Georgia Gang Statute

O.C.G.A.  § 16-15-4 is commonly referred to as the Georgia Gang Statute. But, this statute can be difficult to understand. Georgia case law is clear that it is not illegal to simply be a member of a gang. In fact, a 2019 Georgia Supreme Court case called Chavers v. State says that a defendant cannot be convicted under the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act for merely being associated with a gang that commits criminal acts; the defendant must personally commit an enumerated offense himself.  However, if the state can prove that you are a member of a gang AND commit an illegal activity to further the interests of the gang, you can be charged with violation of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism Act. A conviction under the Georgia Gang Statute could result in up to 20 years in prison.

One way the state can charge an individual with violating the Georgia Gang Statute is under section (a) of the statute. Section (a) states that it shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with a criminal street gang to conduct or participate in criminal gang activity through the commission of any offense enumerated in paragraph (1) of Code Section 16-15-3. The enumerated offenses in paragraph 1 of 16-15-3 include things like racketeering, stalking, rape, kidnapping, criminal trespass or damage to property, any crime of violence, or compromising the security of a jail or prison.

Another way the state can charge an individual under the Georgia Gang Statute is under section (c) of the statute. Section (c) states that It shall be unlawful for any person to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, through criminal gang activity or proceeds derived therefrom any interest in or control of any real or personal property of any nature, including money. This simply means that a person could violate the Georgia Gang Statute by accepting money that was gained from illegal acts by a known gang. For example, a person who is holding money that was acquired through gang activity could be prosecuted under the Georgia Gang Statute.

It is important to remember that the state must prove 4 elements in order to convict someone of violating the Georgia Gang Statute:

(1) the existence of a “criminal street gang,” defined as “any organization, association, or group of three or more persons associated in fact, whether formal or informal, which engages in criminal gang activity”;

(2) the defendant’s association with the gang;

(3) that the defendant committed any of several enumerated criminal offenses, including those involving violence, possession of a weapon, or use of a weapon; and

(4) that the crime was intended to further the interests of the gang.

If you are charged with violating the Georgia Gang Act in Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Cobb, or Rockdale counties, it is important that you hire an attorney who understands the intricacies of the statute. At W. Scott Smith, our lawyers have handled numerous gang cases and require the state to meet their burden.  If you have been charged with gang crimes, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation today.

Hiring an Attorney to Preserve Alibi Evidence

If you have been falsely charged with a crime, there may be evidence that supports an alibi defense. For example, there may be surveillance video that shows you at a location other than the crime scene at the time of the crime or your cell phone might show that you were in another state altogether.  Unfortunately, this evidence will not be accessible forever. Video surveillance is often only stored for a short period of time and cell phone records, depending on the company, are only stored for about 10-90 days.

However, if hired in time, a lawyer can send something called a spoliation letter to companies demanding that certain evidence is preserved. This letter simply alerts the company that a criminal investigation is ongoing and that the evidence should be preserved to assist your attorney in supporting your alibi. For example, if you are charged with murder in Fulton County but you were shopping at a Walmart in Cobb County at the time of the murder, it is important that we reach out to Walmart and preserve the surveillance video of you entering the store at the time of the murder. Or, if you are charged with an armed robbery in Dekalb County but your cell phone is pinging off a tower in Gwinnett County at the time of the robbery, it is important that the location data from your cell phone is preserved.

In this situation, time really is of the essence. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith recognize that swift action is required in situations like this. If you are charged with a crime and believe that evidence exists that proves your innocence, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

What is calendar call or a pretrial court date for a criminal case in Fulton County?

If you are charged with committing a crime, there are many different hearings and/or court dates that you may have to attend. One of those is, what some jurisdictions refer to as, calendar call or pretrial hearing. What is calendar call or pretrial hearing? A calendar call and/or pretrial hearing is a court date where the judge is wanting to know the status of where the case is, i.e., ready for trial or needing additional time.

What is the purpose of calendar call or pretrial? The purpose is to inform the court where the attorneys are in the case so that the court can set the case for trial. Some examples that an attorney would announce at calendar call or pretrial is that negotiations still pending, still reviewing discovery, still investigating, still missing discovery from the prosecutors, still waiting on medical documents or reports, still waiting on testing etc. Generally, nothing of significance happens at this court date unless you plan to enter a plea and close your case out. Some counties have calendar call or pretrial a week or two after arraignment. Typically, the scheduling for calendar call or pretrial is dependent on the county you have a case in and the judge you are in front of. Some counties and judges set calendar call or pretrial a month or two out.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime and has a pending case in Fulton County, having a lawyer help you through the process can ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

I am a student charged with stalking on Georgia Tech’s campus. What should I expect?

If you are a student on Georgia Tech’s campus and charged with stalking, you case will have two components: a criminal component and an administrative component.

The criminal component will be investigated and charged pursuant to O.C.G.A. §16-5-90(a). O.C.G.A. § 16-5-90(a) provides that “[a] person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.”

“Contact,” has been broadly defined as, “any communication including without being limited to communication in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device; and the place or places that contact by telephone, mail, broadcast, computer, computer network, or any other electronic device is deemed to occur shall be the place or places where such communication is received.”

Furthermore, “harassing and intimidating,” is defined as, “a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear for such person’s safety or the safety of a member of his or her immediate family, by establishing a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, and which serves no legitimate purpose.

A person who commits the offense of stalking is guilty of a misdemeanor (up to 12 months in jail and $1,000 fine or both). If convicted of stalking a second time (or any subsequent conviction) the person will be punished as a felony and can be sentenced to at least one year in jail and no more than ten years in jail.

Many people are unaware that an accusation of stalking on Georgia Tech’s campus also carries an administrative component. The school will conduct an administrative hearing and the consequences range from no longer being able to reside on campus to being suspended from school. You may (and should) have an attorney represent you at this hearing.

If you have been accused of stalking on Georgia Tech’s campus, you need an experienced attorney to protect your rights and help you obtain the best outcome. The Law Office of W. Scott Smith is experienced in stalking defense. Call our office at 404-581-0999 today for a free consultation.




What Kind of Intent is Required for Assault?

According to O.C.G.A § 16-5-20, a simple assault includes any action that places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury. This statute includes an element of general intent, meaning that it doesn’t matter what the person performing the action intended to do- it only matters what the person observing the action apprehended.  In other words, there is no requirement that a person intended to create an apprehension of receiving violent injury. Technically, this means that something as simple as shaking your fist at someone (general intent because you intended to do the fist-shaking) could be charged as assault if the victim says that they apprehended a violent injury as a result- even if the accused never intended to actually harm the victim (meaning to cause the harm would be specific intent which is not an element of simple assault in Georgia).

O.C.G.A. § 16-5-21 defines aggravated assault as simple assault combined with one of three statutory aggravators: 1. intent to rob, rape or murder, 2. use of a deadly weapon or an offensive weapon likely to or actually resulting in serious bodily injury, or 3. shooting towards people from a vehicle without justification. There are many things that can be classified as deadly weapons if they are used in an offensive manner: automobiles, firearms, metal pipes, knives, etc. That means that any time a gun is involved and a victim is in apprehension of receiving an injury, regardless of the accused’s intent to harm anyone, aggravated assault charges could result.  It is important to note that aggravated assault still does not require specific intent. Basically, it doesn’t matter what the accused intended, only what the other party perceived.

Aggravated assault carries huge penalties in Georgia and could result in up to 20 years in prison. It is important that your attorney understands the elements of the charged crime and holds the State to their burden. If you have been charged with simple assault or aggravated assault in Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, or Clayton counties, you need a lawyer. Call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.



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.

Enticing A Child for Indecent Purposes in Fulton County

Enticing a child for indecent purposes is a serious crime in Fulton County. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of Enticing a child for an indecent act. Many allegations of enticing a child are false. Even if you know the allegation of enticing a child against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself. The Fulton County District Attorney’s office has a unit dedicated to prosecuting sex crimes.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-5 defines Enticing a Child for indecent purposes as follows:

A person commits the offense of enticing a child for indecent purposes when he or she solicits, entices, or takes any child under the age of 16 years to any place whatsoever for the purpose of child molestation or indecent acts.

The Fulton County District Attorney must prove a joint operation of (1) the act of enticing a child and (2) the intention to commit acts of indecency or child molestation.

Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes is different than Child Molestation because of the extra element of asportation. The asportation element is satisfied with the taking involving physical force, enticement or persuasion. The evidence must show some movement of the child. It can be slight movement.

Indecent Acts means illicit sexual conduct. Because the statute refers to both indecent acts and child molestation, it is reasonable to assume that indecent acts are different than acts punished by the child molestation statute.

Neither consent nor lack of knowledge of the child’s age is a defense to prosecution under the Enticing a Child statute.

The statute is intended to protect children from sexual predators. It is unlawful to entice any child under the age of 16.

The punishment for Enticing A Child is a mandatory of 10 years imprisonment up to 30 years and at least 1 year of probation.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office vigorously prosecutes these cases.

Do not wait until the Fulton County District Attorney actually returns an indictment against you for Enticing a Child before seeking an attorney. It is vital that you immediately retain an attorney and get to work in defending yourself of these allegations.

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

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

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

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

This bill states that:

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


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

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

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

Contact Us

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

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.

HGN and Head Trauma

If you have been pulled over in Georgia on suspicion of DUI, the investigating officer will probably ask you to perform a battery of standardized field sobriety tests. This request may take the form of any number of questions, such as “can we just check to see if you are safe to drive?” or “we want to perform some tests before we let you on your way, is that alright?”. These tests are not required, and declining to perform these tests cannot be used against you in a prosecution of DUI. For this reason, it is better to decline to perform any tests, no matter how much reassurance the police officer gives you that they are “just to make sure you are safe on the roads.”

Still, many people opt to perform the tests, either because they don’t see the harm, they wish to be congenial with the officer, or because they don’t know that they can decline to perform the tests. If you choose to perform the tests, the officer may ask you if he can “take a look at your eyes.” This is an indication that he is about to perform the first of three standardized field sobriety tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus.

This test is considered to be a “scientific” test, and because of this, it is important that the officer comply with his training as exactly as possible. The test must begin with a number of questions designed to medically qualify the participant. The officer is trained that he must ask you whether or not you have recently had any head, neck, or brain injuries, as these kinds of trauma can affect whether someone exhibits nystagmus, even if not under the influence of alcohol. It is common practice to ask whether or not the subject has “any eye problems” or vision issues, but this is not enough. The officer must also determine that it is appropriate to use this test. If the subject has been in a recent accident, suffering from whiplash, a concussion, vertigo, or some other balance and coordination related condition, the HGN test may not be accurate or reliable.

If you have been in an accident at the time of your DUI investigation, the officer may have overlooked potential head trauma before administering this test. As a result, the “clues” of the test may be unreliable, and could be subject to suppression before trial.

It is important to understand your rights and protections when you are charged with DUI. If you want an attorney that is knowledgeable about DUI police training and procedure, call our office for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine A. Edmonds.