How Battery-Family Violence becomes a Felony under Georgia Law

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1, the offenses of battery and battery – family violence are punished as misdemeanors. However, the same exact offense, under three sets of circumstances can transform this misdemeanor into a felony.

Battery Against the Same Victim

A person commits the offense of battery when he or she intentionally causes substantial physical harm or visible bodily harm to another. A first or second offense against the same victim will result in misdemeanor punishment.

But, upon a third or subsequent conviction for battery against the same victim, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.

Battery – Family Violence

If the offense of battery is committed between household members (past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household), it shall constitute the offense of family violence battery and is punished as a misdemeanor.

However, if the defendant has previously been convicted of a forcible felony committed between household members, he or she shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.

Or, if a person is convicted of a second or subsequent offense of family violence battery against the same or another victim, the defendant shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.

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Possession of Schedule 1 Controlled Substances – VGCSA – Georgia

Possession of Schedule 1 drugs are classified as felonies in the State of Georgia. According to the laws of our state, criminal charges associated with the possession of these drugs are in accordance with the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. The following controlled substances are examples of drugs classified as Schedule 1:

  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Morphine
  • Ecstasy

THE OFFENSE

V.G.C.S.A. offenses, which stands for “Violations of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, include the charge of possessing Schedule I drugs. The Georgia Controlled Substances Act is laid out in the following statutes: O.C.G.A. § 16-13-20 through § 16-13-30. A list of all of the controlled substances considered to be Schedule I are referenced in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-25 of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. A Schedule I controlled substance is defined as:

  1. A drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse;
  2. The drug or other substance does not currently have any accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

According to O.C.G.A § 16-13-30, it is unlawful for any person to purchase, possess, or have under his or her control any controlled substance, which does encompass any Schedule I drug.

SENTENCING

If an accused is prosecuted under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act for possessing a Schedule I controlled substance, the charge will be classified as a felony. If the accused is later convicted of these charges, the following punishments may occur:

  1. If the aggregate weight is less than one gram of a solid substance or less than one milliliter of a liquid substance, the accused may be sentenced to imprisonment anywhere between 1-3 years;
  2. If the aggregate weight is at least one gram but less than four grams of a solid substance or at least one milliliter but less than four milliliters of a liquid substance, the accused may be sentenced to imprisonment anywhere between 1-8 years;
  3. If the aggregate weight is at least four grams but less than 28 grams of a solid substance or at least four milliliters but less than 28 milliliters of a liquid substance, the accused may be sentenced to imprisonment anywhere between 1-15 years.

Because of the severity of the punishment for possessing a Schedule I controlled substance, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such serious allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all possible options of an accused arrested and charged with V.G.C.S.A., we understand and assert all potential defenses for such a charge, and we work tirelessly at advocating for our client’s rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia Criminal Law – Drug Paraphernalia and Drug Related Objects

Not only does Georgia law prohibit the possession of controlled substances, it also makes it unlawful to possess the tools or equipment used in the drug trade or use of drugs. These tools are commonly referred to as paraphernalia. Items such as pipes, needles, grinders, or bongs often come to mind. In and of themselves, these items may be perfectly legal to possess, but when discovered adjacent to a controlled substance, or when the items contain the residue of a controlled substance, that’s when you could be charged with “Drug Related Objects.”

 

The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-32.2 makes it unlawful to possess or use drug related objects. “It shall be unlawful for any person to use, or possess with the intent to use, any object or materials of any kind for the purpose of planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body marijuana or a controlled substance.”

 

It is important to note that any object or material of any kind can constitute a drug related object. However, Georgia Senate Bill No. 164 would amend and revise the above law by making it inapplicable hypodermic needles or syringes.

 

Defenses

No possession: The State has to prove the person was in knowing possession (actual or constructive) in order to sustain a conviction.

 

In Wright v. State, 355 Ga.App. 417 (2020), the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that probationer possessed methamphetamine pipe found in truck parked outside residence where probationer was being arrested on unrelated charge, and thus revocation of probation was precluded based on possession of pipe; there was no admissible evidence showing that probationer possessed pipe, and no non-hearsay evidence showed that probationer owned truck.

 

Lawful Purpose / No Intent: The State has to prove the items were possessed with the intent to be used with an illegal purpose. A bong, in and of itself, with no marijuana residue and without any evidence of drug possession or use would not be sufficient to convict for drug related objects.

 

In Holloway v. State, 297 Ga.App. 81 (2009), the evidence was sufficient to show that defendant had joint possession of two crack-pipe filters found in a vehicle that he was driving and in which a passenger was riding, so as to support a conviction for possessing a drug-related object; as the driver, defendant was presumed to have possession of contraband in the vehicle, and the state presented evidence that defendant and the passenger were involved in the crack-cocaine drug trade.

 

Punishment

Possession of a drug related object is a misdemeanor and can carry up to 12 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

 

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If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drug Trafficking Arrests in Gilmer County Georgia

Drug trafficking charges are different from other drug crimes, such as possession, possession with intent to distribute, drug distribution, and drug manufacturing. The key difference between drug trafficking and these other drug charges is quantity. Because of the large amount of drugs involved in trafficking charges, the punishment is significantly higher and may result in the imposition of a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

This blog serves to explain the drug trafficking laws and how these cases are handled in Gilmer County, Georgia. Why Gilmer County? Gilmer County is a highly populated county adjacent to Fulton that sees a high number of drug trafficking cases on an annual basis. Therefore, it is important to know what to expect from the prosecutors (District Attorney’s Office) and the Court itself when facing these charges.

The Law

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31, makes it a criminal offense to sell, manufacture, delivers, or brings into the State, cocaine, illegal drugs, and marijuana is guilty of drug trafficking. The code section separates the law by drug and by quantity.

Trafficking cocaine is defined as any person who sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or knowingly possesses 28 or more grams[1] of cocaine. If the quantity of cocaine is between 28 grams and 200 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and shall pay a fine of $200,000. If the quantity of cocaine is between 200 grams and 400 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and shall pay a $300,000 fine. Lastly, if the quantity of cocaine is 400 grams or more, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years and shall pay a fine of $1,000,000.

For morphine and opium (including heroin), a person is guilty of trafficking if they sell, manufacture, deliver, bring into this state, or possess 4 grams or more of the substance. If the quantity involved is between 4 and 14 grams, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for 5 years and shall pay a fine of $50,000. For between 14 grams and 28 grams, the sentence is at least 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000

Trafficking marijuana is defined as selling, manufacturing, growing, delivering, or possessing more than 10 pounds or marijuana. If the amount of marijuana is greater than 10 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds, the law requires a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentence plus a $100,000 fine. If the quantity involved is greater than 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds, there is a 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $250,000 fine. Finally, if the quantity of marijuana is greater than 10,000 pounds, the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 15 years as well as a fine of $1,000,000.

[1] With a minimum purity of 10% or more of cocaine as described in Schedule II

Driving while License Suspended or Revoked in Georgia

In Georgia, if a person is driving on a suspended license, he/she may face jail time, probation, as well as monetary fines. If the accused is found guilty of driving while his/her license is suspended, the accused will be charged with a misdemeanor, as long as it is his/her first offense within the last 5 years.

According to O.C.G.A. § 40-5-121, any person who drives a motor vehicle on any public highway of this state without being licensed or while his/her privilege to drive in the State of Georgia is suspended, disqualified, or revoked may be found guilty of the offense of driving while license is suspended. Under Georgia law, there are numerous violations that can lead to a driver’s license being suspended or revoked. Some include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Conviction of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI);
  • After a DUI arrest, failure to consent to a blood, breath, or urine test following the reading of Georgia’s implied consent law;
  • Conviction of driving without insurance;
  • Conviction of vehicular homicide;
  • Failure to pay Georgia’s Super Speeder fine within its required deadline; OR
  • For accumulating 15 traffic points within a 24-month period.

Penalties

As stated above, the offense of driving while license is suspended/ revoked will be characterized as a misdemeanor if it is the driver’s first offense within the previous 5-year period. If the accused is convicted of a misdemeanor, he/she may be sentenced anywhere between 2 days and 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $500-$1,000. However, if the accused has had a prior conviction or two prior convictions, within the last 5 years, for driving while license is suspended, he/she may be charged with a “high and aggravated misdemeanor.” This means that the sentence may involve anywhere between 10 days and 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000-$2,500. Finally, if the accused has had four or more convictions of driving while license is suspended within the last 5 years, the charge will be classified as a felony. A person convicted of a felony may be sentenced to 1-5 years in prison with a fine of $2,500-$5,000.

Upon receiving the accused person’s record of conviction for driving while license is suspended, the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services will impose an additional suspension or disqualification of 6 months. Once the additional 6 months has expired, the driver is eligible to reinstate his/her driver’s license.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the penalties for driving on a suspended license, 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, we are skilled at defending such charges. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for driving while license is suspended, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

The Georgia First Offender Act

The First Offender Act is a progressive statute implemented by the State of Georgia where a person who has never been convicted of a prior felony offense can be sentenced on a pending charge, but subsequently, have those charges sealed by the court if he/she successfully completes their First Offender sentence.

According to O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60, the accused may be eligible under the First Offender Act if the following statements are true:

  • The accused has never been convicted of a felony;
  • The accused have never been previously sentenced under the First Offender Act;
  • The offense charged is not a serious crime committed against a law enforcement officer engaged in his/her duties;
  • The offense charged is not Driving Under the Influence (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391);
  • The offense charged is not a serious violent felony (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1);
  • The offense charged is not a serious sexual offense (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.2);
  • The offense charged is not related to child pornography (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-100.2);
  • The offense charged is not related to electronic sexual exploitation of a minor, computer pornography (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-100);
  • The offense charged is not trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude (O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46); and
  • The offense charged is not neglecting disabled adults or elderly people (O.C.G.A. § 16-5-101).

HOW IT WORKS

Trial counsel for the accused must ask the judge to sentence him/her under the First Offender Act. Then, the judge will consider whether to sentence the accused to First Offender after he/she hears arguments from both the prosecution and the defense. If the judge sentences the accused under First Offender, his/her official criminal history will describe the disposition of the crime charged as “First Offender” until the sentencing term is successfully completed. If the accused violates any conditions placed on him/her during their term of sentence, including committing another crime, the judge has the discretion to revoke the First Offender status. This means that the accused will be sentenced and convicted, which will be shown on his/her official criminal history. In revoking one’s status, the judge does have discretion to sentence the accused to the maximum penalty for the crime charged. However, if the term of sentence is successfully completed, the clerk of court will seal the offense charged from his/her official criminal history.

CONTACT US

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our attorneys are knowledgeable about the consequences of a criminal conviction on one’s record, as well as all possible options for our clients dealing with pending allegations. Therefore, if you have been recently arrested on a criminal charge or your case is currently pending, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia Criminal Law – Pointing a Pistol at Another

Responsible gun ownership requires education and care. In 2020, there were 98 unintentional gun related deaths in Georgia, 33 more than the previous year.[1] In an effort to eliminate these unintentional deaths and protect the public, the Georgia legislature enacted O.C.G.A. § 16-11-102.

The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-102 makes it a criminal offense to “intentionally and without legal justification points or aims a gun or pistol at another, whether the gun or pistol is loaded or unloaded.”

Proving the element of intent is key in prosecuting this offense. The accidental or unintentional pointing of a weapon at another is not an offense. Parsons v. State, 16 Ga. App. 212 (1915). To aim a weapon at another is to point it intentionally. Livingston v. State, 6 Ga. App. 805 (1909). Intent may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the pointing. Hawkins v. State, 8 Ga. App. 705 (1911).

This offense is distinguished from the offense of aggravated assault in that if the pointing of a firearm places the victim in reasonable apprehension of immediate violent injury, then the felony of aggravated assault, rather than the misdemeanor of pointing a gun, has occurred.  Overton v. State, 305 Ga. 597 (2019); Savage v. State, 274 Ga. 692 (2002). But, simple assault and pointing a gun or pistol at another are both misdemeanors and included in greater crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Morrison v. State, 147 Ga. App. 410 (1978).

Punishment

A conviction under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-102 results in a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is 12 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine or both. The sentencing judge also has the authority to impose additional terms and conditions such as community service, firearms safety course, etc.

 

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.

 

[1] https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/congress/ga

Theft by Conversion Arrest in Georgia

In Georgia, like other theft offenses, a theft by conversion charge can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property converted. According to § O.C.G.A. 16-8-4, theft by conversion occurs when a person lawfully obtains another individual’s funds or property and then unlawfully converts such property to his/her own use.

In order to convict an accused for theft by conversion, the elements of the offense must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused lawfully obtained funds or property of another;
  • The funds or property were obtained by an agreement between the accused and the owner;
  • The agreement required that the accused used the funds/property for a particular purpose;
  • However, instead, the accused knowingly converted the property for his/her own use.

Value of Property

In determining whether the theft by conversion charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the property converted. In Georgia, funds or property valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the property in question is valued at a price greater than $500, the prosecution may file felony charges against the accused.

In these types of cases, the value of the property is determined by properly measuring the fair cash market value either at the time and place of the alleged theft or any stage during the receipt or concealment of the property in question.

Defenses

An experienced criminal defense attorney can assert affirmative defenses to either request a reduction in the penalties of a theft by conversion conviction or receive a dismissal of all charges. Thus, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations.

Such affirmative defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of intent;
  • Consent;
  • Accused used the property as intended;
  • Innocence;
  • Intoxication, if it negates intent;
  • Charges should be reduced, because the property value was less than the prosecution alleged.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by conversion, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious offense. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by conversion, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Deception Arrest in Georgia

According to § O.C.G.A. 16-8-3, theft by deception occurs when a person obtains property by any deceitful means or artful practice with the intention of depriving the owner of the property. However, deceitful means does not include statements of exaggeration that are unlikely to deceive the rightful owner or false statements as to matters that have little to no financial significance.

Some examples of theft by deception include, but are not limited to:

  • Billing someone for a job that an accused did not complete;
  • Making false statements to persuade the rightful owner to let the accused take their property;
  • Selling property when the accused knew that there was a lien/ some other loan attached to it.

Value of Property

In determining whether the theft by deception charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the property stolen. In Georgia, goods or property valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the property or goods in question are valued at a price greater than $500, the prosecution may file felony charges against the accused.

Defenses

An experienced criminal defense attorney can assert affirmative defenses to either request a reduction in the penalties of a theft by deception conviction or receive a dismissal of all charges. Thus, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations.

Some affirmative defenses to theft by deception include, but are not limited to:

  • Actual innocence;
  • Lack of intent;
  • Future payment: In Elliott v. State, 149 Ga. App. 579 (1979), the court found that the accused could not be convicted for theft by deception when he arranged to pay for the goods in question by making a promise to the rightful owner of future payment. The court found that there was no theft by deception, because there was no false representation made, the accused made a good faith promise of future payment;
  • Charges should be reduced, because the property value was less than the prosecution alleged;
  • Continuous criminal act: if the prosecution alleges that multiple items were stolen; an experienced criminal defense attorney could instead argue that the string of thefts constituted only one continuous crime. This would reduce the number of counts of theft that the State of Georgia has brought forward against the accused, and likely, will reduce the sentencing of such a charge.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by deception, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious offense. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by deception, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Theft by Taking Arrest in Georgia

In Georgia, a theft charge can encompass either misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on the value of the goods or property in question. If you have been arrested for theft, you could be charged with any of the following: theft by taking, theft by deception, theft by conversion, theft by shoplifting, and so on. However, the most commonly charged theft that appears in Georgia is theft by taking. According to O.C.G.A. § 16-8-2, theft by taking occurs when a person unlawfully takes or, being in lawful possession thereof, unlawfully appropriates any property of another with the intention of depriving him of the property, regardless of the manner in which property is taken or appropriated. Typically, this occurs when the property is taken without the knowledge of the victim at the time of the alleged offense.

Value of Goods

In determining whether the theft by taking charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the goods/property, which were allegedly stolen, taken, and/or appropriated. Property or goods valued at less than $500 are generally charged as misdemeanors. Alternatively, if the goods in question are valued at a price greater than $500, the State of Georgia could charge you with a felony offense.

Penalties

In misdemeanor theft by taking cases, a conviction could result in no more than a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, following a felony theft by taking conviction, a judge could sentence you between 1-10 years in prison.

Due to the severity of the punishment for a theft by taking conviction, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can defend these allegations by either getting the charges dismissed by bringing forth defenses to such allegations or requesting a reduction in the penalty of such charges.

Defenses

Here are some common defenses for theft by taking cases in Georgia:

  • There was no theft;
  • Acted under an honest claim of right or ownership of property;
  • Charge should be reduced depending on the value of the goods and amount taken;
  • There was no intent to steal;
  • The accused was unaware that the property was of another;
  • The intention was to borrow the item, not to steal it;
  • Intoxication, if it negates the intent element.

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by taking, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by taking, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.