Super Speeder- DeKalb

If you are driving 85 MPH or more on any road or highway OR driving 75mph or more on any two-lane road or highway in Georgia, you are deemed to be a ‘super speeder.’ What does that mean? It means that in addition to the local fines and fees you pay to resolve your ticket you will also have to pay an additional $200 super speeder fee to DDS. You have 90 days from the date of conviction (i.e paying ticket or entering a plea) to submit the payment to DDS. If you fail to pay the $200 fee within 90 days your license will be suspended.  If you or someone you know has been arrested with a super speeder ticket, 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.

Governor Kemp Signs Bill that will Enhance Penalties for Fleeing and Eluding in Georgia

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

On April 25th, 2022, Governor Kemp signed legislation to further public safety efforts in the State of Georgia. One of the bills that he signed, which was passed in the House, as well as the Senate, will enhance or increase penalties and sentencing for individuals charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. This bill will go into effect on July 1st, 2022.

This bill states that:

  • It is unlawful for a driver to fail to stop his/her vehicle or attempt to flee or elude a police officer when he/she is given a visual or audible signal to stop.
  • Any person convicted of a first, second, or third violation of this law will be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
  • Any person convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of this law will be guilty of a felony.

Sentencing:

  • The penalties for a first conviction will be a fine of at least $1,000 and 30 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a second conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $2,500 and 90 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a third conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $4,000 and 180 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a fourth conviction, and any subsequent conviction, within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $5,000 and 12 months in custody.

This bill will dramatically change the penalties for fleeing and eluding in Georgia. A high and aggravated misdemeanor generally means that the accused will have to serve the entire jail-sentence in custody without the possibility of receiving 2 for 1 credit. The fourth conviction of this crime in a 10-year period will constitute a felony offense. Furthermore, a nolo contendere plea will not avoid mandatory jail time, or a conviction.

Any arrests that occur prior to July 1st, 2022, for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer will still be pursuant to the prior statute that allows for lower penalties and sentencing. However, if an accused is arrested for fleeing and eluding on, or after, July 1st, 2022, the sentencing will be enhanced pursuant to this new law.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the punishment for fleeing and eluding based on this new legislation, it is of vital importance to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know every aspect of this new law, we understand the defenses to the charge, we take pride in advocating for our clients’ constitutional rights, and we detail all options for our clients when defending their case. If you or a loved one has been charged with fleeing and eluding, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

I was arrested with a warrant, and they did not bring me to court, what do I do?

If you have been arrested, booked into the County Jail, and there is a warrant, you must be brought before a Judge within 72 hours. If you are not brought before a judge within 72 hours, you must be released from custody.

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-26, it requires the law enforcement officer to “exercise reasonable diligence in bringing the person arrested before the judicial officer authorized to examine, commit, or receive bail and in any event to present the person arrested before a committing judicial office within 72 hours of arrest.” Further, “[a]n arrested person who is not notified before the hearing of the time and place of commitment hearing, shall be released.” Chisholm v. State, 231 Ga. App. 835, 840 (1998)

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a charge with a warrant, and they have not been brought before a judge, 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.

I was arrested without a warrant, and they did not bring me to court, what do I do?

If you have been arrested, booked into the County Jail, and there is no warrant, you must be brought before a Judge within 48 hours. If you are not brought before a judge within 48 hours, you must be released from custody.

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62, it requires the arresting person (typically the police officer) to “without delay, convey the offender before the most convenient judicial officer authorized to receive an affidavit and issue a warrant as provided for in Code Section 17-4-40.” Further, “[n]o such imprisonment shall be legal beyond a reasonable time allowed for this purpose; and any person who is not brought before such judicial officer within 48 hours of arrest shall be released.” Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S.  44, 57 (1991).

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a charge without a warrant, and they have not been brought before a judge, 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.

What is an arraignment and what happens after?

If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia, you will likely receive a court date in the mail, informing you that your case has been scheduled for an arraignment. An arraignment is an opportunity to have your charges read aloud in open Court, and for you to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo. If your case is in Dekalb, Cobb, Fulton, Douglas, Clayton, or another State Court, then you are able to waive this arraignment by filing a waiver of arraignment with the Court. Many attorneys typically waive arraignment on behalf of their clients as a matter of course. This is because State Court arraignments are typically formalities, and not really necessary if you have retained an attorney (you are pleading not guilty! That’s why you hired an attorney!).

If your case is located in Municipal Court, your court dates will likely all say “arraignment.” This is because many Municipal Courts hold arraignment calendars every day. Arraignment in Municipal Court, unlike in State Courts, cannot be waived, even if it is your first court date. If this is the case, you must be present at your first court date.

Some time after your arraignment date, if you or your attorney has filed a motion requesting discovery, the Prosecutor will send discovery. Discovery is the evidence that the prosecutor has which they plan on using in your case. If it has been several weeks since your arraignment and you have not received discovery after you have requested it, you should reach out to an attorney or to the Court to tell them that you have not received it.

The criminal legal process can be confusing and scary. You are not alone. We have an experienced team of attorneys who can guide you through the process from arraignment through trial. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation. Call us at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.

Georgia Immunity Motions in Domestic Violence Cases

If a person is charged in the State of Georgia with Domestic Violence, that person has the right to claim self-defense. Not only can the person claim self-defense at trial, but the person also has the right to file what is called an immunity motion under O.C.G.A. § 16-3-24.2.

This is a legal motion made pre-trial, whereby a person can assert that their self-defense claim is so strong that the Court cannot allow the prosecutor to continue with the case. Once the motion is filed, the Court must hear and rule on the motion prior to trial.

In an immunity motion the burden is on the defense to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that they should win on the self-defense theory. Once the defense has raised the self-defense claim, the State then has the burden of disproving the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will hear testimony, consider evidence, and make a ruling. Two outcomes can occur:

  1. If the Court finds that the defense presented sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and persuaded the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will grant the motion and dismiss the case.
  2. If the Court finds that the defense did not present sufficient evidence at the pretrial hearing and did not persuade the Court that they were acting in self-defense — the Court will deny the motion and the case will proceed to trial.

The advantage to filing this type of motion is that it can protect a person who is charged with domestic violence from the risk of uncertainty of going to trial. If the motion is not successful, the person charged, still has every right to fight the charges at trial. These motions can be very beneficial, in the right case, for the person charged with domestic violence.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a domestic violence charge, 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.

Rape in Gwinnett County

Rape is a serious crime in Gwinnett 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.

If you are charged with rape in Gwinnett County, do not speak to the police. Do not make statements to a Gwinnett County Detective. You will be taken to the Gwinnett County jail. You cannot get a bond at first appearance from a Gwinnett County Magistrate judge. Rape is only bondable by a Gwinnett County Superior Court judge. You will need to apply for this bond hearing.

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 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 Gwinnett County 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.

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.

Child Molestation in Gwinnett County

Child Molestation is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. If you are arrested in Gwinnett County  for child molestation, please do not make any statements to the police. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of child molestation. The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office has a unit called the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit and they zealously prosecute these cases and they are very prepared. Many allegations of child molestation are false. Even if you know the allegation of child molestation against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.  

If you are arrested, you will be on a calendar the next day for First Appearance. At this hearing, the Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge will read the warrants to you. They then might consider bond depending on the allegations but will likely deny bond in a child molestation. You will then need to file a motion for a formal bond hearing and a preliminary hearing. These hearings take place at the Gwinnett County jail.  It is crucial to get an attorney retained to be at the First Appearance hearing at the Gwinnett County jail.  

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-4 defines child molestation as follows: 

A person commits the offense of child molestation when such person: Does any immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of or with any child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the accused OR by means of electronic device, transmits images of a person engaging in, inducing, or otherwise participating in any immoral or indecent act to a child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the person.  

Child Molestation is a specific intent crime. Whether the accused has the requisite intent when he committed the act of child molestation is up to a jury. The jury can infer the requisite intent of “arousing or satisfying sexual desires” from the commission of the act. However, proof of the accused’s actual arousal is not required. Intent can be inferred from the testimony of the victim or from the actions of the accused.  

No penetration is required for child molestation. All that is required is the touching of the child’s body along with the requisite intent. It does not matter whether the child was clothed or unclothed in determining whether the act was immoral or indecent.  

The indictment does not have to allege the specific details of the child molestation. It can use general language of the statute.  

The punishment for child molestation is a mandatory of 5 years to 20 years in prison. If it a second conviction for child molestation then it can be life in prison or a mandatory 10 years up to 30 years in prison.  

If someone is making an allegation of child molestation against you in Gwinnett County, it is imperative that you do not talk to the police, do not talk to the person who is accusing you of child molestation and call us. Time is of the essence to properly investigate the 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. Our office is in downtown Atlanta.  

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.  

What to do if arrested for Possession of Drugs or Possession with Intent in Gwinnett County

If you are arrested for any drug offense in Gwinnett County, do not make any statements to the police. You will be taken to the Gwinnett County Jail at 2900 University Parkway, Lawrenceville, Georgia. You will be on the first appearance calendar the following day. It is important to have an attorney for this court appearance. The courtroom for the first appearance and bond hearing is in the Gwinnett County on the 2nd floor.

At your first appearance hearing, the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court judge will review the facts in the warrant and your criminal history and will decide whether to issue you a bond or not. The Chief Magistrate Judge is Kristina Blum. Either Judge Blum or one of the other Magistrate Judges will preside over your initial hearing. There are a few options regarding bond. The first is they may give you an unsecured judicial release. This allows you to get out of jail without paying any money. The next option is to give you a regular bond where you would have to go through a bonding company to be released. The final option is that they deny your bond. In Gwinnett County, in most drug cases, bond is set at first appearance.

Once you are released from the Gwinnett County jail, please ask any person who was with you that night to write out a statement of what they remember happening the night of the arrest. This could be helpful in preparing for the motions hearing and trial in Gwinnett County Superior Court. It is also important for you to write out a statement of anything you remember regarding the incident. Only give this statement to your attorney.

It is important that you hire an attorney quickly as there are tight deadlines on filing a Motion to Suppress which is a constitutional challenge to the drug evidence. Most drug cases are either won or lost at the Motions hearing. If you wait too long, you will be unable to file a Motion to Suppress.

Being convicted of a felony drug offense in Gwinnett County carries many consequences, including, but not limited to, a felony drug conviction on your record, loss of gun rights, loss of voting rights and has a detrimental impact on your securing a loan from a bank or employment.

You are welcome to call us 24/7 at 404-581-0999 and we will be there with you for your First Appearance hearing at the Gwinnett County jail.

Georgia Criminal Law: Drug Trafficking in Gwinnett County

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 Gwinnett County, Georgia. Why Gwinnett County? Gwinnett County is a highly populated and geographically vast jurisdiction 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.

For methamphetamine and/or amphetamine, any person who sells, delivers, or brings into this state or who possesses 28 grams or more is guilty of trafficking. If the quantity is greater than 28 grams but less than 200 grams the person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and pay a fine of $200,000. For quantities greater than 200 grams but less than 400 grams, it is a 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence plus a $300,000 fine. If the quantity is greater than 400 grams, the mandatory minimum prison sentence is 25 years plus a $1,000,000 fine.

Although the above sentences are described as “mandatory minimum prison” sentences, there are a few limited ways in which someone convicted of trafficking may be sentenced to less prison time than what is required by the mandatory minimums: (1) If the defendant provides “substantial assistance” to the government in identifying, arresting, and/or convicting other people involved in the drug conspiracy, the prosecutor may move the court to reduce or suspend part or all of the defendant’s sentence; (2) by agreement of the parties through a “negotiated plea”; or (3) the judge may depart from these mandatory minimums if certain mitigating factors exist (no prior felonies, no firearm used, defendant not head of conspiracy, nobody was injured as a result of criminal conduct, or if the interests of justice would not be served by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence).

Gwinnett County

If you have been arrested in Gwinnett County for drug trafficking, the first and most important step is getting a bond. Only a superior court judge may set bail on a trafficking charge. When considering whether to grant a bond the judge analyzes four factors, whether the defendant is a significant risk of:

  • Fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court
  • Posing a threat or danger to any person
  • Committing a felony while on pre-trial release
  • Intimidating witnesses

An experienced attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to consent to a bond in the case if you have ties to the community and meet the above factors. In Gwinnett County, bonds for trafficking range from $65,000 up to $125,000. The judge may also impose non-monetary restrictions (house arrest, no contact provisions, GPS ankle monitor, curfew, etc.). There is always the possibility, however, that a judge will deny setting a bond in the case, even if the bond was consented to. If the prosecutor will not agree to a bond, then the defendant will have to go before the judge and offer evidence of defendant’s ties to the communities (length of residence, family ties, employment status and history, history of responding to legal process – failure to appears or probation violations, lack of criminal history). The judge will normally set a “surety bond” where the defendant is only responsible for posting 10% of the overall bond amount and a bond company pays the rest (percentage varies depending on bond company).

If a bond is granted, the next step is fighting the case. Once all the evidence is gathered through the discovery process and our firm’s own independent investigation, we then communicate with the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office in an attempt to discuss a resolution. If these preliminary discussions are to no avail, we then proceed to file a “motion to suppress” illegally obtained evidence. If granted, the prosecution would not be able to proceed with the case. If denied, and the prosecutor is unwilling to dismiss or reduce the charges then we would be fully prepared to try the case before a jury. There are several defenses available to someone charged with drug trafficking:

  • Insufficient Drug Quantity (a motion to inspect evidence could reveal the weight of the substance does not meet the quantity as required in order to charge trafficking)
  • No Possession – Actual or Constructive (this defense asserts the defendant did not knowingly possess the substance in question, directly or indirectly)
  • Equal Access to Drugs (this defense relates to other individuals having access to the container or area in which the drugs were found, thereby raising doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the drugs)
  • Illegally Obtained Evidence (this is the basis of a successful motion to suppress)

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested for drug trafficking, 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] With a minimum purity of 10% or more of cocaine as described in Schedule II