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.

 

Sodomy

Sodomy is a serious crime in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-2 established two separate criminal offenses. O.C.G.A.  §16-6-2(a)(1) defines sodomy as the performance of or submission to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-2(a)(2) defines aggravated sodomy  as the commission of sodomy with force and against the will of the other person involved or with a person who is less than ten years of age.

The offense of aggravated sodomy protects individuals from violent acts where the offense of sodomy punishes consensual sexual behavior.

For sodomy, all that is required is contact between the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another person. Proof of penetration is not required in a sodomy case unless is specifically listed in the indictment. Whether there was prohibited contact between the defendant and alleged victim is solely a question for a jury.

No corroboration is required in a sodomy case.

Aggravated Sodomy is different than Sodomy. In order to make out a case for Aggravated Sodomy, the State must show that the contact was made both with force and against the will or without the consent of the alleged victim. The standard of proof is the same as required for a rape case. Both the words and actions of the accused can be used to determine if the alleged victim was in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-15 prohibits the solicitation of sodomy. Solicitation of sodomy is defined as soliciting another individual to perform to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one and the mouth or anus of another and such act is to be performed in public in exchange for money or anything of value or by force or by or with an individual who is incapable of giving legal consent to sexual activity. In order to be convicted of solicitation of sodomy, the State must be present sufficient evidence of all three elements of the crime.

If you are convicted of sodomy, it is a felony punishable by not less than one nor more than twenty years in prison and is subject to the sentencing provisions of § 17-10-6.2 which requires the sexual offender to receive a split sentence including the minimum sentence of imprisonment.

Aggravated Sodomy is also a felony and is punishable by either life imprisonment or by a split sentence of imprisonment for not less than 25 years and probation for life.

Solicitation of sodomy is a misdemeanor. However if the solicitation is of someone under 18 years of age or the solicitation is for money then it is felony punishable of not less than 5 nor more than 20 years in prison.

If the victim is at least 13 years old but less than 16 years of age and the person convicted of sodomy is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than 4 years older than the victim, then the accused would be guilty of a misdemeanor and would not be subject to the sentencing provision of O.C.G.A. §17-10-6.2.

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.

Enticing A Child for Indecent Purposes

Enticing a child for indecent purposes is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of Enticing a child for an indecent act. Many allegations of enticing a child are false. Even if you know the allegation of enticing a child against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Home Invasion – Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney

Home Invasion – Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney

Home invasion is a serious felony crime in Georgia. Home invasion is either in the first degree, or in the second degree and can be found at O.C.G.A. § 16-7-5.

 

Home Invasion in the First Degree

A person commits the offense of home invasion in the first degree when, without authority and with intent to commit a forcible felony while in possession of a deadly weapon, he or she enters the home of another while such house is occupied by a person with authority to be there. For example, entering someone’s home while it is occupied by another with the intent to commit an armed robbery, an aggravated assault, or a rape would be considered home invasion in the first degree.

What is the punishment for Home Invasion in the First Degree?

It is a felony offense, with the maximum punishment being life in prison with a fine of up to $100,000. The State of Georgia prosecutes Home Invasion cases harshly. The law, however, does allow the Judge to impose a sentence of probation.

Home Invasion in the Second Degree

A person commits the offense of home invasion in the second degree when, without authority and with intent to commit a forcible misdemeanor, and while in possession of a deadly weapon, he or she enters the home of another while such home is occupied by any person with authority to be present therein. For example, home invasion in the second degree could occur if someone were to enter into someone else’s home, while being in possession of a tool capable of serious bodily injury, with the intent to commit a simple assault (a misdemeanor).

 

What is the punishment for Home Invasion in the Second Degree in Georgia?

Home invasion in the second degree is also a felony offense, with imprisonment for 5-20 years and a fine of up to $100,000. Probation, again, is allowed under the law.

 

Defenses to Home Invasion

A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise numerous defenses to Home Invasion cases in Georgia. If the State is unable to prove you were at the location beyond a reasonable doubt, then you will be acquitted. Additionally, it is required that the person to possess a deadly weapon at the time of the unlawful entry. The State will not be able to prove its case if there was no weapon at the time of entry, or even if the weapon was acquired while inside the home.

Can you get a bond if you are arrested for a Home Invasion?

The short answer is: yes, but not necessarily at the First Appearance. If you have been arrested for Home Invasion in Georgia, the first court appearance will be the First Appearance hearing. This takes place within 48 hours if the arrest was made without a warrant, and within 72 hours if the arrest was made with a warrant.

At the First Appearance, the Judge will inform the accused of the charges and their right to remain silent and to a lawyer. It is at this Court appearance where the Judge can set bail in most instances. However, Home Invasion in the First Degree is a Superior Court-only bond. This means that the bond may only be heard before a Judge of the Superior Court. First Appearance, however, is often heard by a Magistrate Judge, without authority to hear or set bond on a Home Invasion in the First Degree case. Thus, no bond can be given in this scenario. This is not the case with Home Invasion in the Second Degree. Any Judge may set bail at the First Appearance if it is Home Invasion in the Second Degree.

 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for Home Invasion, contact the trial lawyers at W. Scott Smith PC for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Prostitution, Pimping and Pandering

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 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 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 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 clerk of court in which a person is convicted of pandering 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. 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.

Alco-Sensor, PBT, Roadside breath test. What is it? Should I do it or not?

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Cops, you are likely familiar with the roadside alcohol detection device known as an Alco-Sensor or PBT. This device calculates your estimated blood alcohol level by measuring the amount of alcohol in your breath. The driver blows into the device, generally during the course of a DUI investigation, and the device produces a result.

Officers are trained that they should tell suspects that the device only tells them whether or not they test positive or negative for alcohol, but this is not accurate. The device in fact gives a numerical reading, such as “0.08” or “0.00.” In Georgia, the numerical results of an alco-sensor test are not admissible in evidence, and neither is testimony that the result on the device was “high” or “over the legal limit” but whether or not the result was positive or negative for alcohol or whether a suspect “passed” or “failed” the test is admissible.

So should you take the roadside breath test if you are pulled over for DUI? A good rule of thumb is no, as the result could be potentially incriminating. Even though the number is inadmissible, it is typically still included in the police report, and prosecutors have access to this information, so a high result can make it difficult to convince the prosecutor to dismiss or reduce the DUI. However, if you have consumed no alcohol, and you are confident that the test result will be 0.00, then it may be worth it to perform the test. It is completely voluntary, and the police cannot force you to comply with the test because you are protected from compelled self-incriminatory acts and statements.

If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with DUI, give our office a call. We offer free consultations and payment plans to help fit your budget. 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.

What do you do if you are arrested for child molestation in Georgia?

If you or a loved one is arrested for child molestation in Georgia, it is important that you act immediately to protect yourself. Do not wait until your court date to get an attorney and to preserve evidence.

Do not think that just because you are innocent that the charges will be dismissed. Child molestation charges are aggressively prosecuted in Georgia and prosecutors and the police believe children who make the accusations.

The law may say you are presumed innocent but in child molestation cases, you have to prove your innocence.

Here is what you should do if arrested for child molestation:

  1. Hire an attorney – Make sure that attorney actually handles and tries child molestation cases. Most criminal defense attorneys do not handle child molestation cases. Make sure the attorney you talk to does regularly handles child molestation cases in Georgia.
  2. Avoid making any statements – Do not walk into the police department and profess your innocence. The police will not believe you. Do not think you can show up at your first court date and tell the prosecutor and judge that you are innocent and expect the charges to be dropped. If you are arrested for child molestation, you have to start preparing for your jury trial. Do not make any statements to anyone except your lawyer.
  3. Start gathering important evidence
    1. Gather and preserve any physical evidence in your possession that might relate to the child making the accusation. This includes clothing, photos, video or any other tangible object.
    2. Gather and preserve any documents that might relate to this accusation including emails, texts, social media, phone records, GPS records, computer records or any other document that might show where you were when this incident allegedly occurred.
    3. Witnesses – Immediately make a list of any person who you think might have information about this child molestation accusation. Do not discuss the case with this person but pass this list of potential witnesses to your attorney and let your attorney contact them.

Here is what you should never do if arrested for child molestation:

  1. Never talk to the alleged victim or the family.
  2. Never have any contact with the alleged victim through a 3rd party or through social media.
  3. Never talk to law enforcement without an attorney present.
  4. Never talk to a child welfare agency or any other governmental agency without an attorney present.

If you are arrested for child molestation, please call our office 24/7 at 404-581-0999 or send us an email at mike@peachstatelawyer.com. We will sit down with you and fully discuss your case and what to expect in court. There is no charge for the initial consultation. You will only retain us if you feel we are the best law firm to represent you. It is your case and your life so you need to hire the lawyer that you feel gives you the best chance to win.

Civil Asset Forfeiture- Gwinnett Drug Cases

Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to confiscate property that they deem as having been used in criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture does not require a conviction or criminal charges being taken out.

In Georgia, civil asset forfeiture is a legal process, and it allows the government to seize your property that they claim is connected to a crime or would likely be used to commit a crime, especially a crime involving a controlled substance. The most seized property includes cash, cars, cell phones, firearms, and real estate.

If the police have seized your property in a civil asset forfeiture, you must act fast so that you do not lose what the police has taken. It is important that you hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible because there is a limited amount of time to object to the forfeiture.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a drug offense and has had their property seized, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Cruelty to Children in Gwinnett County

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

In Georgia, the offense of cruelty to children is broken down into three different degrees, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse. Because of the consequences of such a serious crime, it is vitally important to understand the offense, as well as your individual rights when dealing with such allegations.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-70, first-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, under the age of eighteen, willfully deprives the child of necessaries to the extent that the child’s well-being is jeopardized. Additionally, conduct in which such person causes a minor child cruel or excessive physical or mental pain is considered first-degree child cruelty.

Second-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, with criminal negligence, causes a child, under the age of eighteen, cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. Additionally, third-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a minor child acts in one of the following ways:

  • Such person acts as the primary aggressor and intentionally allows a minor child to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or
  • Such person, who is acting as the primary aggressor, knows that the minor child is present or knows that the child can either hear or see the act, commits the act of forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery.

Penalties

The penalty for being convicted of first-degree cruelty to children in Gwinnett County, Georgia is a prison sentence between 5-20 years. For second-degree cruelty to children, the prison term is anywhere between 1-10 years. Alternatively, if a person is convicted of third-degree cruelty to children, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty, depending on his/her past criminal history. If the person has never been convicted of third-degree cruelty to children or has only been convicted once in the past, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty. However, if such person has been convicted in the past more than twice for the same offense then he/she will be sentenced to a felony prison term between 1-3 years and/or a fine of no less than $1,000, but no more than $5,000.

Defenses

Due to the severity of the punishment, as well as the collateral consequences for a charge of cruelty to children, it is vitally important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations and who also understands all the possible defenses to such a charge. Some defenses to cruelty to children include, but are not limited to:

  • Accident, if it did not result from the person’s recklessness or criminal negligence;
  • Parent’s right to discipline, if reasonable; and
  • Actual innocence or false allegations.

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of cruelty to children, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge.  Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for cruelty to children in Gwinnett County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Giving a False Name

A person who gives a false name, address, or date of birth to a law officer in the lawful discharge of his official duties with the intent of misleading the officer as to his identity or birthdate can be charged with the misdemeanor of Giving False Name. Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 16-10-25) makes it illegal to lie to the police about your identity. However, simply refusing to hand over your ID does not give the police officer probable cause to believe that you have falsely identified yourself, so you cannot be charged with Giving a False Name under those circumstances, but refusing to hand over your license might result in an obstruction charge.

To prove that someone is guilty of Giving a False Name, the State will generally provide proof of the person’s real name, address, or date of birth by showing records such as a birth certificate, driving records, or registration.

If you have been charged with Giving a False Name, you face penalties up to 1 year and jail, a fine of $1000, or both. You need an experienced attorney to help you navigate the charges, evidence, and defenses. Give our office a call for a free consultation if you or someone you know has been charged with giving a false name. 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.