Can I claim self-defense?

In Georgia, pursuant to O.C.G.A § 16-3-21, a person is justified in using force to defend themselves or others when a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend themselves or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force. This means that a person in Georgia may be justified in an action that would otherwise be a crime if they can make out a case to the court that they were defending themselves or another person.

If you believe that you were justified in using force and find yourself charged with a serious felony like aggravated assault, manslaughter, or murder, your attorney will petition the court for an immunity hearing, asking the court to find you immune from prosecution. At this hearing the defendant carried the burden to show the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they were justified in their actions because they reasonably believed that they were at risk of receiving a serious or life threatening injury if they did not act.

In order to make this showing to the court the defendant mut show several things:

  • The defendant was not the initial aggressor. If you were the initial aggressor in an argument, meaning that you started a fight or an altercation, you are not permitted to claim self-defense.
  • The defendant was not engaged in mutual combat with the victim. If you and the victim agreed (by words or actions) to engage in a fight, you are not permitted to claim self-defense. However, if you remove yourself from the fight, and communicate this to the other person, and then the other person comes after you, you may now be entitled to claim self-defense.
  • The force used by the defendant was not unreasonable. The amount of force used to defend yourself must be reasonable based upon the amount of force used against you. For example, if someone says “I’m going to slap you” it is not reasonable to shoot them.

If you can show the judge that you were in fact justified in defending yourself, the case will be dropped and you will be immune from prosecution. It is very important that you have a lawyer representing you who can help you make out your case to the court. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we have handled immunity motions like this is Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Newton, Forsyth, and many other counties. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

How do I get out of Clayton County Jail?

I’ve Been Arrested…

You are in handcuffs and headed to the Clayton County Jail. You want to get out as soon as possible. Your loved ones are in a panic to find a lawyer to help get a bond set. The Clayton County jail is not a good place to be.

What do I do?

First, do not make any statements to the police while you are being transported to the Clayton County Jail.

Second, do not make any statements about the facts of your case to anyone at the Clayton County Jail. This is not the time to plead your innocence. Your sole focus should be on getting out on bond.

Do NOT talk on the jail phones about the case. All calls at the Clayton County jail are being recorded. Just focus on getting someone to help get you out of jail.

You will need to get paperwork filed with the DA’s office, on a serious felony, for them to pull the file and consider a consent bond.

When is my court date?

If you are arrested on a misdemeanor, you will go in front of a Magistrate Judge the following morning.

If you are arrested on a felony, you will go in front of a Magistrate Judge the following morning.

Your loved ones should plan on going to the Clayton County jail about 30 minutes before court starts. The jail is located at 9157 Tara Blvd, Jonesboro, Georgia 30236.

Can I get a bond?

The Clayton County Magistrate Judge is required to consider four factors when setting a bond.

  1. Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;
  2. Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;
  3. Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial;
  4. Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.

Some crimes must go before a  Clayton Superior Court judge in order to have a bond set. If you are charged with any of these specific crimes in Clayton County then the Magistrate Judge cannot set a bond at your initial court appearance. All that will happen at this appearance, is the judge will read the warrants to you and reset your case.

The crimes that are only bondable by a Superior Court judge are as follows:

  1. Treason
  2. Murder
  3. Rape
  4. Aggravated Sodomy
  5. Armed Robbery
  6. Aircraft hijacking and hijacking a motor vehicle
  7. Aggravated Child Molestation
  8. Aggravated Sexual Battery
  9. Manufacturing, distributing, delivering, dispensing, administering, or selling any controlled substance classified under Code Section 16-13-25 as Schedule 1 or under Code Section 16-13-26 as Schedule II
  10. Violating Code Section 16-13-31 or 16-13-31.1
  11. Kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault, or burglary if the person, at the time of the alleged kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault, or burglary, had been previously convicted of, was on probation or parole with respect to, or was on bail for kidnapping, arson, aggravated assault, burglary, or one or more of the offenses listed above.
  12. Aggravated Stalking

For any of these crimes that are bondable only by a Clayton County Superior Court judge, you will get a court date that will be in the Clayton County Courthouse. The Clayton County Courthouse is located at 9151 Tara Blvd, Jonesboro, Georgia 30236.

What are the types of bonds?

There are several types of bonds available for your case.

  1. Released to Pretrial Services: Clayton County will sometimes release people on their own recognizance which means that you do not have to put up any money. You will be monitored by Clayton County Pretrial Services. You will have to report to Pretrial Services until your case gets resolved in court.
  2. Cash Bond: Another option in Clayton County is to pay a cash bond. This means that you pay the entire bond yourself. The benefit to this bond is that it is refundable to you once you resolve your case.
  3. Property Bond: Another option in Clayton County is to post a property bond. In order to post a property bond, you would need to speak to the Clayton Sheriff’s office. They generally will require a warranty deed, a current tax statement showing the property’s fair market value as well as a statement showing all taxes are current. You generally need double the bond amount in equity.
  4. Bail Bondsman: The final option is to call a bonding company. You will pay between 10% – 15% of the total bond to the bonding company. The bonding company will then post the entire bond and you will be released. This 10% – 15% is non-refundable. The Clayton County jail will provide you with a list of approved bonding companies.

If you or your loved one is arrested and taken to the Clayton County jail, please contact us any time and we can assist you in helping get a bond set.

Our office is located in downtown Atlanta at 100 Peachtree Street, Suite 2060, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. Feel free to call us at 404-581-0999 anytime day or night. Also, please go to our website at

Call us anytime 24/7. We will have an attorney at your bond hearing the following morning.


Self Defense In Georgia: Immunity Hearing in Fulton County

If you are charged with a crime in Fulton County and believe you acted in self-defense, you are entitled to an immunity hearing. We will need to file an immunity motion and request a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court.

O.C.G.A. 16-3-24.2 gives you this right to an immunity hearing. At this hearing, a judge will determine if you acted in self-defense and the judge can dismiss your case.

Soon after you are arrested, start gathering information that may assist in your defense. Get contact information for any potential witness so we can interview them. Write down everything you remember about the case and why you believed you had to use force.

The Fulton County Superior Court judge has a duty to determine before trial whether a person claiming the use of threats or force in self-defense or defense of property is immune from prosecution.

You have the burden of proof at the immunity hearing in proving that you were justified in using force by a preponderance of the evidence.

If the Fulton County Superior Court judge rules against you in an immunity hearing, you can still have a jury trial and argue self-defense to the jury. It might be easier to win at trial due the burden of proof being beyond a reasonable doubt. At the immunity hearing, the burden is on the defense to prove self-defense. At trial, the burden shifts to the State to show that the defendant was not acting in self-defense.

If you are arrested for any crime in Fulton County where you believe you acted in self-defense, please call our office 24/7 at 404-581-0999. We will sit down with you and fully discuss your case and what to expect in court. There is no charge for the initial consultation.

Civil Asset Forfeiture- Gwinnett County

Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to confiscate property that they deem as having been used in criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture does not require a conviction or criminal charges being taken out.

In Georgia, civil asset forfeiture is a legal process, and it allows the government to seize your property that they claim is connected to a crime or would likely be used to commit a crime, especially a crime involving a controlled substance. The most seized property includes cash, cars, cell phones, firearms, and real estate.

If the police have seized your property in a civil asset forfeiture, you must act fast so that you do not lose what the police has taken. It is important that you hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible because there is a limited amount of time to object to the forfeiture.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a drug offense and has had their property seized, 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.

DeKalb County – Aggravated Assault by Strangulation

We see it happening more and more often in DeKalb 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 DeKalb 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 DeKalb County Superior Court, by attorneys who prosecute felony 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 DeKalb 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 DeKalb County, you will be prosecuted by the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office in DeKalb County Superior Court and the stakes are certainly higher. Given the harsher penalties associated with violent felonies, it is imperative to seek a Georgia 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 in DeKalb at 404-581-0999

Statements to the Police While in Custody

According to Miranda v. Arizona, a suspect must be given warning of their rights at the outset of the interrogation process. If a suspect states that he does not wish to speak with police, the police have a duty to halt the interrogation process.

A new ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court (State v. Burton) further affirms that the State holds the burden of proving that any statements made by a person suspected of a crime are made knowingly and voluntarily in light of a person’s right not to speak. If police ask a suspect if they want to speak and the suspect responds in an unambiguous way that they don’t, any statement that a suspect gives cannot be used against them in court. In fact, the interrogation should end immediately. Even if a suspect responds in a way that could be interpreted to be an agreement to speak, the totality of the circumstances should be examined to determine if the suspect actually knowingly and voluntarily agrees to speak with police

In the case of juvenile suspects, courts look at nine factors to determine whether a suspect knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights not to speak with police: (1) the age of the accused; (2) the education of the accused; (3) the knowledge of the accused as to both the substance of the charge . . . and the nature of his rights to consult with an attorney and remain silent; (4) whether the accused is held incommunicado or allowed to consult with relatives, friends or an attorney; (5) whether the accused was interrogated before or after formal charges had been filed; (6) the methods used in interrogation; (7) the length of interrogations; (8) whether the accused refused to voluntarily give statements on prior occasions; and (9) whether the accused has repudiated an extra judicial statement at a later date.

If you believe that you have been questioned by police after you have invoked your right not to speak, it is important that those statements are not used against you. It doesn’t matter how serious the charges, you have a right to have those statements suppressed. Contact our office today at 404-581-0999 so that we may help protect your constitutional rights.


Prior False Allegations Are Admissible in a Sex Offense Case

You are accused with child molestation or rape and your accuser has previously falsely accused another person of these horrific crimes. Can you bring up these prior false accusations in your case? The answer is yes.

The Georgia Supreme Court held in State v. Burns, that a defendant in a sexual-offense prosecution may bring up evidence that the alleged victim has previously made false accusations of sexual misconduct. This evidence is admissible to attack the credibility of the victim and show that the current charges did not occur.

In this case, James Burns was charged with aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, and incest. It was discovered that the alleged victim had made up a prior rape allegation.

The Rape Shield Statute of Georgia does not prohibit testimony of previous false allegations by a victim. This is because prior false accusations establish that the victim has a propensity to make false statements regarding sexual misconduct. The Rape Shield Statute in Georgia is designed to prohibit bringing up the victim’s past sexual conduct. But it does not protect the victim in cases where a false allegation was made.

A criminal defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to make a full defense. A defendant has the right to bring up prior false allegations where it can be shown that the allegation was indeed false. The Sixth Amendment also grants the defendant the right of confrontation. This includes the right to physically face the person who is testifying against him and the right to conduct a thorough cross-examination. A defendant is guaranteed the opportunity for effective cross-examination.

In addition, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. The defendant does not have a right to offer any testimony that is either privileged, irrelevant or excluded under the rules of evidence. However, if the defendant has evidence of a prior false allegation of the alleged victim then it is admissible in order to protect the integrity of the trial.

In State v. Burns, the Georgia Supreme Court has made a bright line rule that prior false allegations are admissible, regardless of other rules of evidence.

If you are charged with aggravated child molestation, child molestation, sexual battery, rape or any other sexual offense in Georgia, it is imperative that you aggressively defend yourself and learn everything you can about the alleged victim. If the alleged victim in your case has ever made up an allegation against any other person, you must use this information to your advantage when confronting your accuser in court.

If you are charged with any sexual offense in Georgia, please contact us at 404-581-0999

I was arrested without a warrant, and they did not bring me to court in Clayton County, 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 in Clayton County 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.

Vehicular Homicide

If you have been charged with vehicular homicide in Georgia and you were under the influence of prescription medication when you were driving you do have a unique defense available to you that many lawyers in Georgia will sometimes overlook.  For starters, Georgia law does not punish you for mistake or an accident.  Meaning, if you are prescribed prescription medicine and drive after you took prescription medication you may be excused in your conduct through excusable ignorance.  There are several factors the jury will consider, but in my experience, you have to meet several criteria to have a more robust defense.  First, you have to be taking the drugs pursuant to a lawful prescription.  Second, you will need to be within therapeutic limits – meaning taking the drug as prescribed.  It doesn’t do good if you are prescribed 5 mg of a drug and you are taking three times the amount.  Third, your doctor or pharmacist told you not to drive after taking the medication.  Similarly, if your prescription bottle displays a warning of ‘do not drive under this prescription’ then you should not drive and your defense of accident or mistake is seriously weakened.  Fourth, it should be a newer prescription.  Why is this important?  It means you are unfamiliar with the reaction your body and/or mind has when taking the prescription medicine.

As mentioned, once you have been charged with Vehicular Homicide in Georgia and you are taking a medication as prescribed and the jury believes you did so through not knowing any better you can be excused from the criminal act.  Yes, nobody likes excuses – especially a jury – but if you truly did not have the intent to become impaired or did not know the effects of consuming a prescription medicine, Georgia law protects you.  It is important to understand the difference between justification and excuse.  Justification means you intended the act and consequences that stem from the act but you were justified.  An example may be self-defense where you shot and killed someone trying to kill you.  Excuse is where it is not justified, but excusable because of what is transpiring in your mind.  A top highly experienced Georgia criminal defense lawyer can explain this to a jury.

Child Molestation in Cobb County

Child Molestation is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. If you are arrested in Cobb County  for 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 Cobb 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 Cobb 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 Cobb County Magistrate Court on the Marietta Square.  It is crucial to get an attorney retained to be at the First Appearance hearing at the Cobb County Magistrate Court.

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.

If someone is making an allegation of child molestation against you in Cobb County, it is imperative that you do not talk to the police, do not talk to the person who is accusing you of child molestation and call us. Time is of the essence to properly investigate the allegations.

I would be happy to meet with you any time for a free consultation to discuss your case, your rights and your defenses to these allegations. Our office is in downtown Atlanta. We also have a second office near the Cobb County courthouse.

Call me at 404-581-0999 and let’s schedule a time to meet and discuss your case.