Gwinnett County Immunity Motion in Felony Domestic Violence Case

If a person is charged in the State of Georgia with a Felony Domestic Violence, that person has the right to claim self-defense. Not only can the person claim self-defense at trial, but the person also has the right to file what is called an immunity motion under O.C.G.A. § 16-3-24.2.

This is a legal motion made pre-trial, whereby a person can assert that their self-defense claim is so strong that the Court cannot allow the prosecutor to continue with the case. Once the motion is filed, the Court must hear and rule on the motion prior to trial.

In an immunity motion the burden is on the defense to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that they should win on the self-defense theory. Once the defense has raised the self-defense claim, the State then has the burden of disproving the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will hear testimony, consider evidence, and make a ruling. Two outcomes can occur:

  1. If the Court finds that the defense presented sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and persuaded the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will grant the motion and dismiss the case.
  2. If the Court finds that the defense did not present sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and did not persuade the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will deny the motion and the case will proceed to trial.

The advantage to filing this type of motion is that it can protect a person who is charged with felony domestic violence from the risk of uncertainty of going to trial. If the motion is not successful, the person charged, still has every right to fight the charges at trial. These motions can be very beneficial, in the right case, for the person charged with felony domestic violence.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a felony domestic violence charge, 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.

 

Corporal Punishment of Children and Family Violence

I’m charged with an act of family violence… against my kids!

Georgia law forbids acts of simple battery between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, and other parental-child relationships. This is meant to protect citizens from physical abuse by family and household members. However, reasonable corporal punishment is legal in Georgia, and corporal punishment is a defense to a charge of simple battery family violence against a minor child. The statute that prohibits acts of simple battery between parents and their children, O.C.G.A. 16-5-23, goes on to say that “in no event shall this subsection be applicable to corporal punishment administered by a parent or guardian to a child…”

This means that parents can take measures to discipline, restrain, or detain their children, and may use reasonable, physical force to do so. What does “reasonable” mean within this context? While never strictly defined, we can look to case  law to help understand how to apply the law to the facts. Case law on corporal punishment of children more often tackles the definition in its application to school discipline. In a case from 1985, the Court of Appeals determined that the paddling of a student by a school principal which resulted in “severe bruises” did not rise to a level of punishment that was “excessive, unduly severe, and administered in bad faith.” A 2003 case, Buchheit v. Stinson, looked at the 1985 case involving a teacher, and applied similar reasoning to Buchheit’s corporal punishment of her child. In Buchheit, Mary Buchheit had allegedly slapped her child across the face.

The Court in Buchheit found that “there was no evidence that Buchheit’s action of slapping her child in response to the child’s disrespectful behavior fell outside the bounds of permissible ‘reasonable discipline.’ Although we recognizes that in ertain instances, paddling or spanking could rise to the level of family violence under the statute, the circumstances of this case did not constitute this prohibited conduct.”

In Georgia, parents are free to use reasonable force to discipline their children. If you are charged with family violence against your minor child for the way in which you chose to discipline the child, you may have a valid and protected defense. Call one of our experienced attorneys to set up a free consultation. 404-581-0999.

Aggravated Assault in Gwinnett County

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, there are two types of assault offenses that an accused person may be convicted of: simple assault and aggravated assault. Generally, simple assault is classified as a misdemeanor where aggravated assault is a felony offense. In this blog, we will solely discuss the latter.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21, a person commits the offense of aggravated assault when he/she commits an assault in one of the following aggravating circumstances:

  • The accused has the intent to murder, rape, or rob;
  • The accused commits the assault with a deadly weapon or object in which could result in serious bodily injury;
  • The accused commits the assault with an object, which is likely or is actually used for strangulation; OR
  • The accused commits the assault without legal justification by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle.

When the accused person commits an assault in Gwinnett County in one of the above-mentioned manners the accused may be sentenced, if convicted, anywhere between 1-20 years in prison. However, the following offenses, as listed below, have different penalties due to the enhanced circumstances that surround the crime:

  • If the accused commits the aggravated assault upon a police officer while he/she is engaged in his/her official duties, the accused person may be sentenced to at least 10 years, but no more than 20 years, in prison if such assault occurs from the discharge of a firearm. However, when the aggravated assault does not involve the discharge of a firearm, the accused person may be sentenced anywhere between 5-20 years in prison;
  • Any person who commits an aggravated assault against the elderly may be sentenced to at least 3 years, but no more than 20 years, in prison. The same punishment is true for any person who commits the aggravated assault in a public transit vehicle or station;
  • If the accused commits the aggravated assault upon public school personnel or on school property, he/she may be sentenced anywhere between 5-20 years in prison;
  • If an aggravated assault is committed against a family member, as defined as “family violence” under Georgia law, the accused may be sentenced to at least 3 years, but no more than 20 years, in prison; and
  • Lastly, any person who commits an aggravated assault with the intent to rape a child under the age of 14 years old may be punished by a prison sentence of anywhere between 25-50 years.

 CONTACT US

Due to the severity of the penalties for an aggravated assault conviction, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained at defending such charges, we zealously advocate for our client’s rights, and we are knowledgeable about all possible options for an accused dealing with such serious allegations. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for aggravated assault in Gwinnett County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

Cherokee County – Aggravated Assault by Strangulation

We see it happening more and more often in Cherokee County: Battery-Family Violence charges being upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. This means that the person originally arrested for a misdemeanor, can now be facing not only the misdemeanor of Battery-Family Violence, but also the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

Why was my Battery Family Violence case transferred to the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office?

Officers initially make the arrest decision, but prosecutors have the ability to draft up indictments to present to a grand jury based on the facts within the officer’s original report. If there is any mention that the person placed their hands on the victim’s neck, it is possible and probable that the case will be upgraded to a felony offense of Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. Given the fact that it is a felony, the case will be sent to be prosecuted in felony court also known as Cherokee County Superior Court, by attorneys who prosecute more serious cases.

What is Aggravated Assault Strangulation?

Georgia law states that a person commits the offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation when he or she assaults with any object, device, or instrument, which when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in strangulation. There are defenses in these cases as Georgia no longer defines what Strangulation means. The Georgia statute used to say that “Strangulation” is defined as impeding the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck of such person or by obstructing the nose and mouth of such person. Without that definition on the books anymore, it is very fact specific on whether or not the State can actually prove strangulation. In most cases, where there has been no loss of conscious, it will be difficult for the State to prove actual strangulation. Therefore, when the facts state that someone’s hands were placed on another’s neck, then arguably the person has committed a misdemeanor battery instead of the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

What does it mean for my Cherokee County criminal case if I am now facing Aggravated Assault by Strangulation?

Having the case upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation can lead to much harsher sentence if you are found guilty.  The crime itself carries 1-20 years in prison, which can be stacked with the other crimes originally charged and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are charged with Aggravated Assault by Strangulation in Paulding County, you will be prosecuted by the Cherokee County District Attorney’s office in Cherokee County Superior Court and the stakes are certainly higher. Given the harsher penalties associated with violent felonies, it is imperative to seek a Cherokee County criminal defense attorney early on who can evaluate the case and immediately begin building the defense. Being proactive by speaking to a lawyer immediately after an arrest is the best way to ensure a strong defense when your case goes to court. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION about your Aggravated Assault by Strangulation case at 404-581-0999.

Aggravated Assault in Fulton County

In Fulton County, Georgia, there are two types of assault offenses that an accused person may be convicted of, they are simple assault and aggravated assault. Generally, simple assault is classified as a misdemeanor where aggravated assault is a felony offense. In this blog, we will solely discuss the latter.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21, a person commits the offense of aggravated assault when he/she commits an assault in one of the following aggravating circumstances:

  • The accused has the intent to murder, rape, or rob;
  • The accused commits the assault with a deadly weapon or object in which could result in serious bodily injury;
  • The accused commits the assault with an object, which is likely or is actually used for strangulation; OR
  • The accused commits the assault without legal justification by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle.

When the accused person commits an assault in Fulton County, in one of the above-mentioned manners, the accused may be sentenced, if convicted, anywhere between 1-20 years in prison. However, the following offenses, as listed below, have different penalties due to the enhanced circumstances that surround the incident:

  • If the accused commits the aggravated assault upon a police officer while he/she is engaged in his/her official duties, the accused person may be sentenced to at least 10 years, but no more than 20 years in prison if such assault occurs from the discharge of a firearm. However, when the aggravated assault does not involve the discharge of a firearm, the accused person may be sentenced anywhere between 5-20 years in prison;
  • Any person who commits such an assault against the elderly may be sentenced to at least 3 years, but no more than 20 years in prison. The same punishment is true for any person who commits the aggravated assault in a public transit vehicle or station;
  • If the accused commits the aggravated assault upon public school personnel or on school property, he/she may be sentenced anywhere between 5-20 years in prison;
  • If such an assault is committed against a family member, as defined as “family violence” under Georgia law, the accused may be sentenced to at least 3 years, but no more than 20 years in prison; AND
  • Lastly, any person who commits such an assault with the intent to rape a child under the age of 14 years old, may be punished by a prison sentence of anywhere between 25-50 years.

 CONTACT US

Due to the severity of the penalties for an aggravated assault conviction, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable of all possible options for an accused dealing with such serious allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained at defending such charges. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for aggravated assault in Fulton County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Paulding County – Aggravated Assault by Strangulation

We see it happening more and more often in Paulding County: Battery-Family Violence charges being upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. This means that the person originally arrested for a misdemeanor, can now be facing not only the misdemeanor of Battery-Family Violence, but also the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

Why was my Battery Family Violence case transferred to the Paulding County District Attorney’s Office?

Officers initially make the arrest decision, but prosecutors have the ability to draft up indictments to present to a grand jury based on the facts within the officer’s original report. If there is any mention that the person placed their hands on the victim’s neck, it is possible and probable that the case will be upgraded to a felony offense of Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. Given the fact that it is a felony, the case will be sent to be prosecuted in felony court also known as Paulding County Superior Court, by attorneys who prosecute more serious cases.

What is Aggravated Assault Strangulation?

Georgia law states that a person commits the offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation when he or she assaults with any object, device, or instrument, which when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in strangulation. There are defenses in these cases as Georgia no longer defines what Strangulation means. The Georgia statute used to say that “Strangulation” is defined as impeding the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck of such person or by obstructing the nose and mouth of such person. Without that definition on the books anymore, it is very fact specific on whether or not the State can actually prove strangulation. In most cases, where there has been no loss of conscious, it will be difficult for the State to prove actual strangulation. Therefore, when the facts state that someone’s hands were placed on another’s neck, then arguably the person has committed a misdemeanor battery instead of the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

What does it mean for my Paulding County criminal case if I am now facing Aggravated Assault by Strangulation?

Having the case upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation can lead to much harsher sentence if you are found guilty.  The crime itself carries 1-20 years in prison, which can be stacked with the other crimes originally charged and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are charged with Aggravated Assault by Strangulation in Paulding County, you will be prosecuted by the Paulding County District Attorney’s office in Paulding County Superior Court and the stakes are certainly higher. Given the harsher penalties associated with violent felonies, it is imperative to seek a Paulding criminal defense attorney early on who can evaluate the case and immediately begin building the defense. Being proactive by speaking to a lawyer immediately after an arrest is the best way to ensure a strong defense when your case goes to court. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION about your Aggravated Assault by Strangulation case at 404-581-0999.

Cruelty to Children in Douglas County

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

In Georgia, the offense of cruelty to children is broken down into three different degrees, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse. Because of the consequences of such a serious crime, it is vitally important to understand the offense, as well as your individual rights when dealing with such allegations.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-70, first-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, under the age of eighteen, willfully deprives the child of necessaries to the extent that the child’s well-being is jeopardized. Additionally, conduct in which such person causes a minor child cruel or excessive physical or mental pain is considered first-degree child cruelty.

Second-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, with criminal negligence, causes a child, under the age of eighteen, cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. Additionally, third-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a minor child acts in one of the following ways:

  • Such person acts as the primary aggressor and intentionally allows a minor child to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or
  • Such person, who is acting as the primary aggressor, knows that the minor child is present or knows that the child can either hear or see the act, commits the act of forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery.

Penalties

The penalty for a conviction of first-degree cruelty to children in Douglas County, Georgia is a prison sentence between 5-20 years. For second-degree cruelty to children, the prison term is anywhere between 1-10 years. Alternatively, if a person is convicted of third-degree cruelty to children, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty, depending on his/her past criminal history. If the person has never been convicted of third-degree cruelty to children or has only been convicted once in the past, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty. However, if such person has been convicted in the past more than twice for the same offense then he/she will be sentenced to a felony prison term between 1-3 years and/or a fine of no less than $1,000, but no more than $5,000.

Defenses

Due to the severity of the punishment, as well as the collateral consequences for a charge of cruelty to children, it is vitally important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations and who also understands all the possible defenses to such a charge. Some defenses to cruelty to children include, but are not limited to:

  • Accident, if it did not result from the person’s recklessness or criminal negligence;
  • Parent’s right to discipline, if reasonable; and
  • Actual innocence or false allegations.

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of cruelty to children, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge.  Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for cruelty to children in Douglas County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Cobb County Immunity Motions in Felony Domestic Violence Cases

If a person is charged in Cobb County with a felony Domestic Violence charge, that person has the right to claim self-defense. Not only can the person claim self-defense at trial, but the person also has the right to file what is called an immunity motion under O.C.G.A. § 16-3-24.2.   

This is a legal motion made pre-trial, whereby a person can assert that their self-defense claim is so strong that the Court cannot allow the prosecutor to continue with the case. Once the motion is filed, the Court must hear and rule on the motion prior to trial.  

In an immunity motion the burden is on the defense to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that they should win on the self-defense theory. Once the defense has raised the self-defense claim, the State then has the burden of disproving the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will hear testimony, consider evidence, and make a ruling. Two outcomes can occur:  

  1. If the Court finds that the defense presented sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and persuaded the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will grant the motion and dismiss the case.  
  2. If the Court finds that the defense did not present sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and did not persuade the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will deny the motion and the case will proceed to trial. 

The advantage to filing this type of motion is that it can protect a person who is charged with felony domestic violence from the risk of uncertainty of going to trial. If the motion is not successful, the person charged, still has every right to fight the charges at trial. These motions can be very beneficial, in the right case, for the person charged with felony domestic violence.  

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a felony domestic violence charge, in Cobb county, 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.  

 

Cobb County – Aggravated Assault by Strangulation

We see it happening more and more often in Cobb County: Battery-Family Violence charges being upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. This means that the person originally arrested for a misdemeanor, can now be facing not only the misdemeanor of Battery-Family Violence, but also the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

Why was my Battery Family Violence case transferred to the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office?

Officers initially make the arrest decision, but prosecutors have the ability to draft up indictments to present to a grand jury based on the facts within the officer’s original report. If there is any mention that the person placed their hands on the victim’s neck, it is possible and probable that the case will be upgraded to a felony offense of Aggravated Assault-Strangulation. Given the fact that it is a felony, the case will be sent to be prosecuted in felony court also known as Cobb County Superior Court, by attorneys who prosecute more serious cases.

What is Aggravated Assault Strangulation?

Georgia law states that a person commits the offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation when he or she assaults with any object, device, or instrument, which when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in strangulation. There are defenses in these cases as Georgia no longer defines what Strangulation means. The Georgia statute used to say that “Strangulation” is defined as impeding the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck of such person or by obstructing the nose and mouth of such person. Without that definition on the books anymore, it is very fact specific on whether or not the State can actually prove strangulation. In most cases, where there has been no loss of conscious, it will be difficult for the State to prove actual strangulation. Therefore, when the facts state that someone’s hands were placed on another’s neck, then arguably the person has committed a misdemeanor battery instead of the serious felony offense of Aggravated Assault by Strangulation.

What does it mean for my Cobb County criminal case if I am now facing Aggravated Assault by Strangulation?

Having the case upgraded to Aggravated Assault-Strangulation can lead to much harsher sentence if you are found guilty.  The crime itself carries 1-20 years in prison, which can be stacked with the other crimes originally charged and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are charged with Aggravated Assault by Strangulation in Cobb County, you will be prosecuted by the Cobb County District Attorney’s office in Cobb County Superior Court and the stakes are certainly higher. Given the harsher penalties associated with violent felonies, it is imperative to seek a Marietta criminal defense attorney early on who can evaluate the case and immediately begin building the defense. Being proactive by speaking to a lawyer immediately after an arrest is the best way to ensure a strong defense when your case goes to court. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION about your Aggravated Assault by Strangulation case at 404-581-0999

Cruelty to Children in Coweta County

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

In Georgia, the offense of cruelty to children is broken down into three different degrees, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse. Because of the consequences of such a serious crime, it is vitally important to understand the offense, as well as your individual rights when dealing with such allegations.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-70, first-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, under the age of eighteen, willfully deprives the child of necessaries to the extent that the child’s well-being is jeopardized. Additionally, conduct in which such person causes a minor child cruel or excessive physical or mental pain is considered first-degree child cruelty.

Second-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, with criminal negligence, causes a child, under the age of eighteen, cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. Additionally, third-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a minor child acts in one of the following ways:

  • Such person acts as the primary aggressor and intentionally allows a minor child to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or
  • Such person, who is acting as the primary aggressor, knows that the minor child is present or knows that the child can either hear or see the act, commits the act of forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery.

Penalties

The penalty for a conviction of first-degree cruelty to children in Coweta County, Georgia is a prison sentence between 5-20 years. For second-degree cruelty to children, the prison term is anywhere between 1-10 years. Alternatively, if a person is convicted of third-degree cruelty to children, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty, depending on his/her past criminal history. If the person has never been convicted of third-degree cruelty to children or has only been convicted once in the past, he/she may be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody, which is the sentence for a misdemeanor. However, if the accused has been convicted in the past more than twice for the same offense then he/she will be sentenced to a felony prison term between 1-3 years and/or a fine of no less than $1,000, but no more than $5,000.

Defenses

Due to the severity of the punishment, as well as the collateral consequences for a charge of cruelty to children, it is vitally important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations and who also understands all the possible defenses to such a charge. Some defenses to cruelty to children include, but are not limited to:

  • Accident, if it did not result from the person’s recklessness or criminal negligence;
  • Parent’s right to discipline, if reasonable; and
  • Actual innocence or false allegations.

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of cruelty to children, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge.  Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for cruelty to children in Coweta County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.