Airport Marijuana Trafficking

The Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the world. Thousands of travelers pass through every day for business and pleasure alike. It is a hub for nearly every major airline, flying passengers to the four corners of the world.

On High Alert for Drugs

Due to the high volume of flights and passengers, airport security, TSA agents, FBI Agents, Clayton County Police Department, Atlanta Police Department and the US Drug Enforcement Agency are trained to spot and act quickly on any suspected criminal behavior. We often get calls regarding drugs or weapons found in passengers’ luggage. Marijuana charges and in particular trafficking in marijuana are incredibly common at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, especially from flights out of Arizona, California and Colorado.

What Happens To My Bag?

Your bag that contains marijuana is brought from underneath the plane and directed to baggage claim at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. While you exit and make your way to the next terminal or to pick up your bags, the luggage is subjected to a K-9 Unit search. Courts have continually determined that using canines at the airport is lawful, and their actions are not considered searches under the 14th Amendment (United States v. Place) as long as the bag is not opened or searched before the dog alerts on the luggage. Law enforcement have probable cause to search your bag if a dog alerts the agent that marijuana is present. Once they find the drugs, they will detain you and likely charge you with trafficking marijuana.

Where Will My Case Be?

If you are charged, you will be sent to the Clayton County Jail, and the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office will handle your prosecution in Superior Court. At this point, it is imperative that you seek out representation to move forward and get out of jail quickly. We have years of experience in Clayton County handling various charges, including those involving incidents at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport.  Recently we have been very successful in arranging a bond on Trafficking at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Call us today for your free consultation at 404-581-0999. We will hear the details of your case and provide you with legal advice that could save your freedom.

Possession of Drug Related Objects

What’s a drug related object?

It is not uncommon for an officer to search your car or home and not only arrest you for the marijuana or drugs they found, but also for Possession of Drug Related Objects. In Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 16-13-32.2, it is illegal to possess objects used to smoke, store, ingest, manufacture, and conceal drugs with. The most common drug related object we defend against are the use of pipes, but other examples are syringes, grinders, and scales. Possession of a drug related object is a misdemeanor charge in Georgia, and can carry up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Even if the pipe or other item does not have any residue in it, you can still be arrested. Even if there were no drugs found in the car, police officers will routinely arrest you nonetheless for any drug related object that comes up in the search.

What will my case look like?

The defense in these cases vary, but if the officer finds the paraphernalia or drug related object as a result of an unlawful search, then the drugs and the drug objects can be suppressed as what is referred to as fruit of the poisonous tree. Examples of unlawful searches include those without a warrant in some circumstances, or those with faulty search warrants. An experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney can attack the search and seizure of the drug paraphernalia or drugs found during a search by police officers. If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of drugs or possession of drug related objects in Georgia, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

by Mary Agramonte

Marijuana Possession in Georgia

by Mary Agramonte

Even as the nationwide trend moves to legalization and decriminalization, possession of marijuana remains illegal in the State of Georgia. In most jurisdictions across the state, a possession of marijuana charge in Georgia will land you in jail, forcing you to dish out hundreds or thousands of dollars in bond money to be released. If you later plead or are found guilty, you can expect high fines, at least 12 months of probation, community service, drug evaluations, costly classes, and depending on your record, even more jail time.  An experienced criminal defense attorney has the ability to alleviate this by evaluating your defenses and advocating on your behalf.

If you have been arrested or cited for possession of marijuana less than an ounce, call the leading defense firm W. Scott Smith to protect your rights, your wallet, and your criminal history. A nolo contendere charge will not keep the charge off your record, and will not eliminate punishment. There are defenses beginning with the reason the officer stopped you, how the search was conducted, even down to the testing of the marijuana found. Being convicted of any crime can be detrimental to your future. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 404-581-0999.

 

 

Privacy Rights- Carpenter vs. United States

by John Lovell

Last month, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the privacy rights of individuals. The Government, without a warrant or a showing of probable cause, issued an order to a cell phone company to provide Timothy Carpenter’s cell site data. The Government sought to gather the extensive records, including the location of Carpenter’s phones. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, found that Mr. Carpenter had a privacy right in his phone records. For the Government to seize these records, the Government needed to present to a magistrate a warrant based on sworn testimony establishing probable cause. The Court noted that a significant factor causing the War for Independence was Britain’s use of warrantless searches … Americans have never been fond of warrantless searches!

Do not be quick to conclude that this ruling makes it necessary for the police to obtain a warrant for all types of stored records. Your privacy could still be affected. Previously, the Court has held that a warrant is not necessary to obtain records of the numbers called by a cell phone-not the content of the calls but just the fact that the “target” phone called particular numbers at particular times. The Court has also held that other stored records such as bank records may be obtained without a warrant. A couple of years ago, the Court ruled that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. The critical distinction that the Court has made is in information that reveals the location of the subject. We have a greater expectation of privacy in where we are than is more typical records such as numbers called and even bank records. Protect your privacy rights today and call Peachstate Lawyer for your FREE consultation!

The Dangers of Eyewitness Testimony in Georgia

A number of cases have been overturned in recent years due to newly discovered DNA evidence. Many of those convictions were based on false eyewitness identifications. Most of the eyewitnesses did not lie, they just “misremembered.” That is the danger of this sort of testimony because the witness may be genuinely unaware of the inaccuracies in their testimony.

One underlying issue with eyewitness testimony is a misunderstanding of how memory works. The act of remembering is more akin to putting puzzle pieces together rather than retrieving a video recording. A memory can be distorted over time or from misinformation provided by third parties. For these reasons, it is critical to document one’s memory as close in time to the actual event as possible. If you have eyewitnesses that you believe can be beneficial to your case, then you should always get them to write down as many details as possible while the memory is fresh before time and outside influences can distort that memory. For police purposes, the identification process should be videotaped if possible, and the witness should be told that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup.

There are a multitude of issues that could result in a false identification. Recognizing those issues in your criminal case is something that may require a second set of eyes. Feel free to call our office for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

What are your rights to a search of your dorm room or locker in Georgia?

As a student, what rights do you have to contest the search and seizure of drugs or alcohol on campus? Whether you are in high school or college, you still have limited rights to privacy that can only be overcome in accordance with school policies or a search warrant if law enforcement is involved. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures but those protections typically do not extend to actions taken by school officials. However, if the facts of your case show that the school officials violated their own handbook and/or acted in a law enforcement capacity, then there could be a valid defense to your case. There is no bright line rule, but you can contact us at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case and decide whether hiring an attorney is in your best interest.

Georgia Analysis of Utah vs. Strieff Decision

by Ryan Walsh

The Fourth amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Traditionally, evidence found after a 4th amendment violation is excluded under what is known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. That is, any evidence recovered after a fourth amendment violation occurs is suppressed by the court and cannot be used against the defendant in his case. However, in the last ten years the United States Supreme Court has limited this exclusionary “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine to situations where exclusion is the last resort by highlighting a number of exceptions. ryan-walsh

Exceptions to the exclusionary rule under federal law include when an officer acts in good faith in what he believes is a legal search, when evidence is acquired through an independent source, when evidence would inevitably been discovered without the unconstitutional source, and the attenuation doctrine. The attenuation doctrine states that evidence is admissible when the connection between the 4th amendment violation and the evidence found is distant or the connection between the 4th amendment violation has been interrupted by a change in circumstances. The recent United States Supreme Court opinion, Utah vs. Strieff directly addresses the attenuation doctrine, creating situations where intervening circumstances cause Georgia citizens to be subject to searches and seizures that would otherwise be unreasonable under the Fourth amendment of the United States Constitution. Utah vs. Strieff, 579 U.S. ___ (2016).

In Utah, Edward Strieff left a home on foot that had been tied to drug activity and walked to a gas station. Officer Fackrell, who had been surveilling the home, approached Strieff, identified himself, asked Strieff for identification, detained him, and then questioned him regarding what he was doing at the residence. Officer Fackrell gave Strieff’s information to a police dispatcher, who told Fackrell that Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation. Strieff was arrested and a search of his person was performed incident to the arrest, where Officer Fackrell found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on Strieff. Strieff then moved to suppress the evidence of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. The State of Utah conceded that Officer Fackrell did not have reasonable suspicion for the stop, but argued that because of the arrest warrant, the connection between the unlawful stop and the search had been attenuated and the search incident to arrest and seizure were valid under the Fourth Amendment.

The United States Supreme Court agreed with the State of Utah. Despite the fact that the stop of Strieff was unlawful, the Court held that the valid arrest warrant created a change in circumstances that “attenuated” the illegal stop from the valid search and seizure. In looking towards whether there was a sufficient change in circumstances between the conduct that violated the fourth amendment and the discovery of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on Strieff, the Court looked to three factors. The three factors are (1) “the temporal proximity between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of the evidence, (2) the presence of intervening circumstances, and (3) the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.” Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 603-604 (1975). The Court found that factor one favored Strieff in that the time between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence was very brief. But the Court found that factors two and three favored the State. The existence of a valid arrest warrant was a significant intervening circumstance, and that Officer Fackrell was at most negligent in his stopping of Strieff outside the gas station. In discussing Officer Fackrell’s negligence, the Court addresses what they call his “good-faith mistakes.” Therefore, the evidence seized by Officer Fackrell was admissible at trial against Strieff. Now that we’ve analyzed the law applied by the United States Supreme Court, is the holding in Utah v. Strieff applicable to Georgia citizens?

Georgia’s restrictions on searches and seizures are greater than the protections provided by the United States Government. Georgia codified their exclusionary rule in O.C.G.A. §17-5-30. The language in that statute provides no good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. Further, Georgia courts don’t officially recognize any specific exceptions to the exclusionary rule, but they do offer their rationale in determining whether evidence that could be excluded as “fruit of the poisonous tree” will be excluded. That rationale is most clearly articulated in Vergara v. State. Vergara v. State, 283 Ga 175 (2008). In Vergara, the Supreme Court of Georgia says, “Under the fruits doctrine as

explicated by the (United States) Supreme Court and adopted by this Court, we need not hold that all evidence is ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ simply because it would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of the police. … The more apt question … is ‘whether… the evidence … has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged by the primary taint.’” Vergara, at 182-183.

Applying the absence of a good-faith exception along with the guidance provided in Vergara, it’s unclear what Georgia courts would do if presented with the facts of Strieff. Edward Strieff was approached by Officer Fackrell and asked for his identification, which he provided. Fackrell ran his identification and saw the outstanding warrant, arrested, Strieff, and found the contraband. Because there is no good-faith exception to unreasonable searches and seizures under Georgia law, Officer Fackrell cannot be said to be merely negligent in his stop of Strieff. The evidence was clearly found as a direct result of the bad stop. And the evidence is of the sort that may not have been found independently or inevitably. There are strong arguments that this sort of evidence is still fruit of the poisonous tree under Georgia’s application of the Fourth Amendment.

However, until Georgia addresses this issue, it is unclear whether a valid arrest warrant can trigger a search incident to arrest for an otherwise unlawful stop. If you’ve been arrested and feel your Georgia rights have been violated, call the Peach State Lawyer today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.