Georgia Public Drunkenness Attorney

As holiday parties and events are in full swing, you may wonder the best way to stay clear of police encounters after a night out of drinking. The most obvious way to avoid trouble after a night out is to use a rideshare or designated driver, so as not to drive while intoxicated. But what about simply being drunk in public? Could that land you in jail for the night too?

Drinking to the point of being intoxicated is not always against the law. However, when your condition is made manifest by “boisterousness, by indecent conditions or act, or by vulgar, profaine, loud, or unbecoming language,” you can be arrested for the charge of Public Drunkenness.

Under O.C.G.A § 16-11-41 it is a misdemeanor offense to be intoxicated in a public place, or in the outskirts of a private residence other than your own, or one you are invited to be on. But it is only against the law if your intoxication  is manifested by boisterous, vulgar, loud, profane, or unbecoming language, or by indecent condition. Simply being drunk without an outward manifestation is not against the law in Georgia as mere drunkenness in a public place is not enough to be convicted.

As you can see there is a defense to the charge of Public Drunkenness in Georgia. If convicted, however, it is a misdemeanor crime that can remain on your criminal history forever. The maximum penalty in a Public Drunkenness case in Georgia is 12 months to serve in custody, and a $1,000 fine, or both.

If you have been arrested or cited for Public Drunkenness in Georgia, call W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999. A night out on the town should not have lasting consequences and our lawyers are on call to assist you.

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.

Public Indecency in Fulton County

Public Indecency is a serious crime in Georgia. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you have been charged with public indecency.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-8(a) defines public indecency as follows:

A person commits the offense of public indecency when he or she performs any of the following acts in a public place:

  1. An act of sexual intercourse
  2. A lewd exposure of the sexual organs
  3. A lewd exposure in a state of partial or complete nudity; or
  4. A lewd caress or indecent fondling of the body of another person.

A public place means any place where the conduct involved may be reasonably be expected to be viewed by people other than members of the accused’s family or household.

Under O.C.G.A. 16-1-3(15), a public place is any place where the conduct involved may reasonably be expected to be viewed by someone other than immediately family members. In fact, the residence of the accused may be considered a public place if the person performs the lewd act in front of a window or someplace where he intends the public to see it.

Lewd has been defined as any gross indecency so notorious as to tend to corrupt community morals. The act is one in which it represents a moving away from some form of community morality norms towards amorality, immorality or obscenity which in the final analysis within community standards as to particular acts, as to acceptability or unacceptability, is best left to a jury for determination. The statute does not require that some person be embarrassed, offended or otherwise outraged by the lewd act.

The intent of the accused is relevant in a prosecution for public indecency.

The offense of public indecency is not a crime against the person. The person viewing the lewd act is a witness and not a victim of the crime.

The United States Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression does not prevent the State of Georgia from enforcing its public indecency laws.

The punishment for public indecency is up to 1 year in prison. If it is a 3rd or subsequent violation, then the punishment is 1 to 5 years imprisonment. Also, the accused may be required to register as a sex offender under O.C.G.A. §42-1-12.

It is imperative that you do not talk to the police if you are accused of public indecency. Only speak to a qualified attorney so that you can properly defend yourself.

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.

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

It is your life, your criminal record and you deserve the best representation possible.

How Hearsay Rules Apply in a Probation Revocation Hearing

If you are on probation for an offense in Georgia, your probation comes with certain conditions. If you are accused of violating your probation, the judge may be able to revoke your probation and sentence you to jail time if the state can show that you violated the conditions of your probation by a preponderance of the evidence. It is important that you have an experienced attorney by your side to protect your rights during your probation revocation hearing.

The rules of evidence still apply in a probation revocation hearing, including how the State may use hearsay statements to prove that you are guilty of violating your probation if a witness is unavailable to testify to the facts that prove the violation.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Grimes v. State, the defendant was accused of violating the conditions of his probation in Henry County when he allegedly made violent contact with individuals he had been ordered to stay away from as a condition of his probation. Rather than calling the alleged victim to testify during the hearing, the State relied on the testimony of a responding police officer and the alleged victim’s 911 call to relay the information needed to prove that the defendant had violated his probation.

The Court of Appeals held that this testimony was hearsay and should not have been admitted during the hearing because it violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process. The Court of Appeals instructed that the trial court should have, at a minimum, looked into the reasons for the alleged victim’s absence. Additionally, the Court of Appeals held that the hearsay testimony was not reliable because it did not fit into any of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.

If you are on probation and are being accused of violating the conditions of your probation, it is important to have an attorney by your side who understands the rules of the process. At W. Scott Smith, our attorneys specialize in protecting the constitutional rights of our clients. If you are facing a probation revocation hearing, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Prostitution, Pimping and Pandering in Fulton County

Prostitution is when a person performs or offers or consents to perform a sexual act for money or other items of value. O.C.G.A. §16-6-9.

The statute is not about sexual activity per se but is solely concerned with commercial transactions involving sexual activity. The harm is done to society and not to the individual. Therefore, the State is not required to name the person solicited for prostitution.

Both males and females are prohibited from selling sexual acts. Prostitution is only concerned with the seller. The buyer’s activities are not prostitution.

Prostitution is a misdemeanor and is punished up to 1 year imprisonment. In addition, a person may be fined up to $ 2,500 for prostitution if the offense was committed within 1,000 feet of any school building, school grounds, public place of worship, or playground or recreation center which is primarily used of people under the age of 17.

Pimping is when a person performs any of the following acts:

  1. Offers or agrees to procure a prostitute for another;
  2. Offers or agrees to arrange a meeting of persons for the purposes of prostitution
  3. Directs or transports another person to a place when he or she knows or should know that the direction or transportation is for the purpose of prostitution;
  4. Receives money or other thing of value from a prostitute, without lawful consideration, knowing it was earned in whole or in part from prostitution; or
  5. Aids or abets, counsels, or commands another in the commission of prostitution or aids of assists in prostitutions where the proceeds or profits derived therefrom are to be divided on a pro rata basis.

An indictment for pimping does not need to name the prostitute or the person solicited because the focus is on the harm done to society.

Pimping in Fulton County is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which is punishable by 12 months imprisonment and up to a $ 5,000 fine. However, when the pimping involves the conduct of a person who is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age, the offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment of or a period of not less than 5 years nor more than 20 years.

Pandering in Fulton County is when a person solicits another person to perform an act of prostitution in his or her own behalf of on behalf of a third person or when he or she knowingly assembles persons at a fixed place for the purpose of being solicited by others to perform an act of prostitution.

Pandering in Fulton County is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which is punishable by 12 months imprisonment and up to a $ 5,000 fine. However, when the pandering involves the conduct of a person who is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age, the offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment of or a period of not less than 5 years nor more than 20 years.

The Fulton County clerk of court must cause to be published a notice of conviction for that person in the legal organ of the county in which the person resides or, if a nonresident, in the legal organ of the county in which the person was convicted of pandering.

It is imperative that you do not talk to the police if you are accused of prostitution, pimping or pandering in Fulton County. Only speak to a qualified attorney so that you can properly defend yourself.

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.

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

It is your life, your criminal record and you deserve the best representation possible.

Statutory Rape

Statutory Rape is a serious crime in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-3 defines Statutory Rape as engaging in sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years old who is not your  spouse.

Statutory Rape requires corroboration and cannot stand solely on the unsupported testimony of the victim.

In Georgia, it is not a defense to Statutory Rape that the accused believed the victim was of the age of consent.

Many people have the idea that if they have consensual sex, then they did not break the law. That is not true.  Individuals who commit statutory rape in Georgia can face serious felony charges. In addition to a prison sentence, a person faces being put on the Sex Offender Registry and has limits on housing and job opportunities and loses their right to vote and own a firearm.

To be convicted of Statutory Rape, it is not necessary to fully penetrate the vagina or to rupture the hymen. Only slight penetration of the vulva or labia is sufficient. Proof of force is unnecessary for statutory rape.

The punishment for Statutory Rape is very serious. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-3 mandates that the sentence be from 1 to 20 years in prison. If the defendant is 21 years or older, then the mandatory sentence is 10 years up to 20 years in prison with at least one year on probation. If the victim is at least 14 years old but less than 16 years old and the person convicted is 18 years old and is no more than 4 years older than the victim, then it is a misdemeanor and a maximum of 12 months in custody.

If the defendant is over 21 and convicted of statutory rape, he or she cannot plead under the First Offender Act.

If you face charges in Georgia for Statutory Rape, it is imperative that you do not make any statements to law enforcement or to anyone else and immediately seek help from an experienced attorney handling Sex Offenses. You must protect your rights and take this matter very seriously.

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.

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

It is your life, your criminal record and you deserve the best representation possible.

Using Cell Phone Data in Defense of Murder in Fulton, Dekalb, and Clayton Counties

Cell phone data is becoming more and more popular as a tool that the State uses to try to place a defendant at the scene of a murder in Fulton, Dekalb, and Clayton Counties. The State often applies for, and is given, a search warrant for a suspect’s cell phone and performs a data dump of the phone to acquire all of the location data associated with calls and text messages around a given time. Fortunately, it is also a valuable tool that defense attorneys can use to prove that a defendant was not at the scene of a murder.

Utilizing cell phone data efficiently requires a basic understanding of how location data works. Each time a call or text message is sent or received, the phone pings off the nearest tower. Each tower is then divided into 3 sectors, or azimuths, comprising 120 degrees. Each azimuth then projects a “cone”, and the cone determines which direction the phone is (or is not) located. Thus, although the State will try to convince a jury that they can pinpoint the exact location of a defendant’s call phone, they can only show that the phone was located within one of the 120-degree cones and not at a specific location.

Cell phone data is more appropriately used by a defense attorney to prove that a defendant’s cell phone was not located at or near the scene of a murder. For example, if a murder occurred in the 120-degree cone of a certain cell tower pointing northwest, but the defendant’s cell phone is pinging off the cone pointing southeast from the same tower, the defendant’s phone may be excluded from being near the scene of the murder (if there were call or text messages being sent or received at or near the time of the murder).

The State will likely call an expert witness to present the cell phone data and try to place a defendant at the scene of a murder or other serious crime. Having an attorney that is familiar with how cell phone data works is important because they can cross-examine the witness and show why their analysis is incorrect. The defense attorney may then call an expert of their own to teach the jury about how to use cell phone data to show that the defendant’s cell phone was, in fact, not present at the scene.

The attorneys at W. Scott Smith have a proven track record of using cell phone data to exonerate their clients. If you are charged with a serious crime in Fulton, Dekalb, or Clayton Counties and feel that your cell phone data would show that you were not near the scene of the crime, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

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.

Reducing a Lifetime CDL Disqualification to 10 Years in Georgia

If you are convicted of two DUIs in Georgia, your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is disqualified for your lifetime. However, new rules provide a process to allow your CDL to be reinstated after only ten years. If you meet the following requirements, you are eligible to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to 10 years:

  • At time of application, you must possess a valid Class C Georgia driver’s license. The term “valid” means that the license is not expired and is not cancelled, suspended, or revoked.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification you are applying to have reduced must have been in effect for a period of not less than ten (10) years.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on a conviction for homicide by vehicle in the first degree or serious injury by vehicle, you are not eligible to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to ten (10) years.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on the use of a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance; OR any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on a conviction for Human Trafficking, is not eligible to be reduced to ten (10) years.
  • In addition to the $210.00 non-refundable CDL Restoration Fee, your application must include the following supporting documents:
    • A certified seven (7) year Georgia motor vehicle report (MVR) dated within 30 days of application. Your driving history must be free of any convictions for the five (5) year period preceding date of application.
    • If your Lifetime CDL Disqualification is based on a violation that was alcohol related, you must include a clinical evaluation dated within 90 days of the date of application reflecting no substance abuse treatment necessary.
    • If your Lifetime CDL Disqualification is not based on a violation that was alcohol related, you must include a certificate of completion from a DDS-certified driver improvement clinic dated within 90 days of the date of application.
    • A copy of your current, unexpired United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) medical certificate card.

If you are approved to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to 10 years:

  • You will be eligible to obtain a Georgia Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which must be held for a minimum period of 14 days before becoming eligible to upgrade to a Georgia Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
  • You must complete and successfully pass all applicable knowledge and/or skills tests to obtain a Georgia CLP/CDL. You must also pay $35.00 for the CDL Application Fee, $10.00 for each CDL Knowledge Exam, and $50 for each CDL Road Skills Test attempt.
  • Any Georgia CDL you are issued will be restricted for first two (2) years to intrastate driving only.
  • You will not be eligible for a Passenger (P) endorsement on any Georgia CDL for the first two (2) years following issuance.
  • Restrictions may be removed after two (2) years if your driving history is free of any convictions.
  • No person whose Lifetime CDL Disqualification is reduced to ten (10) years shall ever possess a School Bus (S) or a HAZMAT (H) endorsement.
  • If you are convicted of a major traffic violation at any time after your Lifetime CDL Disqualification has been reduced to ten (10) years, you will be subject to a permanent lifetime disqualification.

 

If your CDL has been the subject of a lifetime ban, we can help you have the ban reduced.  This is a complicated process and having an experienced layer by your side is important. Please call our office at 404-581-0999 and let us help you have your driving privileges restored.

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.