Georgia’s New Distracted Driving Law for Georgia Drivers

by Mary Agramonte

 

As you have probably heard, Georgia’s new law on Distracted Driving will become effective on July 1, 2018. Georgia’s legislature has made the use of a cell phone will driving illegal in response to an alarming rise of traffic fatalities and serious injuries from car accidents.

The new law will prohibit Georgia drivers from the following:

  • Holding a cell phone at all
  • Texting, reading/ sending emails, using internet
  • Watching or recording videos

The following use of electronic devices will still be allowed even under the new law:

  • Speaking/texting with voice based communication
  • Using an earpiece or Bluetooth to talk on the phone
  • Using a navigation or GPS app

The punishment under this new law will be fines, fees, and points. Specifically, for a first conviction in 24 months, you will face a fine of $50.00 which will not include any surcharges and taxes. A second conviction will increase to $100.00 plus court costs and surcharges.

While the cost is fairly slight for a traffic offense, there will be other repercussions of the law. If an officer sees you on the phone, he now has the ability to pull your vehicle over which in some cases could lead to more serious charges. For example, an officer who has lawfully pulled you over for using your phone can then observe an odor of alcohol coming from your vehicle which can then lead to a DUI arrest.

Overall, this bill is being enacted to save lives as talking and texting on a cell phone while driving places other drivers and pedestrians at risk. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Georgia will now join the other 47 states that have already enacted laws prohibited texting and driving.

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.

Right to Bind Over from Municipal or Traffic Court in Georgia Criminal Cases

In Georgia, everyone charged with a crime against the laws of this state has a constitutional right to a trial by jury. The key word here is the laws of the State. Some municipalities have their own subset of rules that usually overlap with state laws. These rules are called local ordinances and they can only be prosecuted in the local municipal or probate court. However, since the local ordinances typically have a state law equivalent, you have the right to have the charge upgraded to a state law offense and have a trial by jury in the state court located within the same County. There are pros and cons to this course of action since a local ordinance will not appear on your criminal history unless you were arrested which would create a record via your fingerprint. Once upgraded to a state law offense, the charge will appear on your criminal history and won’t be removed unless you beat all charges at trial. The effect on your criminal history is the only downside of exercising your constitutional right to a trial. Sometimes, the offer will be better in state court or you will in fact proceed to a jury trial and be found not guilty. If you are charged with a state law offense originally, then there is absolutely no downside to exercising your constitutional right to a trial. You can and should bind your case over to state court if the municipal or probate court is not making a suitable offer.

If you find yourself in municipal or probate court and the judge or prosecutor makes it seem like you have no other choice than to plead guilty or have the judge decide your fate, call us at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Aggressive Driving Attorneys in Georgia

by Mary Agramonte

Georgia uses a point system to categorize different types of traffic tickets. Traffic offenses range from 1 point all the way up to 6 points. 6 point offenses are considered the most serious, have the harshest penalties, and are the most likely to land you in jail facing high fines and even a suspended license.

Georgia treats the offense of Aggressive Driving as a 6 point offense, meaning it is considered a very serious offense in Georgia courts. Under Georgia law, a person commits the offense of Aggressive Driving when he or she operates any motor vehicle with the intent to annoy, harass, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person. For example, if you are overtaking and passing someone with that intent, then you can be charged with Aggressive Driving. Similarly, if you are “tailgating” someone by following them very closely, then you can be charged with Aggressive Driving. In Georgia, you can be cited or arrested for Aggressive Driving if an officer observes you commit an act of road rage or if someone on the road calls 911 to report it.

Aggressive Driving has harsh penalties, and because of that you need the best Aggressive Driving Attorneys in Atlanta on your side fighting for you and your freedom. Aggressive Driving is considered a High and Aggravated Misdemeanor. This means that the maximum penalty can be a $5,000 fine (which ends up being much higher with the additional court costs and fees), and can land you in jail for up to 12 months. This is all in addition to the 6 points it will add to your driver’s license , which is then reported to your car insurance company, which can result in significantly higher premiums.

If you are under 21, an Aggressive Driving conviction will automatically suspend your license. Even if you are over 21 years old, the Aggressive Driving charge can still suspend your license depending on how many other tickets you have had in the past two years. Additionally, if you are arrested on scene for Aggressive Driving, then this will appear on your criminal history forever, unless the case is won with the help of knowledgeable Atlanta criminal defense attorneys.

Get the legal help you need. There are defenses available to those charged with Aggressive Driving in Georgia, but you need experienced criminal defense attorneys on your side to protect your freedom, your wallet, and your future. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Marietta Driving under the Influence (DUI) Lawyer

by Mary Agramonte

If you or a loved one has been charged with a Marietta DUI, contact our firm to speak with experienced DUI attorneys on how to best defend your case. Experienced Marietta lawyers in our firm are available any time, including nights and weekends, to provide you with the best possible outcome and advice. We can be contacted 24/7 at 404-581-0999 and provide free consultations.

Our firm consists of six highly trained Marietta and Cobb County attorneys. We have an office near the Marietta Square and Cobb Courthouse – with the Peach State Lawyer Hummer parked out front. W. Scott Smith has 18 years of DUI under his belt, and is active The National College of DUI Defense, Georgia Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers, The Lawyer Club of Atlanta, the Cobb County Bar Association and the Sandy Springs Bar Association. Mary Agramonte is an associate of W. Scott Smith and is a Marietta and Cobb County DUI lawyer and has successfully completed multiple advanced DUI seminars, as well as attended the renowned Bill Daniels Trial Lawyers College.

The address of Marietta Municipal Court is 240 Lemon St NE, Marietta, GA 30060. It is located in the same building as the Marietta Police Department. This court handles all cases where defendants are charged with traffic misdemeanors and local ordinances within the City of Marietta in Cobb County. The City of Marietta has its own police department, and so if you are arrested for a DUI in Cobb County by a Marietta Police Officer, your case will begin in the Marietta Municipal Court.

If you have been arrested with a DUI in Marietta or in Cobb County, our lawyers are ready to fight to avoid a DUI conviction. We are a group of knowledgeable attorneys prepared to defend against your Cobb County DUI in order to best protect your freedom and your license. If you have been charged with Driving with a Suspended License, a Super Speeder Speeding ticket, or Possession of Marijuana, and your case is in the Marietta Municipal Court, then call a law firm with the experience necessary to achieve the most favorable result for you.  We are available 24/7 to speak with you about your Marietta DUI or Marietta traffic case at 404-581-0999.