereby if it is a felony charge, it will be sent to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. The biggest difference between a misdemeanor obstruction case and the felony obstruction case is the maximum punishment if convicted. If you have been arrested in DeKalb County for Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer, the first step is to be brought in front of a DeKalb Magistrate Judge for a First Appearance hearing. At the First Appearance hearing, the Judge will read off the charges, notify you of your rights, and possibly set a bond. An attorney can be present at this stage to advocate for a reasonable bond.

 

DeKalb County Misdemeanor Obstruction

Misdemeanor obstruction is when one knowingly and willingly obstructs or hinders a law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her lawful duties. This includes police officers, but also probation officers,  jailers, or game wardens.

There are a few ways one can “obstruct” an officer under Georgia law. First, you can prevent an officer from discharging their official duties by running away, arguing, lying, or doing something that makes it more difficult or completely prevents them from doing their job. This would be classified as misdemeanor obstruction in Georgia and is punishable by up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. You don’t have to make any physical contact with the officer to be charged with misdemeanor obstruction. Felony obstruction, on the other hand, typically does involve physical contact with an officer, or a threat of violence.

 

DeKalb County Felony Obstruction

Felony Obstruction is more serious under Georgia law and typically involves violence or threats of violence.  If you make violent contact with an officer in the process of he or she discharging their legal duties, or you threaten violence on an officer, you may be charged with felony obstruction of justice. Felony obstruction, both in DeKalb and across the State, carries a mandatory one-to-five year sentence for a first offense. It is a mandatory 2 to 10 years on a second offense, and 3 to 15 years on a third.

 

Defenses to Obstruction in DeKalb County and in Georgia

Both felony and misdemeanor Obstruction of Law Enforcement cases are taken seriously in the DeKalb County justice system and throughout the State. There are, however, numerous defenses. For example, it is not against the law to obstruct a police officer during an unlawful arrest. Under Georgia law, it is also not Obstruction of a Law Enforcement to Officer to not immediately respond to an officer’s order. In order to obstruct, there must first be a clear command by law enforcement, not simply a request. As you can see, Obstruction of Law Enforcement is a fact-based inquiry under Georgia law. If you have been charged with Obstruction of a Law Enforcement Officer, call us today at 404-581-0999 so we can get you into the office for a free consultation.

Super Speeder- DeKalb

If you are driving 85 MPH or more on any road or highway OR driving 75mph or more on any two-lane road or highway in Georgia, you are deemed to be a ‘super speeder.’ What does that mean? It means that in addition to the local fines and fees you pay to resolve your ticket you will also have to pay an additional $200 super speeder fee to DDS. You have 90 days from the date of conviction (i.e paying ticket or entering a plea) to submit the payment to DDS. If you fail to pay the $200 fee within 90 days your license will be suspended.  If you or someone you know has been arrested with a super speeder ticket, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Governor Kemp Signs Bill that will Enhance Penalties for Fleeing and Eluding in Georgia

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

On April 25th, 2022, Governor Kemp signed legislation to further public safety efforts in the State of Georgia. One of the bills that he signed, which was passed in the House, as well as the Senate, will enhance or increase penalties and sentencing for individuals charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. This bill will go into effect on July 1st, 2022.

This bill states that:

  • It is unlawful for a driver to fail to stop his/her vehicle or attempt to flee or elude a police officer when he/she is given a visual or audible signal to stop.
  • Any person convicted of a first, second, or third violation of this law will be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
  • Any person convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of this law will be guilty of a felony.

Sentencing:

  • The penalties for a first conviction will be a fine of at least $1,000 and 30 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a second conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $2,500 and 90 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a third conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $4,000 and 180 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a fourth conviction, and any subsequent conviction, within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $5,000 and 12 months in custody.

This bill will dramatically change the penalties for fleeing and eluding in Georgia. A high and aggravated misdemeanor generally means that the accused will have to serve the entire jail-sentence in custody without the possibility of receiving 2 for 1 credit. The fourth conviction of this crime in a 10-year period will constitute a felony offense. Furthermore, a nolo contendere plea will not avoid mandatory jail time, or a conviction.

Any arrests that occur prior to July 1st, 2022, for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer will still be pursuant to the prior statute that allows for lower penalties and sentencing. However, if an accused is arrested for fleeing and eluding on, or after, July 1st, 2022, the sentencing will be enhanced pursuant to this new law.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the punishment for fleeing and eluding based on this new legislation, it is of vital importance to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know every aspect of this new law, we understand the defenses to the charge, we take pride in advocating for our clients’ constitutional rights, and we detail all options for our clients when defending their case. If you or a loved one has been charged with fleeing and eluding, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

DUI Probation in DeKalb County

If you are entering a plea to a DUI in DeKalb County, under Georgia law, there are certain penalties which the Court must impose when you enter your guilty plea.

According to Georgia Law, O.C.G.A. 40-6-391, if you plead guilty to DUI, the Court must:

  • Assess a fine of not less than $300 (but not more than $1,000)
  • Sentence you to 24 hours imprisonment
  • Sentence you to complete 40 hours of community service at a 501(c)(3) organization
  • Require completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program
  • Require completion of a clinical evaluation for substance abuse treatment
  • Require you to serve 1 year on probation.

While on probation, you will also be responsible for paying any supervision fees, you will be regularly drug and alcohol screened, and if you commit any other crimes, you may face even stiffer penalties if your probation is revoked.

These sentencing requirements sound very serious (and they are!) but they are also very discretionary. DeKalb County judges have a lot of control over the sentence. For example, some judges will allow you to terminate your probation early if you complete any requirements of your sentence in a reasonable amount of time. Other judges will allow you to complete community service in lieu of paying a fine. Some judges will give you credit for any time served in jail at the time of your arrest, and other DeKalb County judges will not make you serve any time if you complete your probation requirements.

Entering a guilty plea to DUI in DeKalb County can be a tough pill to swallow. With the right attorney beside you, however, you will have your best chance of reducing the time and money spent on probation and incarcerated. Attorneys are able to present mitigating evidence for the Court’s consideration, and argue why the judge should withhold certain sentence requirements. If you are considering a guilty plea to DUI in DeKalb County, call our office first. We may be able to help you make the best of a bad situation, and ensure that you are only being sentenced to the absolute minimums. Call us for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

 

Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds

I was arrested with a warrant, and they did not bring me to court, what do I do?

If you have been arrested, booked into the County Jail, and there is a warrant, you must be brought before a Judge within 72 hours. If you are not brought before a judge within 72 hours, you must be released from custody.

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-26, it requires the law enforcement officer to “exercise reasonable diligence in bringing the person arrested before the judicial officer authorized to examine, commit, or receive bail and in any event to present the person arrested before a committing judicial office within 72 hours of arrest.” Further, “[a]n arrested person who is not notified before the hearing of the time and place of commitment hearing, shall be released.” Chisholm v. State, 231 Ga. App. 835, 840 (1998)

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a charge with a warrant, and they have not been brought before a judge, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

What to expect during a DUI stop in Doraville, GA

By: Attorney Alex Henson

If you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol in Doraville, GA you might be pulled over and investigated by police. What can you expect during a DUI stop?

First, the officer might ask you if you’ve had anything to drink. You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer the question, but always be polite and respectful. Any statements you make could be used against you later in court.

Next, the officer might ask you to perform certain exercises to see if you are safe to drive. These exercises are called Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and your performance could be used against you in court later. The most common of these tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the one leg stand, and the walk and turn. It is voluntary to participate in field sobriety tests. Refusing to participate cannot be used against you in court later.

The officer may decide that you are under the influence and less safe to drive. If the officer decides to arrest you, he or she may read you Georgia’s implied consent statement and request chemical testing of your breath or blood. These tests are voluntary, but refusal can result in your license being suspended.

If you are arrested for DUI in Doraville, GA for DUI, your case will be sent to Doraville Municipal Court. In the Doraville Municipal Court, you will have the opportunity to resolve your case. However, if you decide you want a jury trial, your case will be transferred to the State Court of DeKalb County.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Doraville, GA and would like a free consultation, call us at (404) 581-0999.

I was arrested without a warrant, and they did not bring me to court, what do I do?

If you have been arrested, booked into the County Jail, and there is no warrant, you must be brought before a Judge within 48 hours. If you are not brought before a judge within 48 hours, you must be released from custody.

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62, it requires the arresting person (typically the police officer) to “without delay, convey the offender before the most convenient judicial officer authorized to receive an affidavit and issue a warrant as provided for in Code Section 17-4-40.” Further, “[n]o such imprisonment shall be legal beyond a reasonable time allowed for this purpose; and any person who is not brought before such judicial officer within 48 hours of arrest shall be released.” Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S.  44, 57 (1991).

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a charge without a warrant, and they have not been brought before a judge, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Racing on Highways – DeKalb County Lawyer

Street racing is considered a major traffic violation in Georgia. Since 2020, there have been a significant increase in Street Racing and Laying Drag tickets and arrests in DeKalb County, and the Atlanta Area. In response, police in DeKalb County have implemented a substantial effort to reduce street racing and laying drag on highways. This blog will explain in detail the law on Racing in Georgia.

Racing on Highways or Streets, defined by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-186, means the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to outgain, outdistance, or prevent another vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long-distance driving routes. Georgia law prohibits any vehicle on a highway or street to engage in any race, or speed competition. It is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense. Officers in Georgia can either issue a citation or make an arrest for Racing. After citation or arrest, there will be an arraignment hearing where you will be asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. During the course of the criminal case, there may be plea negotiations, a bench trial, or a jury trial.

What is the punishment of Racing in Georgia?

Since it is a misdemeanor offense, the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail for this charge.  In addition to Racing, the officer may also cite you with Speeding and Reckless driving, which each can carry another 12 month sentence consecutive. In addition to probation or jail, and high fines, there will be insurance premium increases, and a mandatory license suspension. If you are convicted of Racing in Georgia, the license suspension is a minimum 120 days. A limited permit is an option that can be explored.

However, the driver’s license suspension could be much longer depending on any previous tickets on your motor vehicle report. This is because Racing is a contributing offense towards Habitual Violator status. For example, if in the past five years you were convicted of Suspended Registration, DUI, and Racing, it would be a five-year habitual violator suspension. A skilled defense lawyer will evaluate your motor vehicle report to help advise you on license consequences as well as negotiate favorable resolutions where license suspension, points, and jail are always avoided where possible. Lastly, bench and jury trials are also an option in Racing and other traffic cases in DeKalb County.

If you or a loved one has been cited or arrested for Racing in Atlanta, give us a call for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999. With increased focus throughout DeKalb County and Atlanta, on these types of charges, it is imperative to have an advocate in court if you are charged with Racing or Laying Drag in Georgia.

RECIDIVIST STATUTE IN GEORGIA

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

In Georgia, repeat offenders are punished more severely, regardless of the nature of the crime charged. The theory behind it is to ensure that the prosecution deters people from continuing to commit crimes, which has caused the Georgia legislature to implement the Recidivist statute.

RECIDIVIST PROVISION

The Recidivist statute is set out in O.C.G.A. § 17-10-7(a). It states that if a criminal defendant has one prior felony conviction, and he/she is subsequently convicted of a second felony, the judge must sentence the offender to the maximum term of imprisonment as set out in the statute. However, the judge does have the discretion to allow probation if he/she wishes to do so, but that choice is completely up to the presiding judge.

Furthermore, if a criminal defendant has one prior “serious violent felony” conviction, the second conviction of similar violent nature would require the judge to sentence the accused to life in prison without parole, and the judge has no discretion, and cannot probate or suspend the sentence. The offender must serve the maximum sentence while in custody.

THREE STRIKES RULE

There is also a second provision of the Recidivist statute that comes into play with repeat offenders. It is known as the Three Strikes rule, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 17-10-7(c). This law states that if a criminal defendant has previously been convicted of three felonies, and he/she is convicted of a subsequent felony offense, which would be a fourth felony conviction, then the offender must serve the maximum term of imprisonment for that charge and will not be eligible for parole until that time has been served.

CONTACT US

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our attorneys are knowledgeable about the consequences of a felony conviction, especially for individuals who have been convicted of felony crimes in the past. We also understand all possible options for our clients dealing with pending allegations and will zealously advocate on their behalf. Therefore, if you have been recently arrested for a felony offense or your case is currently pending, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

What is an arraignment and what happens after?

If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia, you will likely receive a court date in the mail, informing you that your case has been scheduled for an arraignment. An arraignment is an opportunity to have your charges read aloud in open Court, and for you to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo. If your case is in Dekalb, Cobb, Fulton, Douglas, Clayton, or another State Court, then you are able to waive this arraignment by filing a waiver of arraignment with the Court. Many attorneys typically waive arraignment on behalf of their clients as a matter of course. This is because State Court arraignments are typically formalities, and not really necessary if you have retained an attorney (you are pleading not guilty! That’s why you hired an attorney!).

If your case is located in Municipal Court, your court dates will likely all say “arraignment.” This is because many Municipal Courts hold arraignment calendars every day. Arraignment in Municipal Court, unlike in State Courts, cannot be waived, even if it is your first court date. If this is the case, you must be present at your first court date.

Some time after your arraignment date, if you or your attorney has filed a motion requesting discovery, the Prosecutor will send discovery. Discovery is the evidence that the prosecutor has which they plan on using in your case. If it has been several weeks since your arraignment and you have not received discovery after you have requested it, you should reach out to an attorney or to the Court to tell them that you have not received it.

The criminal legal process can be confusing and scary. You are not alone. We have an experienced team of attorneys who can guide you through the process from arraignment through trial. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation. Call us at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.