Georgia Criminal Law – Burglary and Home Invasion

Every state has enacted laws prohibiting the entering the home of another without permission of the occupant. This article serves to explore Georgia specific laws regarding this conduct and the penalties if convicted.

Burglary – The Offense

O.C.G.A § 16-7-1, a person commits the offense of burglary in the first degree when, “without authority and with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein, he or she enters or remains within an occupied, unoccupied, or vacant dwelling house of another or any building, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, aircraft, or other such structure designed for use as the dwelling of another.”

A person commits the offense of burglary in the second degree when, without authority and with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein, he or she enters or remains within an occupied, unoccupied, or vacant building, structure, railroad car, watercraft, or aircraft.

“Dwelling” is defined as any building, structure, or portion thereof which is designed or intended for occupancy for residential use. Burglary is a specific-intent crime; the state must prove that the defendant intended to commit a felony after making an unauthorized entry. Dillard v. State, 323 Ga.App. 333 (2013). Furthermore, the offense of burglary does not require proof that defendant’s entry into victim’s apartment was forced; rather, all that is required is finding that the defendant entered or remained in apartment without victim’s authority, with intent to commit felony or theft therein. Dupree v. State, 303 Ga. 885 (2018).

Burglary – The Punishment

A person who commits the offense of burglary in the first degree shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years. Upon the second conviction for burglary in the first degree, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two nor more than 20 years. Upon the third and all subsequent convictions for burglary in the first degree, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than 25 years.

A person who commits the offense of burglary in the second degree shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years. Upon the second and all subsequent convictions for burglary in the second degree, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than eight years.

Home Invasion – The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 16-7-5 creates a separate criminal offense of home invasion in the first degree when a person, “without authority and with intent to commit a forcible felony therein and while in possession of a deadly weapon or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury, he or she enters the dwelling house of another while such dwelling house is occupied by any person with authority to be present therein.”

A person commits the offense of home invasion in the second degree when, without authority and with intent to commit a forcible misdemeanor therein and while in possession of a deadly weapon or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury, he or she enters the dwelling house of another while such dwelling house is occupied by any person with authority to be present therein.

As we can see, the difference between first degree home invasion and second degree home invasion relates to intent, where the former requires proof of intent to commit a felony and the latter requires proof of intent to commit a misdemeanor.

Home Invasion – The Punishment

A person convicted of the offense of home invasion in the first degree shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for life or imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than 20 years and by a fine of not more than $100,000.00. A person convicted of the offense of home invasion in the second degree shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than 20 years and by a fine of not more than $100,000.00.

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If you or a loved one are facing criminal prosecution, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has specialized knowledge and experience in handling criminal cases in various jurisdictions across Georgia.

Georgia Criminal Law – Aggravated Assault Basics

Aggravated assault is a very serious and frequently charged criminal offense. This article serves to explore the nature of the charge and the possible punishment if convicted.

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21, a person commits the offense of aggravated assault when they:

  1. Commit an “assault” on a victim; and
  2. The assault was aggravated by:
    1. An intention to murder, rape, or to rob;
    1. Use of a deadly weapon or with any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury;
    1. Use of any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in strangulation; or
    1. The person discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle toward a person or persons without legal justification.

Put differently, aggravated assault has two essential elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that an assault was committed on the victim and (2) that it was aggravated by (a) an intention to murder, to rape, or to rob or (b) use of a deadly weapon.  Durden v. State, 327 Ga.App. 173, (2014). An underlying simple assault is required to be proven.

O.C.G.A. § 16-5-20 states that a person commits the offense of simple assault when he or she either:

  1. Attempts to commit a violent injury to the person of another; or
  2. Commits an act which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.

As we can see, this basic assault statute combined with any of the above statutory aggravators can result in a felony conviction for aggravated assault.

It is important to note proof of actual injury is not required. The law punishes even the mere possibility that serious injury would result from the use of deadly weapon, object, device, or instrument. The “deadly” nature or character of a weapon is determined by the jury.  These instruments, devices, or objects can include, but are not limited to: hands and feet, knives, axes, hatchets, and other sharp instruments, blunt instruments such as baseball bats, clubs, or irons, fires, motor vehicles, pepper spray, bottles, books, pens, phones, sticks, use of an animal, and even furniture.

Punishment

The range in punishment depends on the status of the alleged victim. Generally, a person convicted of aggravated assault may be sentenced to prison for 1 to 20 years. If the alleged victim is a peace officer, correctional officer, officer of the court, or emergency health worker, the penalty ranges from 5 to 20 years of imprisonment. If the victim is 65 years of age or older, the penalty ranges from 3 to 20 years imprisonment. If the aggravated assault is committed in a public transit vehicle or station, the punishment ranges from 3 to 20 years. If an aggravated assault is committed against a student, teacher, or school personnel within a school safety zone, the penalty ranges from 5 to 20 years imprisonment. If the aggravated assault is committed with the intent to rape a child under age of 14, the penalty ranges from 25 to 50 years imprisonment. These prison sentences may also include fines, terms of probation, and restitution to the alleged victim.

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Aggravated assault is a serious criminal offense.  If you or a loved one has been charged with aggravated assault, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has successfully handled aggravated assault cases resulting in dismissals, reductions, and jury trials in multiple jurisdictions across Georgia.

Atlanta Georgia Criminal Law – Theft of Services

In Georgia, it is against the law to avoid payment of services, entertainment, accommodations, or the use of personal property. This is known as Theft of Services, found at O.C.G.A.  § 16-8-5.

Examples of Theft of Services include utilizing a cleaning or lawn care company, and then not paying. Other service examples could be legal services, hair styling services, or accounting services. Simply put, it is against the law to use someone’s services and then avoid payment. Theft of services in Georgia also includes theft of utility services like water and electricity. In that situation, you can be charged with numerous crimes for tampering with electric or water meters.

  In order for Theft of Services to be a criminal issue, thus potentially involving loss of liberty and a criminal history, the State must prove that the avoidance of payment was done by deception and with the intent to avoid the payment. Without deception and criminal intent, theft of services is more accurately defined as a civil or monetary legal issue, versus a criminal one. If the State is unable to prove deception or criminal intent to avoid the payment, there is a strong defense case for an acquittal. This is because civil courts are filled with people not paying other people back. In most instances, it is a contract issue. However, if there is the criminal intent to avoid payment and done so deceptively, the prosecuting attorney will bring the case to court.

So what is deception? Deception is defined in Georgia law for purposes of Theft of Services as providing knowingly false information to another with the intention to avoid payment. For example, Georgia law has held deception to be found when the suspect used a forged check to pay for lawn mower repair. In that situation, the State proved deception via the falsifying check as well as intention to avoid payment as the person never returned to make the payment.

What is the Punishment for Theft in Georgia?

  • If Theft of Services amount is:
    •  Less than $1,500: the maximum punishment is 12 months in jail and/or $1,000.
    • $1,500.01 – $5,000: 1 to 5 years imprisonment
    • $5,000.01 – $24,999.99: 1 to 10 years imprisonment
    • $25,000 or more: 2 to 20 years imprisonment

Note that there is increased punishment if the theft involved a fiduciary in breach of a fiduciary obligation. 

                So long as the amount of theft is less than $25,000, the trial court actually has discretion to treat it as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors, if convicted, carry less harsh sentences. Misdemeanors also do not require the forfeiture of civil rights (i.e. to carry a firearm or sit on a jury).

                If you or a loved one has been arrested for Theft of Services, or any type of Theft case in Georgia, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Macon-Bibb County

If you have been charged with a crime in Bibb County, then you have come to the right place.  We specialize in criminal defense and stand ready to defend you.  The first question that needs to be answered is where your case will be heard.  In Bibb County, all the various courts are housed within the judicial center located at 601 Mulberry St., Macon, Georgia 31201.  Once you arrive at the judicial center, you will need to find your particular court and courtroom.  If you were arrested or cited within the city limits of Macon, then your case may begin in the Macon-Bibb County Municipal Court.  The municipal court only hears low-level offenses including traffic violations, DUIs, and various other misdemeanors and city ordinance violations.  In municipal court, you can have a bench trial where the judge hears the evidence and makes a ruling, but you cannot have a jury trial wherein your peers would decide your fate.  Therefore, we only resolve a case in municipal court if we can get a better resolution than we otherwise would in state court.  If we cannot get a favorable result in municipal court, then we request a jury trial which requires the case to be transferred to state court.  You can find more info about the municipal court on their website: https://www.maconbibb.us/municipal-court/.

As mentioned above, any state law crime that originates in municipal court can be transferred to Bibb County State Court by requesting a jury trial, but more serious misdemeanors will go straight to state court from the outset.  Once your case is in state court, we continue our negotiations with the Bibb County Solicitor-General’s Office which prosecutes cases in state court.  If we are unable to obtain a resolution you find acceptable, then we maintain our demand for a jury trial and present your case to a six-person jury of your peers from Bibb County.  You can find more info about the solicitor-general and state court on their respective websites: https://www.maconbibb.us/solicitor/ and https://www.maconbibb.us/state-court/.

All felonies will be ultimately be heard in the Bibb County Superior Court, but initial appearances, bond hearings, and preliminary hearings are held in the Bibb County Magistrate Court (and sometimes these appearances are held at the jail with a magistrate judge presiding).  If the magistrate judge finds sufficient evidence to support your charges, then your case proceeds to the Bibb County Superior Court where we begin negotiations with the Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.  If we are unable to obtain a resolution you find acceptable, then we maintain our demand for a jury trial and present your case to a twelve-person jury of your peers from Bibb County.  You can find more info about the district attorney, magistrate court, and superior court on their respective websites:  https://macondistrictattorney.org,   https://www.maconbibb.us/civil-court/,   and https://www.maconbibb.us/superior-court/.

If you have been charged with a crime in Macon-Bibb County, call us today at 404-581-0999 to ensure you get the best outcome possible.

Georgia Criminal Law – Theft by Conversion, or Embezzlement

A common element across all theft crimes is the act of taking, obtaining, converting, or appropriating the property of another. But, absent this similarity, several distinct theft crimes exist under the large umbrella of theft crimes generally, such as: theft by taking, theft by deception, fraud, and theft by shoplifting, robbery, and theft by conversion. This aims to explain the crime of theft by conversion (commonly referred to as “embezzlement”), the punishment, and defenses.

The Offense

Theft by conversion occurs when the defendant, after lawfully receiving funds from another under an agreement to make a specified application of them, knowingly puts the money to his own use in violation of the agreement. O.C.G.A. § 16-8-4(a).

The statute also contains a provision applying to government workers and officers of financial institutions, “[w]hen, under subsection (a) of this Code section, an officer or employee of a government or of a financial institution fails to pay on an account, upon lawful demand, from the funds or property of another held by him, he is presumed to have intended to convert the funds or property to his own use.” O.C.G.A. § 16-8-4(b). This section ensures government and banking actors will act wisely with money entrusted to them by the public.

The stated purpose of the theft by conversion statute is to punish and deter fraudulent conversion, not mere breaches of contract or broken promises. That being said, the terms of the agreement are critical in determining whether an accused converted funds of another from a directed purpose to his own use. 

What separates theft by conversion from other theft crimes is that in theft by conversion the person accused comes into possession of the property lawfully, whereas in other theft crimes, the person accused obtains property secretly and unlawfully. In theft by conversion there is some form of entrustment.

Case Examples

Evidence that defendant did not return nor continue making rental payments on two televisions was sufficient to support determination that defendant converted televisions to her own use; defendant violated rental agreements’ obligations to make payments or return televisions to rental center, defendant moved televisions to another address without center’s knowledge or consent in violation of agreements, and center’s owner testified that each television had a retail market value of $649.87.  Williams v. State, 328 Ga.App. 898 (2014).

Evidence that defendant failed to return rented wood chipper to store, lied to store regarding his address and phone number, and moved to another country and assumed an alias after store management swore out a warrant for his arrest was sufficient to establish that defendant acted with criminal intent, as required to support conviction for theft by conversion. Terrell v. State, 275 Ga.App. 501 (2005).

Evidence was insufficient to support conviction for theft by conversion, in prosecution arising out of incident in which customer left van with defendant, a mechanic, for repair and van was not returned; there was no evidence that mechanic drove the van, that he cannibalized it for spare parts, or that he used it for any other purposes, except to perform work upon it, there was no evidence that defendant did anything to conceal the whereabouts of the van from the customer or keep her from possessing it, there was no evidence that defendant had anything to do with eventual disposal of van, and defendant did not attempt to flee. Thomas v. State, 308 Ga.App. 331 (2011).

Interestingly, the theft by conversion statute has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Georgia. In Sherrod v. State, 280 Ga. 275 (2006), the Court held the mandatory presumption contained in statute setting forth offense of theft by conversion of leased property that proof that demand letter was properly sent to lessee and that property was not returned within five days established guilt of offense, was unconstitutional, as it subverted presumption of innocence accorded to accused persons and invaded truth-finding task assigned solely to fact-finder.  

Punishment

Whether theft by conversion will be punished as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of the money or property stolen. If the value is less than $500, the offense will be charged as a misdemeanor. If the value exceeds $500, the offense will be charged as a felony. Misdemeanor theft by conversion is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, or both. Felony theft by conversion is punishable by no less than one year in prison and no more than ten years imprisonment. In addition to imprisonment and fines, the court may also impose restitution as part of the sentence.

If the property is not returned, the court will use the following guidelines to assess the value of the stolen goods:

  • The market value of the property, determined by obtaining a quote from a supplier who sells property of similar character and value (the higher value of the date the conversion occurred versus the value on the date of trial)
  • Rental charges; and
  • Interest on unpaid balances at the legal rates until the debtor pays the converted funds

Defenses

  • No intent: the State has to prove the accused person converted the property for their own use knowingly and with fraudulent intent. If there is not such intent, the person cannot be convicted.
  • Consent: if the property owner gave the accused person permission to convert the property for the accused person’s own use, evidence of consent (email, text, letter) would provide strong support for the defense.
  • The property was used as intended: evidence indicating the property was used in a way contemplated by the agreement would also strongly aid the defense of a theft by conversion charge. There must be an action or statement showing the person accused intended to claim or use the property as their own.
  • Value: the State must prove value at trial. If the weight of the evidence attempting to prove value, then an essential element of the charge has not been met, and the accused person cannot be convicted.
  • Returning the property is not a defense: the fact an embezzler settled their debt or default does not destroy the criminality of the act. McCoy v. State, 15 Ga. 205 (1854).

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with theft by conversion, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 for a free case evaluation. You’ll a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf.

Elder Abuse in Cobb County – Georgia Criminal Attorney

If you are charged with Elder Abuse in Cobb County, it is imperative that you contact an attorney immediately. Do not talk to the police or answer any questions without an attorney.

The Cobb County District Attorney’s office has a specialized unit that prosecutes Elder Abuse cases.

What is Elder Abuse?

An elder is a person 65 or older. O.C.G.A. 16-5-100(4)

There are several different ways you can be charged with Elder Abuse in Cobb County.

  1. Neglect – When guardian or other person supervising welfare of having immediate charge, control, or custody willfully deprives a disabled adult, elder person, or resident of health care, shelter, or necessary sustenance to the extent that the health of well-being of such person is jeopardized. O.C.G.A. 16-5-101(a)
  2. Exploit – Any person who knowingly and willfully exploits, willfully inflicts physical pain or injury, sexual abuse, mental anguish, or unreasonable confinement; or willfully deprives of essential a disabled adult, elder person, or resident. O.C.G.A. 16-5-102(a)
  3. Intimidate – Any person who threatens, intimidates, or attempts to intimidate a disabled adult, elder person or resident who is the subject of a report made pursuant to Chapter 5 of Title 30 or Article 4 of Chapter 8 of Title 31, or any other person cooperating with an investigation conduct pursuant to this section.
  4. Obstruct – Any person who willfully and knowingly obstructs or in any way impedes an investigation conducted pursuant to 5 of Title 30 or Article 4 of Chapter 8 at Title 31.

So what about if you work with the person charged with elder abuse? IF you are an owner, officer, administrator, board member, employee, or agent of a long term care facility then you are not liable for the actions of another unless you knew or were willful to the abuse, neglect, or exploitation. O.C.G.A. 16-5-103.

If you are charged with Elder Abuse in Cobb County, please do the following:

  1. Call an attorney who can handle an Elder Abuse case.
  2. Do not talk to the police without an attorney present.
  3. Do not talk to any of the witnesses or victim. Let you attorney handle any interviews.
  4. Do not in anyway obstruct or impede the police investigation.
  5. Make a list of any witnesses who may help your case and turn that list over to your attorney.

The punishment for Elder Abuse in Cobb County by either Neglect or Exploitation is 1 to 20 years in the Georgia prison system and up to a $ 50,000 fine. O.C.G.A. 16-5-101(d); 16-5-102(a).

The punishment for Elder Abuse in Cobb County by either Intimidation or Obstruction is a high and aggravated misdemeanor. O.C.G.A. 16-5-102(b)(c)

If you are charged with Elder Abuse in Cobb County, it is imperative that you get an attorney immediately. We will be glad to sit down with you anytime for a free consultation. Call our office 24/7 at 404-581-0999.

Kidnapping in Georgia – Criminal Defense Attorney

By: Mary Agramonte

Georgia law states that kidnapping occurs when someone abducts or steals away another person without lawful authority, and holds such person against their will. This is the more obvious way someone can be arrested and charged with Kidnapping. You may be surprised, however, that actions significantly less than actually stealing someone away will also constitute Kidnapping in Georgia. This is because Georgia law criminalizes ANY slight movement of another person. There is no minimum requirement for distance needed to constitute Kidnapping. This means a kidnapping can even occur when you move someone from room to room in their own house, or even when a person is moved by only a few inches.

            Compare these two scenarios.  If you push someone and they fall to the side, you have been responsible for a SLIGHT movement of another person. However, Georgia law will treat this action as “merely incidental” to the commission of a battery and this would NOT be kidnapping in Georgia.  Compare that movement to the following scenario: someone enters into the back of a restaurant to steal from a safe, and an employee stands in front of the safe to guard it. If you place your hands on them and move them to the side to gain access to the safe, then the crime of Kidnapping has occurred. This happens even if you gently move them two inches to the side to gain access to the safe. The difference lies within the Kidnapping statute, codified at O.C.G.A. § 16-5-40. A slight movement of another person is NOT merely incidental to commission of another crime, and thus constitutes Kidnapping if the movement:

1) is made to conceal or isolate the victim;

2) makes commission of another crime substantially easier;

3) lessens risk of detection; or

4) is for the purpose of avoiding detection.

What is the sentence for Kidnapping in Georgia?

            Kidnapping is one of the most serious crimes to be charged with in Georgia. Not only is it a felony offense, if there is a conviction, the sentence typically involves many years in prison. If someone is convicted of Kidnapping (of someone 14 years or older), the sentence is 10-20 years in prison. If the conviction is for Kidnapping and involves someone less than 14 years old, it is sentence of 25 years to life. The sentence is much worse if there is allegations of an injury or ransom involved.

Kidnapping with Injury

            One of the more troubling aspects of Georgia law as it relates to Kidnapping is when it involves an injury. If the person is convicted of Kidnapping with Injury, it is a mandatory life or death sentence. The injury does not have to be serious: scratches or bruises are sufficient. This means the court lacks all discretion to give a shorter sentence even for minimal injuries.Due to the mandatory life in prison sentence of Kidnapping with Injury conviction, it is imperative to have a skilled criminal defense team to defend against the charges at the onset of arrest.

Kidnapping for Ransom

            Georgia law treats Kidnapping for Ransom the same as it does Kidnapping with Injury. The sentence in this situation is mandatory life in prison, or death, if the person is convicted.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for the crime of Kidnapping in Georgia, it is imperative to have a team of criminal defense attorneys on your side to put together a robust defense at the onset of the arrest. While stakes are extremely high in these cases, W. Scott Smith has successfully defended numerous Kidnapping cases in Georgia. For a FREE CONSULTATION, call us today at 404-581-0999.

Georgia Criminal Law – Drug Weight

In Georgia, there are many different kinds of drug charges that differ in a multitude of things such as the penalty. A misdemeanor drug charge can result in up to a $1000 fine excluding surcharges and up to one year in jail. A felony drug charge can result in 1 to 15 years, and even up to 30 years or life in prison depending on the charge and/or quantity of drugs. 

The quantity of drugs you’re charged with makes an enormous difference in the penalty and how the case proceeds. For example, you can be charged with trafficking marijuana if you possess more than 10 pounds of marijuana. If you possess somewhere between 10 pounds and 2,000 pounds, the minimum sentence is 5 years. If you possess somewhere between 2,000 pounds and 10,000 pounds, the minimum sentence is 7 years. And lastly, if you possess 10,000 pounds or more, the minimum sentence is 15 years. Therefore, the amount/weight of drugs you are found to possess is crucial to the defense of your case.

A multitude of things can work against you and your case. One very important factor can be the excess water weight found in drugs. Excess water can be found in drugs such as cannabis and can lose around two thirds of its weight when dried out. This factor can negatively impact your Georgia case because the excess water weight can push the weight from a non-trafficking amount to a trafficking amount or from a small drug trafficking charge to a higher charge. 

Another factor that can work against your case is the scale used to measure the drugs. I’ve had the opportunity to observe a scale used at the jail. A vital thing to remember is that a large portion of large scales are not correctly calibrated. This is important for your defense because you can attack the validity of the scale to work in favor of your case. Further, there can be times where the scale is not properly cleaned, leaving residue from other cases on the scale, which can potentially increase the amount of drugs you are charged with. 

Although there can be a lot of factors working against you in a simple drug charge and/or a drug trafficking charge, there are a lot of defense strategies that can reduce the sentence or even get your case dismissed. For example, we can file a motion under the authority of Williams v. State Ga. 749, 312 S.E.2d 40 (1983) to inspect and examine everything that was found and hire our own expert to examine the contents (sample of our motion down below). 

Should you have a trafficking cocaine or trafficking drugs case please inquire of your legal counsel about the weight of the marijuana or weight of the cocaine.  If you have a drug trafficking warrant or a loved one in custody on a drug trafficking charge and they are unrepresented in Fulton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Gwinnett County, Cherokee County, or Forsyth County please call us.

The experienced lawyers at our PeachStateLawyer firm have been winning serious and big drug cases for over twenty years. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation to see how we can help you win your case. 

Georgia Probation Bond Attorney

As the ever-changing circumstances of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to be reported, Chief Justice Harold Melton of the Supreme Court of Georgia declared a statewide judicial emergency due to the spread of the coronavirus throughout Georgia “and the potential infection of those who work in or are required to appear in our courts.”

The order says courts should prioritize matters such as cases “where an immediate liberty or safety concern is present requiring the attention of the court as soon as the court is available.”  We take this to mean bond hearings and first appearance hearings will go on and our firm will be present for these hearings. 

During times like this, probation violation hearings become complicated. Assuming you cannot hire a lawyer, the first thing you can do is call your probation officer and ask them to sign for a “consent to a probation bond”, which is typically rare, but we have been successful of late in Fulton, Cobb and Clayton counties in getting in touch with our client’s probation officers.  Then the challenge is to speak to a Judge and prosecutor to present a consent order. We have recently been successful in doing this and getting a signature bond for one of our clients in Fulton and Cobb counties. In one instance we were able to get a Cobb County Probation Officer to withdraw the warrants where we were able to show proof client paid his outstanding fees.  We can also file a motion for a probation bond. (See a sample of our motion for probation bond below).  Although therese are rare if the violation is not serious Judges are more likely to grant a probation bond than prior to the emergency we currently find ourselves in.

Although courts are closed for non-essential hearings, hearings on probation bond are still taking place. I can assure you that our firm remains dedicated to our founding principles of client service, respect, and integrity. We are still working hard to fight for your case and will continue to do so, despite these times. Know that you can count of the same level of quality delivered by the professionals you know and trust, as you always have.  Should you have a probation revocation warrant or a loved one in custody on a probation revocation in Fulton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Gwinnett County, Cherokee County, or Forsyth County please call us today at 404-581-0999.

Interference with Custody – Georgia Criminal Attorney

By: Mary Agramonte

            In most divorce and child custody cases, the Judge will issue an order or decree for parents to abide by as it relates to the parenting time, visitation, and responsibilities for each parent. When one parent fails to follow the order, a family law case can quickly turn criminal. In Georgia, the crime is known as Interference with Custody and is codified at O.C.G.A. § 16–5–45. A criminal arrest and prosecution can occur when one parent keeps the child past the visitation time that was ordered in the plan.

Under O.C.G.A. § 16–5–45, a person can be charged with Interference with Custody when they knowingly or recklessly take or entice the child away from the individual who has lawful custody. In this scenario, a felony Kidnapping charge can also occur. A person commits crime of kidnapping when they steal away another person without lawful authority to do so.

            However, the more common way Georgia parents find themselves being arrested for Interference of Custody is where one parent intentionally retains possession of he child past the lawful visitation time disclosed in the order. This can even happen when the parent keeps the child an extra day past their mandated week or day of visitation.

            A third way a person can be charge with Interference with Custody occurs when he or she harbors a child who has run away. This means you can be charged under this statute even if you are not the parent. If a child runs away from home and stays at your house, you can be charged for harboring the run away and be subject to criminal penalties.

The Interference with Custody statute in Georgia applies to all children under the age of 17, or children under age of 18 if they are alleged to be a ‘dependent child or child in need of services.’

What is the punishment for Interference with Custody in Georgia?

On a first conviction, the case is treated as a misdemeanor, with the penalties to include one to five months in jail, and/or a fine between $200 and $500. On a second conviction, the case is still treated as a misdemeanor but will include a minimum three months in jail, up to 12 months, as well as a higher fine in the amount of at least $400.00. The stakes get much higher on a third conviction of Interference of Custody. In this instance, the person accused of Interfering with Custody will be charged with a Felony offense. Felonies are treated more harshly in the justice system, and Judges can sentence up to five years to serve on a third conviction.

Interstate Inference with Custody has Increased Penalties

A person commits the offense of Interstate Interference of Custody when without lawful authority to do so the person knowingly or recklessly takes or entices any minor away from the individual who has lawful custody of such minor, and in so doing brings the minor into Georgia or removes the minor  from Georgia. This can apply in child custody issues where the person keeps the child longer than the period of lawful visitation.  Interstate Interference of Custody is a felony in Georgia with a punishment, if convicted of the crime, of 1 to 5 years imprisonment.

Defenses to Interference with Custody include challenging the venue where the case is brought, meaning that jurisdiction has to be the correct county to be able to prosecute the person accused of the crime. For example, when a parent lawfully removes child from state, but unlawfully retains custody out of state, the county of custodial parent, would be venue of any criminal prosecution. Oftentimes the police get involved where the child is taken, and the defense can lie in what county brings the charges. Additionally, the substance of the child custody order or decree can offer defenses. As in all cases, each and every element of the statute has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to be convicted of any crime.

The purpose of the Georgia law criminalizing interference with custody is to protect custody interests of child’s lawful custodian from interference by another person. Child custody and divorce cases are not the only types of cases where the person can be charged under this statute. A person can be charged under this statute in child abduction scenarios, as well as situations where the child is in an unlawful physical relationship with an older person.

If you or a loved one has been charged with Interference of Custody, or have any questions about the crime in Georgia, call W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.