Criminal Defense in Newton County, Georgia

If you have been charged with a crime in Newton 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.  If you are charged with a felony, then your case will begin in magistrate court and finish in superior court.  The first appearance, initial bond hearing, and preliminary hearing are all heard by a magistrate judge at the Newton County Jail located at 15151 Alcovy Road, Covington, GA 30014.  After these initial hearings, your case will be transferred to Newton County Superior Court in the Newton County Judicial Center located at 1132 Usher St, Covington, GA 30014.  The Judicial Center also houses the Magistrate Court, Juvenile Court, and Probate Court of Newton County.

Unlike some of the larger metropolitan counties, Newton County does not have a state court so even misdemeanor offenses will be heard in the Superior Court.  If you are charged with a serious misdemeanor, then your case will go straight to Superior Court.  Otherwise, your case will likely begin in Newton County Probate Court or one of the three municipalities in Newton County:  Covington, Porterdale, or Oxford.  

If you are charged with a traffic ticket or low-level misdemeanor within the city limits of Covington, your case will begin in the Municipal Court of Covington located at 1143 Oak Street, Covington, GA 30015.

If you are charged with a traffic ticket or low-level misdemeanor within the city limits of Porterdale, your case will begin in the Municipal Court of Porterdale located at 2800 Main Street, Porterdale, GA 30014.

If you are charged with a traffic ticket or low-level misdemeanor within the city limits of Oxford, your case will begin in the Municipal Court of Oxford located at 110 West Clark Street, Oxford, GA 30054.

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

Georgia Criminal Law – Theft by Shoplifting in DeKalb County

A shoplifting conviction is no small matter. It will negatively impact your ability to gain employment, apply for housing, and it will permanently remain on your criminal record. It is critical you contact an experienced attorney to investigate the facts, prepare legal challenges and defenses, and mitigate possible punishment. Our firm routinely handles shoplifting cases in DeKalb County State Court. This article means to explain the nature of shoplifting under Georgia law, the possible punishment, and how these matters are specifically handled in DeKalb County.

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A § 16-8-14, the offense of theft by shoplifting occurs when a person has the intent to either appropriate merchandise without paying for it or deprive the owner of possession of the merchandise or of its value AND:

  • Takes possession of or conceals the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment;
  • Alters the price marked on the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment;
  • Transfers the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment from its original box or container to another one;
  • Switches the price tag or label from one merchandise item with the price tag or label from another merchandise item; or
  • Wrongfully causes the amount paid for an item to be less than the merchant’s state price for the item

Arrest, formal criminal charges, and aggressive prosecution are all possibilities if you engage in the above conduct.

Punishment

The penalties for shoplifting in DeKalb County depend on the “value” of the property taken. A first shoplifting conviction involving the theft of merchandise valued at $500 or less is a misdemeanor. This is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and incarceration for up to 12 months in jail, or both. Shoplifting offenses involving the theft of merchandise worth more than $500 are deemed felonies and can be punished by imprisonment for as long as ten years, depending on the total value of merchandise stolen.

It is important to note that a fourth or subsequent conviction for shoplifting is punished as a felony even though the prior convictions were all for misdemeanor shoplifting. Fourth or subsequent convictions are punishable by a prison sentence of one to ten years.

In addition to jail time and a fine, punishment may also include a psychological evaluation and treatment at their own expense, shoplifting seminars, community service, and restitution for the value of the property taken (if not returned).

How it Works in DeKalb

After arrest, a case file is created with the DeKalb County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within DeKalb County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case. In DeKalb, an unaccused case is represented by an “S” case number. It is important to note in DeKalb, unaccused cases are still scheduled for an arraignment date. If the case remains unaccused by the time arraignment is scheduled, the case will automatically be continued by the Clerk’s Office. If the case, however, is accused by the time of the arraignment date, the accused will be expected to appear in court and enter a plea to the charges. An experienced attorney should periodically check to see whether the case has been accused prior to arraignment.

It is possible to resolve a theft by shoplifting charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the DeKalb County Pre-Trial Diversion Program. If the accused successfully completes the diversion program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” This is indicated by a “C” case number. If accused and not eligible for diversion, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, DeKalb County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss shoplifting charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to shoplifting or proceed to trial.

Contact Us

Being charged with Theft By Shoplifting can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every shoplifting case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with shoplifting, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Entering an Automobile: Theft and More

Entering an Automobile in Georgia

Entering an automobile is a theft crime under Georgia law. It is defined as the entering of any automobile or other motor vehicle with the intent to commit a theft or felony.

Usually, people under indictment for this offense are accused of breaking into cars to steal property. The State does not have to prove they actually stole anything, just that they had the intent to steal property when entering into the car.

But it was my own car?

Interestingly enough, a person can be charged with entering into their own vehicle to commit a theft or felony. The State does not have to establish lack of authority to enter a car because the statute makes no distinction between authorized and unauthorized entry.

This means you, as a defendant, could be accused of Entering an Automobile if the State alleges you entered your own car with the intent to, say, steal the laptop your friend left in your car. Once again, the State would not have to prove you actually stole the laptop, only that you intended to commit steal it.

Remember the law defines Entering an Automobile as entering a car with the intent to commit a theft or felony. This would contemplate a scenario in which someone entering a car (either their own or someone else’s) to commit rape, murder, aggravated assault, etc.

What’s My Defense?

The law defines Entering by Automobile as a felony or a misdemeanor at the judge’s discretion. This is important because it means your attorney, in the context of a negotiated plea, can (and should) ask the judge for misdemeanor sentencing, thus allowing you to avoid felony conviction (or wasting your first offender on what could’ve been a misdemeanor).

If you or someone you know has been charged with entering an automobile contact our office today for a free consultation.

by Sarah Armstrong

First Offender Sentencing in Georgia

First offender treatment is available in Georgia for anyone who has not been previously convicted of a felony and is not charged with a serious violent felony. Serious violent felonies are murder, felony murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery. Anyone charged with one of those offenses is automatically ineligible for first offender unless the charge is reduced to a lesser offense.

If a defendant receives first offender treatment, it can be both a blessing and a curse. If there are no issues during the period of probation, then no official conviction will ever be reported and the record itself will seal from public view. However, if the defendant commits a new offense while on probation or has any issues at all, then the judge has discretion to revoke the first offender status and re-sentence the defendant up the maximum sentence allowed by law.

While serving the sentence which will undoubtedly involve a period of probation, the defendant is not technically convicted of a crime but still cannot possess a firearm. After successful completion, all gun rights are restored.

Finally, first offender status can be granted retroactively if the defendant was eligible for first offender treatment at the time of the original plea but was not informed of his or her eligibility. Still, there is discretion, and the judge must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the ends of justice and the welfare of society are served by granting retroactive first offender status.

If you are charged with a crime in Georgia, then you should always consult with an attorney as to whether you are a candidate for first offender treatment. If you have already pled guilty, then you should still reach out to discuss whether you can receive retroactive first offender treatment. Give us a call today at 404-581-0999.

Restoration of Rights and Pardons from the State of Georgia

by Mary Agramonte

Mary Agramonte is an attorney with W. Scott Smith P.C.

Mary Agramonte is an attorney with W. Scott Smith P.C.

A felony conviction on your record comes with many consequences. You served the time, but now you are finding more and more ways that your record is stopping you from getting to where you want to be. For example, convicted felons lose various civil and political rights. Felons cannot vote while they are still incarcerated or on parole or probation. A convicted felon is unable to run for and hold public office or serve on a jury.

In Georgia, felons can apply to restore these civil rights that were lost at the time of their conviction. The right to vote is automatically restored upon completion of the sentence. However, if you are looking to restore your civil and political rights, a special application must be submitted asking the State of Georgia to allow you to serve on a jury and hold a public office. To be eligible to have your civil and political rights restored, you must have completed your sentence within two (2) years prior to applying, and you must demonstrate that you have been living a law-abiding life. There is no fee to apply to have your civil and political rights restored through the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

If you are finding that your criminal history is following you, but that you are not eligible for Record Restriction, which is Georgia’s version of expungement, Georgia Record Restriction Blog there may be a way for you to advance in your employment and education, despite the felony conviction on your record. In limited circumstances, the State of Georgia can pardon your offense, which is an official forgiveness granted to you. The pardon does not expunge or erase the crime from your record. However, a pardon will serve as an Official Statement attached to your criminal record that states the State of Georgia has pardoned, or forgiven, your crime. The State will make this decision based on the fact that you have maintained a good reputation after completing your sentence, and have truly changed your life after the conviction. Pardons have a better chance of being granted if there is clear proof that the felony is disallowing your qualification for employment in your chosen field. An official pardon will also automatically restore your civil and political rights. In order to apply for a pardon, you must have completed your sentence at least five years ago, and have not gotten into trouble at all in the last five years. All restitution must be paid in full by the time you apply.  Letters of recommendation, school documents, resumes, and awards and certificates, are all helpful to show the State how important a pardon would be in your life.

There is no fee and the State uses the same application for restoring civil and political rights, and for pardons. The application can be found here: Restoration of Rights Application

Our law firm consists of seven criminal defense attorneys who represent individuals facing felony and misdemeanor charges in Georgia. We hope this information helps you restore your civil or political rights in Georgia. If you are currently facing criminal charges, our knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyers have what it takes to defend against the most serious offenses. Call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

VIDEO – Atlanta, Georgia Theft by Shoplifting Charges – Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Kennesaw

I’ve received theft by shoplifting charges in Georgia, but my court notice says Dunwoody Municipal Court, what’s happening here?

Hello, I’m attorney Scott Smith and I’m here today to talk with you about shoplifting charges. We see a lot of theft by shoplifting arrests in metro Atlanta due to the number of shopping malls in the area. Lenox Mall, Phipps, Atlantic Station, Perimeter Mall, North Point Mall, Town Center, and all the other malls in the Atlanta area.

We also see a lot of shoplifting charges coming from stores like Walmart, Marshall’s, and TJ Maxx.

Many of these cases will originate in municipal courts like Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, and Kennesaw.

A theft by shoplifting charge in Georgia can be accused as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on: the amount alleged to have been taken, the number of shoplifting convictions showing on your criminal history, and whether there was a pattern of recent shoplifting activity.

Shoplifting cases generally have two components. The first part is the criminal case. But often folks arrested for theft by shoplifting will receive a letter in the mail from law firms or collection agencies on behalf of the store asking for a payment for a civil penalty. We urge anyone watching this to consult with a Georgia attorney before making any payment to a law firm or collection agency due to this shoplifting charge. It could have an impact on your case.

It is important to state people who shoplift are not bad people. Generally the case comes down to one of three things. The person charged is sometimes depressed. It was an honest mistake such as an accidental concealment or not actually taking the item. Or finally the person thought they needed the item to survive or they were taking it for thrills. Ninety percent of the people we represent fall within the first two categories, depression or an honest mistake.

There are many was to resolve your theft by shoplifting charges in Georgia. Our office of experienced Georgia shoplifting attorneys can evaluate your case and tell you about potential defenses and outcomes. Let us help you today. Call our office at 404-581-0999. Thank you.