When Does a Prosecutor Have to Disclose a Deal Made with a Witness in Exchange for Testimony?

Often, the State will work with co-defendants to offer them a favorable plea deal to testify against another defendant. But, is the prosecutor required to disclose these deals to the other co-defendants or the jury during the trial?  The short answer is found in a 1963 United States Supreme Court case called Brady v. Maryland (373 U.S. 83). The State is required to turn over any evidence that meets four prongs: the evidence must be favorable to the defendant, the defendant must have been unable to obtain the evidence himself, the State must have suppressed the favorable evidence, and, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, there must have been a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different. Williamson v. State, 300 Ga. App. 538 (2009); Brannon v. State, 298 Ga. 601 (2016).

How does this rule apply to statements made by co-defendants in exchange for favorable plea deals?   A co-defendant’s statement could become favorable to a defendant if it calls into question a co-defendant’s credibility. In Byrd v. Owen, 272 Ga. 807 (2000), the Georgia Supreme Court found that the prosecutor was obligated to disclose an immunity agreement it made with its main witness, who was the defendant’s partner in drug trafficking. The Court found that the deal should have been disclosed because, if the defense could have discredited the witness’s testimony (and ultimately shown that he had incentive to lie to get a plea deal), there was a substantial likelihood that the outcome of the trial would have been different. Additional Georgia Supreme Court cases like Schofield v. Palmer, 279 Ga. 848 (2005) tell us that because the reliability of a particular witness may be determinative of guilt or innocence, impeachment evidence, including evidence about any deals or agreements between the State and the witness, falls within the Brady rule, which requires the prosecution to disclose favorable evidence that is material either to guilt or to punishment.

All of this means that if you are charged with a serious crime like murder, armed robbery, or drug offenses, and the State is offering a co-defendant a plea deal in exchange for their testimony against you, they are obligated to disclose that deal. You need an experienced attorney to demand that disclosure and to work diligently to prove that witness unreliable. The lawyers at the Law Office of W. Scott Smith are dedicated to their clients and insist on holding the State accountable to the rules. If you find yourself charged with a serious crime and in need of a lawyer to fight for you, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.


Aggravated Stalking

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

In Georgia, aggravated stalking is charged as a felony. It is set out in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-91. This statute states that an individual commits aggravated stalking when:

  • He/she violates a “no contact” or “stay away” provision of their bond;
  • He/she violates a temporary restraining order, temporary protective order, permanent protective order, preliminary injunction, or permanent injunction ordering them to have no contact with the alleged victim;
  • He/she violates a “no contact” or “stay away” condition of their pretrial release, condition of probation, or condition of parole; and
  • The individual follows, places under surveillance, or contacts the alleged victim without his/her consent for the purpose of harassing and intimidating.

In Georgia, there is no requirement that the accused has to have actual notice of the “no contact” provision as a condition of bond, pretrial release, probation/ parole, or from a temporary protective order. The contact alone is enough, even if the accused was not aware of the “no contact” order. See Revere v. State, 277 Ga. App. 393 (2006). “Contact” can also be established by phone, email, or mail. It does not need to be in-person contact in order to be sufficient to convict for aggravated stalking. See Murden v. State, 258 Ga. App. 585 (2002).

Additionally, even if the alleged victim allowed contact, or initiated contact, after the “no contact” provision was ordered, that does not mean that an accused can no longer be prosecuted for aggravated stalking. An accused can be prosecuted if the alleged victim changes his/her mind, and decides that they no longer want contact with the accused, if at the time of the contact there is a “no contact” provision in place. See Revere v. State, 277 Ga. App. 393 (2006).

Finally, a single incident of stalking is not sufficient to convict an accused of aggravated stalking. There must be a pattern of harassing and intimidating conduct, and generally a single incident alone is not enough. See State v. Burke, 287 Ga. 377 (2010).


Any individual convicted of this crime will be sentenced to 1-10 years in prison, and fined up to $10,000. However, the reduced charge of aggravated stalking is characterized as a “violation of a criminal protective order.” This charge is a misdemeanor and the sentencing is much less punitive. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate sentencing to fall under the misdemeanor statute.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the punishment for aggravated stalking, 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 crime, 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 aggravated stalking, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

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.

DUI Probation in Cobb County

If you are entering a plea to a DUI in Cobb County, under Georgia law, there are certain penalties which the Court must impose when you enter your guilty plea.

According to Georgia Law, O.C.G.A. 40-6-391, if you plead guilty to DUI, the Court must:


  • Assess a fine of not less than $300 (but not more than $1,000)
  • Sentence you to 24 hours imprisonment
  • Sentence you to complete 40 hours of community service at a 501(c)(3) organization
  • Require completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program
  • Require completion of a clinical evaluation for substance abuse treatment
  • Require you to serve 1 year on probation.

While on probation, you will also be responsible for paying any supervision fees, you will be regularly drug and alcohol screened, and if you commit any other crimes, you may face even stiffer penalties if your probation is revoked.

These sentencing requirements sound very serious (and they are!) but they are also very discretionary. Cobb County judges have a lot of control over the sentence. For example, some judges will allow you to complete community service in lieu of paying a fine. Some judges will give you credit for any time served in jail at the time of your arrest, and other Cobb County judges will not make you serve any time if you complete your probation requirements.

Entering a guilty plea to DUI in Cobb County can be a tough pill to swallow. With the right attorney beside you, however, you will have your best chance of reducing the time and money spent on probation and incarcerated. Attorneys are able to present mitigating evidence for the Court’s consideration, and argue why the judge should withhold certain sentence requirements. If you are considering a guilty plea to DUI in Cobb County, call our office first. We may be able to help you make the best of a bad situation, and ensure that you are only being sentenced to the absolute minimums. Call us for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.


Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds

Rape in Butts County

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

  • 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 Butts County, do not speak to the police. Do not make statements to a Butts County Detective. You will be taken to the Butts County jail. You cannot get a bond at first appearance from a Butts County Magistrate judge. Rape is only bondable by a Butts County Superior Court judge. You will need to apply for this bond hearing. You will go in front of either Judge Fears or Judge Wilson to get a bond.

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 Butts  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.

Georgia DUI: The Art of Plea Bargaining

A successful criminal defense attorney is one who explores and exhausts every possible avenue of defense to the benefit of their clients. If the best course of action is taking the case to trial, the successful attorney will be prepared to try the case. However, statistical evidence shows an overwhelming majority (90%-95%) of all criminal cases in the United States are resolved through a plea bargain.[1] The primary reason for defense counsel to negotiate a plea bargain is to obtain a better resolution for your client than that which may be obtained at trial. 

Clearly, plea bargaining, is a major facet of our criminal justice system. Therefore it is important to understand not only the practical aspects of plea bargaining a DUI case, but also the law that guides those practices. If plea bargaining is the best resolution of a defendant’s DUI case and plea bargaining should occur, this article serves as a guide to the plea bargaining process.  

A Plea Agreement is a Contract

It must be remembered that a plea agreement is a contract under Georgia law, which binds both prosecutor and defendant.[2] In addition, a defendant surrenders valuable constitutional rights when entering a guilty plea under a plea bargain.[3] Further, it must be known that a plea agreement may be approved or denied by the judge.

Generally, no binding contract exists and either party may withdraw their bid until each party has assented or agreed to all the terms of a proposed agreement. This remains true even when the offer states it will remain open for a specific time.[4] Remembering these plea agreements as contacts is vital to the plea bargaining process.

Pre-Trial Conferences

Typically, negotiations regarding a plea occur during a “pre-trial conference.” This process is also known as, “pre-trying” a case. These pre-trial conferences can occur anywhere from before arraignment and up to (and perhaps even during) trial. During these conferences defense counsel and the prosecutor discuss the evidence in the case, viability of defenses, and possible alternative resolutions to the case. As a practical matter, a judge will not schedule a formal pre-trial conference in a misdemeanor DUI case. To the extent a judge does become involved in a pre-trial conference, U.R.S.C. 7.3 governs the process.

Reasons to Negotiate

Although it seems unfair given a defendant’s constitutional right to a trial, most judges will impose a harsher sentence if a defendant opts for a jury trial and loses than if a defendant pleads guilty. The Uniform Court Rules allow for the judge to engage in this type of decision making. Rule 33.6 of the Uniform Rules provides:

  1. It is proper for the judge to grant charge and sentence leniency to defendants who enter pleas of guilty or nolo contendere when the interests of the public in the effective administration of criminal justice are thereby served. Among the considerations which are appropriate in determining this question are:
  2. that the defendant by entering a plea has aided in ensuring the prompt and certain application of correctional measures;
  3. that the defendant has acknowledged guilt and shown a willingness to assume responsibility for conduct;
  4. that the leniency will make possible alternative correctional measures which are better adapted to achieving rehabilitative, protective, deterrent or other purposes of correctional treatment, or will prevent undue harm to the defendant from the form of conviction;
  5. that the defendant has made public trial unnecessary when there are good reasons for not having the case dealt with in a public trial;
  6. that the defendant has given or offered cooperation when such cooperation has resulted or may result in the successful prosecution of other offenders engaged in equally serious or more serious criminal conduct;
  7. that the defendant by entering a plea has aided in avoiding delay (including delay due to crowded dockets) in the disposition of other cases and thereby has increased the probability of prompt and certain application of correctional
  8. The judge should not impose upon a defendant any sentence in excess of that which would be justified by any of the rehabilitative, protective, deterrent or other purposes of the criminal law merely because the defendant has chosen to require the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt at trial rather than to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

Additional reasons to plea bargain include: avoiding a habitual violator status, to save a client’s driver’s license from administrative suspension, and if a DUI defendant is under 21 years of age.

What to Do Prior to a Plea

If a plea is inevitable, defense counsel should have client consider pursuing one or more of the following prior to entering a plea:

  1. Risk Reduction Program (Defensive Driving Class Offered Through DDS)
  2. Community Service
  3. Alcohol and Drug Evaluation
  4. Victim Impact Panel

The Plea Itself

A negotiated plea is where both the defense and prosecution reach an agreement as to the crimes to be admitted to by the defendant and the punishment the defendant is to be subjected to as a result of committing those crimes.  Not only is defense counsel prohibited from accepting a plea offer without authority from client, but defense counsel is also obligated to communicate every negotiated offer to client before rejecting it on client’s behalf.

If a judge refuses to honor the negotiated plea, the defendant may withdraw their plea. All plea bargains are subject to the court’s approval and can never act as more than recommendations to the court. If a judge does reject the plea, the court must inform the defendant: (1)The court is not bound by the plea agreement, (2) the court intends to reject the plea agreement, (3) the sentence or disposition may be less favorable to the defendant than the plea agreement, and (4) the defendant may then withdraw his guilty plea as a matter of right.

A defendant also has the option of entering a non-negotiated plea. This may be a useful tool if defendant wishes to enter a plea and avoid trial but does not agree with the State’s recommended sentence. In a non-negotiated plea, however, the right to withdraw a plea is not absolute and is a matter within the judge’s discretion.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.


[1] https://www.bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf

[2] Also referred to as a, “negotiated plea.”

[3] These include rights guaranteed under the Fifth and Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution

[4] Usually this is because there is no “consideration” to keep the offer open.

Probation Revocation in Georgia

Understanding Probation and Revocation

Most sentences in criminal cases involve a period on probation. Probation, while timely and expensive, allows you to serve your sentence in the outside world and not behind bars. The downside of this is if your probation officer alleges you violated a term of probation, he or she can petition for a probation revocation, which can land you in jail for a period of time, even up to the full amount left on your sentence.

A Word on Probation 

             Probation can come with a myriad of requirements that you must adhere to in order to steer clear from trouble in the courts. For example, the judge may order you to complete classes, fines, or pay restitution while on probation. The judge will also likely require you to stay away from alcohol and drugs.Another important term of probation is that you not commit any new crimes while on probation. 

What happens when probation is revoked?

             If the probation officer believes you have violated a term of your probation, they will draft a petition for probation revocation and issue a warrant for your arrest. A hearing is later held where the person accused will have the opportunity to essentially admit to the allegation for the purpose of the hearing, or to deny what the probation officer is alleging and have a hearing.In a hearing with this much on the line, it is imperative to have an attorney represent your interests.

Am I going back to jail?

             A probation revocation does not necessarily mean you are going back to jail, although it certainly can end that way. An experienced criminal defense attorney can potentially negotiate other options that do not involve jail. An attorney can also have a contested hearing when the allegations within the petition are denied. The standard of proof is lower in probation revocation hearings than in criminal trials. In a trial, the judge or jury has to find beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. In a probation revocation, it is a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means the judge has to find you ‘more likely than not’ violated your probation in the ways the officer is saying.

Find the right Attorney

             Having an attorney who is familiar with the playing field is key in these cases as it is imperative to be familiar with the judge, prosecutor, and probation officers involved. Having a pending probation revocation can be a frightening experience to go through, because of the time in jail that may be over your head going into it. A failed drug screen can land you in jail for months. Committing a new crime can land you back in jail for years. There is a lot on the line, but not all hope is lost. If you or a loved one is facing a probation revocation in Georgia, give us a call today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

by Mary Agramonte

Probation Revocation and Parole

Can a judge revoke my probation when I have allegedly violated probation after being sentenced but I have not yet started my probation?  Can a judge revoke my probation where it goes non-report or suspended upon completion of doing an act (classes, drug screens or evaluation).

The question requires some explanation as to situations as to where this scenario may rear its ugly head.  Defendant is sentenced in one county to a sentence of 10 years to serve 2, balanced probated.  While client is in prison or on parole he commits a new crime; ie he gets charged with possession of drugs in prison.  Even though he has not started probation as he is under the department of corrections supervision he can still be revoked on the county level by the judge.  Here are a couple of additional scenarios where the judge has the ability to revoke probation even though you are not technically on probation:

Judge sentences you in Cobb County to probation to run Consecutive to your sentence in Paulding County.  You are currently serving time in Paulding County and have not yet started serving your probation in Cobb.  Nonetheless, you can be revoked in Paulding and Cobb for committing a new crime.

Similarly, where a judge suspends a sentence.  For example you get 5 year sentence suspended upon completion of an alcohol evaluation.  You violate your probation shortly after being placed on the suspended sentence – in this scenario you can be revoked for the five years less any time that has elapsed since your sentence started even if you have already completed the evaluation – where the court has not signed an order allowing suspension to commence.

OCGA 17-10-1 (a) provides: that the trial court has the power and authority to suspend or probate all or any part of the entire sentence under such rules and regulations as the judge deems proper, including the authority to revoke the  [*630]  suspension or probation when the defendant has violated any of the rules and regulations prescribed by the court, even before the probationary period has beg


Here are the reasons the court of appeals found persuasive on why  you can still be revoked even though you are not technically on reporting probation:

While probation may be considered a mild form of ambulatory punishment imposing meaningful restraints, its true nature is an act of judicial grace. The Legislature has granted to the judiciary discretionary power to grant probation as a means of testing a convicted defendant’s integrity and future good behavior. Unlike parole, granted by an administrative agency, probation is granted by the court when the sentencing judge deems the protection of society does not demand immediate incarceration. In cases where a convicted defendant’s “future good behavior” has already been compromised by the commission of another criminal act even before the formal probationary period begins, a trial court should not be required to allow such  defendant to serve a previously imposed probated sentence when the court deems the protection of society demands revocation.

by Scott Smith


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.

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.