DUI IN GWINNETT RECORDER’S COURT

After the accused has been arrested for a DUI, if one of the following occurred, the accused MUST send the 30-day appeal letter to attempt to save his/her driver’s license:

  1. After the accused has been arrested, an officer on scene read him/her the correct “Implied Consent” notice and he/she refused to comply with either a blood, breath, or urine test in order to determine his/her blood alcohol content, OR
  2. The accused consented to a blood, breath, or urine test and the results showed that the blood alcohol content of the accused was 0.08 grams or more.

If one of the following occurred, it is of vital importance to send the 30-day appeal of the license suspension letter prior to the deadline or risk the suspension of the accused person’s driver’s license. The suspension could last as long as 1 year.

After sending the 30-day letter, the accused must also be ready to defend his/her criminal allegations. The penalties for a DUI conviction are serious, thus, it is imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands all the elements of the offense, the affirmative defenses to such a charge, and all possible options for the accused.

According to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391, a person commits driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when it renders them less safe to drive, the person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within 3 hours after such driving occurred, or there is any amount of marijuana or other controlled substances present in the accused person’s blood, breath, or urine.

Once the Gwinnett County Police Department or the Georgia State Patrol, depending on the department that arrested the accused, transfers the criminal charge to the Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court, the criminal case will begin at a proceeding known as an arraignment. There are a few options when the case has landed on an arraignment calendar. Such options include:

  • The accused may plead guilty to DUI, which for a first DUI conviction usually will result in 12 months of probation, as well as completion of a Risk Reduction course, at least 40 hours of community service, and a substance abuse evaluation.
  • The accused may plead not guilty to DUI and seek a bench trial with the Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court judge;
  • The accused may plead not guilty to DUI and seek a jury trial. This will result in the case being bound over to the Gwinnett County State Court; OR
  • At arraignment, the accused has the option to speak to the Gwinnett County solicitor in a pretrial conference to discuss other possible options, such as a reduction from the original DUI charge.

Due to the complexity of a driving under the influence criminal case, as well as the related license suspension proceeding, it is of great importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is skilled at defending such allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our attorneys are knowledgeable about all possible options for our clients and have vast experience defending such charges. Therefore, if you have been arrested for driving under the influence in Gwinnett County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Trafficking Marijuana through the Atlanta Airport

When a person traveling to Atlanta is charged with trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport the first concern is going to be how to get a bond to get the person charged with trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport out of jail as soon as possible.  Another question is, how much will my bond be for trafficking marijuana?  At our law firm we have handled a number of bond hearings and received consent bonds in Clayton County on trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport.  We believe we have a recipe for success that you can follow in order to get a bond on a trafficking marijuana case.  A bond hearing is where a judge will decide if the person trafficking in marijuana at the Atlanta airport is a good candidate for bond.  The factors a judge will consider on trafficking cases generally include, criminal record or lack of a criminal record, flight risk or whether the person will appear in court when directed, and/or likelihood of committing a new felony offense while out on bond.  Since people who are charged with trafficking in marijuana are generally transient or they generally have out of Georgia ties, the court will be concerned they will not appear in court when the case comes up for additional court dates.  You must be in a position to allay the court’s fears the person charged with trafficking marijuana will in fact appear in court when directed to do so.  A consent bond is where the State’s prosecutor agrees to a bond amount and the defense accepts because the person arrested for trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport feels they can afford the bond amount.

First question for consideration is how much did the Marijuana in the person traveling with marijuana in their suitcase at the Atlanta airport weigh.  If it is less that twenty pounds your chances of getting a lower bond in Clayton County are greater.  Second, did the person traveling have more that $1000 cash on them.  If they did, they are likely a mule.  A mule is someone who is generally destitute or poor and they are so desperate for money that they agree to transport a suitcase or luggage without knowing its contents.  If the person is poor and you can show the prosecutor this evidence and they had a large sum of money (which is consistent with the mule’s fee) the prosecutor is more likely to grant a bond.  Third, do the flight records show a first-time travel for that person on the same flight origination?  If so, this is likely the first time the person traveling with the large amounts of marijuana is flying with marijuana.  If you can show no pattern of travel the State is more likely to consent to a low bond.  The State’s prosecutor and Court will want to know the criminal history of client.  Things of major importance will be does the person have any felonies on their record?  Has the person ever failed to appear in court – even for traffic violations?  Does the person have any violations of probation or parole?  Furthermore, it is important to have a local address in which the person charged with trafficking marijuana will live at while the case is pending.

If you are an attorney trying to acquire a consent bond for trafficking marijuana in Clayton County at the Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield Airport, here is what you need to do.  Go through the criminal history to have a good handle on what the criminal history provides.  If any discrepancies come up on the persons charged GCIC or NCIC be in a position to pull the official court record to confirm the inaccuracies in the official record.  In our experience this happens way too often.  Second, pull a copy of the incident report.  You will need to make a copy of the incident report and provide a copy to the State’s prosecutor in order to get a quick bond offer.  If client has a passport, obtain the passport and be willing to turn the passport in to law enforcement to hold pending the case’s outcome.  If client is poor, have client provide you access to his or her bank account to show how little amount she has in the account.  If client lives in an apartment or humble residence, have someone take photos of the residence to show the State’s prosecutor client’s simple living arrangements.  If client does not have a local address to live at see if client’s family can acquire a local address.  Lastly, do not have client snitch or become a state witness.  In my experience it serves no purpose as it does not assist in getting a bond.

Rape Charges in DeKalb County, Georgia

Rape is a serious crime in Dekalb County. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-1 defines rape as follows:

  1. A person commits the offense of rape when he has carnal knowledge of:
    1. A female forcibly and against her will or:
    2. A female who is less than ten years of age.

Carnal knowledge in rape occurs when there is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.  Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient and can be proven by direct or circumstantial evidence. The fact that the person allegedly raped is the wife of the defendant shall not be a defense to a charge of rape.

How do you define “force” in a rape case in Georgia? Force means acts of physical force, threats of death or physical bodily harm, or mental coercion, such as intimidation. Lack of resistance, induced by fear, is force.

The elements of Rape in Georgia are 1) penetration, 2) force, and 3) against her will. If the person is underage, then force is implied. If the person is above the age of consent, but due to mental incompetence or severe intoxication, then finding of constructive force based on penetration.

The law on Rape in Georgia does not require physical injury or semen.

A person convicted of Rape can be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, by imprisonment for life with the possibility of parole or by a split sentence that is a term of imprisonment for not less than 25 years and not exceeding life imprisonment to be followed by probation for life. Any person convicted of rape is subject to the sentencing provisions of O.C.G.A. §§ 17-10-6.1 and 17-10-7.

In addition, the person could be on the Sex Offender Registry for life.

A person convicted of rape can also be held to account for civil liability. Furthermore, if the rape was committed by the defendant while he was acting in his scope of his employment, his employer may also be held liable.

If you face charges in Georgia for 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 Rape cases in Georgia. You must protect your rights and take this matter very seriously.

The statute of limitation for a prosecution of rape is 15 years.

If you are charged with Rape in Dekalb County, you will be brought over before a Magistrate Judge within the first 72 hours of your arrest. This judge will not set a bond on Rape. You will need to have a bond motion filed before a Dekalb County Superior Court judge.

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.

Initial (First) Appearance in Georgia Criminal Cases

An “initial appearance” is an accused’s first face-to-face encounter with a judge after arrest. The purpose of an initial appearance is to inform the accused of the nature of the charges and advise him/her of their basic rights.

The initial appearance may also serve as a probable cause hearing if the person was arrested without a warrant and no arrest warrant is secured prior to the initial appearance. However, getting an arrest warrant within 48 hours after a warrantless arrest satisfies this probable cause requirement.

Police making an arrest without a warrant shall bring the arrested person in front of a judge within 48 hours after the arrest. O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62.

Police making an arrest with a warrant shall bring the arrested person in front of a judge within 72 hours after the arrest. O.C.G.A. § 17-4-26. These time limitations include weekends and holidays.

Failure to meet these time requirements may result in the release of the arrested person through a writ of habeus corpus under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62. The failure to provide a timely first appearance, however, will not prevent the State from prosecuting the case.

At the initial appearance the judge shall:

  • Inform the accused of the charges
  • Inform the accused of their Miranda rights
  • Determine whether the accused wants a court appointed attorney and how to obtain one
  • Inform the accused of their right to a committal (probable cause) hearing, unless waived by getting bond
  • In the case of a warrantless arrest, make a probable cause determination
  • Inform accused of right to grand jury indictment or accusation
  • Inform accused of when grand jury will next convene
  • Inform accused of right to jury trial
  • Inform accused of right to waive rights and plead guilty
  • Set bail unless offense is only bailable by superior court judge

Importantly, a defendant’s volunteered statements at the initial appearance may be admissible against the accused at trial. The accused person is NOT entitled to an attorney at the initial appearance because the initial appearance is not considered a “critical stage” in the criminal justice process. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975).

Contact Us

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.

 

 

Serious Violent Felonies under Georgia Law

Georgia law provides for the most serious violent offenses known as the “Seven Deadly Sins.” These are the most heinous crimes in our society and, as such, have specialized punishment including mandatory minimum punishment and limited eligibility for parole. This article will list the serious violent felonies as proscribed by law and detail the punishment surrounding them.

Seven Deadly Sins

O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(a) lists the “Serious Violent Felonies” in Georgia criminal law:

  • Murder, Felony Murder
  • Armed Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Aggravated Child Molestation
  • Aggravated Sodomy
  • Aggravated Sexual Battery

If convicted of any of these offenses, the sentencing court is required to impose no less than the statutory minimum sentences of imprisonment. O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(b).

Mandatory Minimum Sentences of Imprisonment

10 years imprisonment

  • Armed Robbery
  • Kidnapping (victim 14 years or older)

25 years (followed by probation for life)

  • Kidnapping (victim under 14)
  • Rape
  • Aggravated Child Molestation
  • Aggravated Sodomy
  • Aggravated Sexual Battery

Life

  • Murder, Felony Murder

 

Eligible for Parole?

  • Defendants sentenced to 10 years confinement must serve all 10 years and is not eligible for parole
  • Defendants sentenced to 25 years confinement must serve all 25 years without possibility of parole
  • Defendants sentenced to Life is parole eligible after 30 years
  • Defendants sentenced to death whose sentences is commuted to life is parole eligible after 30 years
  • Defendants sentenced to life without parole will never receive parole

O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(c)(1) – (4).

First Offender Treatment is not available to any of the Serious Violent Felonies.

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.

 

 

 

 

Georgia Criminal Law – Preliminary Hearings

Defendants held in custody without bond are entitled to a preliminary hearing under Georgia law. Preliminary hearings are a vital pre-trial proceeding where the defendant has an opportunity to be released from custody if the State cannot prove the existence of probable cause for the charges against the defendant. This adversarial proceeding affords the defendant the chance to cross examine the State’s witnesses and present evidence negating probable cause.

If the presiding judge determines probable cause exists for one or more charges, the case is then “bound over” to the trial court. If not, the charges have been dismissed[i]. This article will outline the laws governing preliminary hearings, the standard of proof, rules of evidence, role of the judge, and guidelines for how such hearings should be conducted.

What is a Preliminary Hearing?

Also called committal hearings, commitment hearings, or probable cause hearings, preliminary hearings are a post-arrest, pre-indictment, pre-trial hearing to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to justify detaining a defendant on the charges against him/her.

The State bears the burden of proving the existence of probable cause. The defendant has an opportunity to challenge the State’s case and argue for their release due to a lack of sufficient evidence justifying a probable cause determination. The defendant gets a sneak peek at the evidence in the case and the prosecutor has the chance to assess the strength or weakness of a given case.

Right to a Hearing

Although there is no Federal or Georgia constitutional right to such a hearing, Georgia statute O.C.G.A. § 17-7-20 provides for this right. The right to a preliminary hearing is waived, however, if the defendant posts bond on the case and is released from custody.

Preliminary hearings are conducted after a “reasonable” time is afforded to the State and defense to prepare for the hearing. If a defendant is deprived of their right to a preliminary hearing a reviewing court may grant habeus corpus relief.

Right to an Attorney

The preliminary hearing is a “critical stage” of the criminal process under the 6th Amendment and therefore defendants are entitled to the assistance of counsel. A defendant cannot be forced to proceed without an attorney if there is a reasonable probability of obtaining counsel without great delay. A defendant may testify at the preliminary hearing but should be cautious because the statement could be used against him/her at trial.

The Judge’s Role

At the preliminary hearing, the judicial officer shall:

  • Explain the purpose of the hearing
  • Inform the defendant of their rights
  • Ask the defendant if they intend to enter a plea or otherwise waive their right to the hearing
  • Make a probable cause determination for each charge
  • Maintain a record of the proceeding
  • Make rulings on objections by either party
  • Provide a record of the outcome to the appropriate court

The rules of evidence apply at a preliminary hearing with the exception of hearsay evidence. Further, the right to confront witnesses under the 6th amendment does not apply as this is a trial right.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Although the State may later try to indict the earlier dismissed charge via grand jury proceeding.

Family Violence Battery in Cobb County, Georgia

A conviction for Family Violence Battery in Georgia can have consequences that go far beyond a conviction for other misdemeanors.   For some clients, this is their first interaction with law enforcement and their concerns include: jail time, a permanent mark on their criminal history , and the possibility of trial.   All of these concerns are very real when facing Family Violence Battery charges. This is especially true when charged with Family Violence Battery in Cobb County. This jurisdiction has specifically allocated money and resources in aggressively prosecuting domestic violence charges.  This article aims to explain the nature of the offense, punishments, and how these cases are handled within Cobb County.

 

The Offense

 

Georgia Criminal Code § 16-5-23.1 defines domestic violence (named “battery – family violence”) as whenever a battery, an intentional physical harm or visible bodily harm, is committed against “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.”

 

Therefore, in order to be charged with Family Violence Battery, the alleged victim must be within a certain relationship of the defendant:

 

  • A spouse
  • Persons who are parents of the same child
  • Children
  • Step-Children
  • Foster Children
  • Other persons living in the same household (roommates)

 

Punishment

 

A first conviction for Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine.  A second or subsequent conviction with the same family member (as classified above) or another family member results in a felony conviction with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1

 

While a first lifetime conviction of Family Violence Battery appears to be just a misdemeanor, there are several collateral consequences unknown to most people.  For example, because Georgia’s classification of Family Violence Battery falls within the Federal definition of “domestic violence,” a Georgia citizen who is convicted of Family Violence Battery is prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal Law.

 

Furthermore, while the maximum penalty includes 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine, many judges throughout the State will also require individuals convicted of Family Violence Battery to serve time on probation (in lieu of jail time), but with the conditions of completing a domestic violence program.  These programs go by several different names (usually Domestic Violence Intervention Program – DVIP), but they generally include 24 weeks of classes, counseling, and program fees that are not included in the fine ordered by the judge.  In addition, judges can add community service, counseling requirements, fines, and alcohol and drug evaluations.  It is important to know that your attorney can negotiate all of these things.

 

How it Works in Cobb

 

The first step after arrest is getting a bond. If charged with misdemeanor Family Violence Battery, the law provides you shall be given a bond (in all misdemeanor cases).  But, in addition to having to pay bail money to bond out, the judge will also typically impose a No Contact provision as a condition of your pre-trial release. For example, in a case where a husband is accused of battering his wife, and the couple have minor children who live with them, a judge will usually order the defendant to have No Contact with the wife (alleged victim), the children, and be prevented from returning to the shared home. This No Contact provision places a great burden and strain on the accused as a violation of this bond condition (any form of contact, direct or indirect) can land the accused person in custody until the case is resolved. Therefore, the accused has to find alternative living arrangements and be estranged from their family.

 

As a result, our office routinely files a Motion to Modify Bond Conditions to change the No Contact provision to No Violent or Harassing Contact. This will allow the accused to return home and have contact with the alleged victim and anyone else protected under the bond order; allowing the accused to return to some semblance of a normal lifestyle.

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Cobb 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. An experienced attorney should periodically check to see whether the case has been accused prior to arraignment.

 

It is possible to resolve a Family Violence Battery 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 Cobb County Domestic Violence Pre-Trial Intervention Program. If the accused successfully completes the DVPTI 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.” If accused and not eligible for DVPTI, 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, Cobb County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss Family Violence Battery charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to Family Violence Battery or proceed to trial.

 

Cobb County State Court prosecutors will often include multiple counts of Battery, Simple Battery, and Family Violence Battery within the accusation.  Unfortunately, many people go to court on their first court date, without exploring the consequences of a Family Violence Battery conviction, and enter a plea.  Whether the person committed the acts alleged or they simply just want to put this chapter of their life behind them, even though they’re innocent, it’s vital to consult with an attorney.  At the very least, an attorney can discuss the implications of being convicted of Family Violence Battery.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Family Violence Battery 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 Family Violence Battery 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 Family Violence Battery, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

Georgia Criminal Law – Drug Schedules for Controlled Substances

Georgia and Federal law provide for the “scheduling” of different controlled substances. Controlled substances are divided into different categories based on potential for abuse and medicinal use, if any. Violating state or federal controlled substances laws can result in misdemeanor or felony punishment depending on the type of substance and quantity involved.

Schedule I: These substances have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs include Heroin, LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms), and MDMA (Ecstacy). Although marijuana is considered Schedule I under federal law, Georgia treats marijuana possession differently. In Georgia, simple possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is punishable as a misdemeanor. However, if marijuana is chemically altered to another state (thc oil or wax), it can be charged as a felony.

Schedule II: These substances have a high potential for abuse but have at least some accepted medical use. Schedule II drugs include Cocaine, Amphetamine, Opium, Morphine, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Ketamine, and Fentanyl.

Schedule III: These substances have less potential for abuse than Schedule I and II as they have some accepted medical use but may lead to moderate or low physical dependence if abused. Schedule III drugs include Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, anabolic steroids, certain barbiturates, and substances or mixtures containing limited amounts of narcotics.

Schedule IV: These substances have low potential for abuse compared to Schedule III, having some accepted medical use, but may lead to limited physical and psychological dependence if abused. Schedule IV drugs include Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazapam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), and Zolpidem (Ambien).

Schedule V: These substances have low potential for abuse compared to Schedule IV, having some accepted medical use, but can also lead to limited physical and psychological dependence if abused. Schedule V drugs include substances or mixtures containing limited amounts of narcotics and must be lawfully prescribed.

A person accused of unlawful possession or the sale/distribution of any of the above controlled substances is facing serious criminal charges. A skilled and experienced attorney is necessary to navigate the law and successfully defend criminal charges.

Contact Us

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.

Forsyth County Family Violence Battery – Cumming Criminal Defense Lawyer

A conviction for Family Violence Battery in Georgia can have consequences that go far beyond a conviction for other misdemeanors.   The State of Georgia, as a whole, has taken a stand against domestic violence.  There are domestic violence task forces across the State, and specialized prosecuting units. Every day we see the impact that family violence arrests have on Georgia’s criminal justice system. Police are told across the State to make arrests for Family Violence Battery if there is any evidence it occurred. Evidence, unfortunately, can be one-sided and be the result of a false allegation.

For those who have been arrested for family violence, there may be feelings of anxiety and stress as it relates to the potential impact the case will have. Jail time, a criminal history, and forfeiture of firearms for life are all very real concerns when facing Family Violence Battery charges in Georgia. An arrest is not a conviction, and there are options in the criminal process for your Family Violence case.

In order to be prosecuted for Family Violence Battery, the State must prove that the alleged victim falls within the statutory definition for “Household Members or Family.”

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1, this includes 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.

 

The State must also prove that there was either “substantial physical harm” OR “visible bodily harm” in a Family Violence Battery case in order to get convicted of the crime.

 

What happens after a Family Violence Arrest in Forsyth County?

First, the person arrested for Family Violence Battery will have their booking photo and finger prints taken and then will be ordered into the Forsyth County Detention Center. The booking process, through fingerprints, creates the official criminal history that is then made public. After the booking process, the person arrested for Family Violence will see a Judge in their First Appearance hearing. This is where Bond will be addressed.

In order to get out on bond in a Family Violence case, the Judge must find several factors to be true. The Judge must find that the person accused of Family Violence Battery:

(1) Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;

(2) Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;

(3) Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial; and

(4) Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.

These are referred to in Georgia as the ‘Ayala Factors’ based on the criminal case that first laid out what must be proven in order to get out on bond in a criminal case. Ayala v. State, 62 Ga. 704 (1993).  Retaining an attorney immediately at arrest means having representation at what many people view as the most important step: getting out of jail as soon as possible. A skilled attorney will do an investigation into the case  and allegations and put forth the best possible argument to have their client released on pretrial bond in their Family Violence case.

 

In a Family Violence case, the Judge may order certain requirements in order to be allowed out on bond. For example, the Judge can order domestic violence classes, or for the accused to not have any weapons while out on bond. We see in most domestic violence cases, if the person is not represented at First Appearance, that the Judge will issue a No Contact provision and Stay Away Order. This means that once the person is released, they are not allowed in many cases return to their home, or speak to the parent of their child or their husband or wife. This is something that in most cases can be avoided through proper investigation and preparation for a bond hearing.

 

What is the potential punishment for Family Violence Case in Forsyth County?

The punishment for a family violence case is codified at O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1 and the maximum penalty is the same across the State of Georgia. On a first conviction for Family Violence Battery, there is a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine. Keep in mind, that the maximum penalty can be greatly increased based on what the State charges via the Accusation. For example, if there is one count of Family Violence Battery, one count of Simple Assault, and one count of Disorderly Conduct, and the charges all based on different conduct, the maximum penalty in that case would be three years to serve. A second or subsequent conviction with the same family member (as classified above) or another family member results in a felony conviction with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

While a first lifetime conviction of Family Violence Battery appears to be just a misdemeanor, there are several collateral consequences that do always appear at first glance.  For instance, under Federal law, any person convicted of a crime of domestic violence can no longer lawfully possess a firearm.   Georgia’s classification of Family Violence Battery falls within the Federal definition of “domestic violence.”  Thus, a Georgia citizen who has a conviction of Family Violence Battery can no longer possess a firearm without the possibility of facing criminal charges in Federal court. This is a permanent forfeiture of your ability to carry a weapon.

In addition, while the maximum includes 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine, many Judges throughout the State will require individuals convicted of Family Violence Battery to serve time on probation in lieu of jail time, with the conditions of completing a domestic violence program.  These programs go by several different names, but they generally include 24 weeks of classes, counseling, and program fees that are no included in the fine levied by the Judge.  In addition, Judges can add community service, counseling requirements, fines, and alcohol and drug evaluations.  It is important to know that all of these things can be negotiated by your attorney.

Keep in mind: an arrest is NOT a conviction. Just because you have been arrested for Family Violence in Gwinnett County or any county in the State, does NOT mean you will be ultimately convicted, and have to face the criminal history implications and criminal punishment. As in all criminal cases, there are numerous defenses and options to resolve cases short of a guilty plea!

Being charged with Family Violence Battery 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 Family Violence Battery 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 Family Violence Battery, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

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.