Georgia Gang Statute

O.C.G.A.  § 16-15-4 is commonly referred to as the Georgia Gang Statute. But, this statute can be difficult to understand. Georgia case law is clear that it is not illegal to simply be a member of a gang. In fact, a 2019 Georgia Supreme Court case called Chavers v. State says that a defendant cannot be convicted under the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act for merely being associated with a gang that commits criminal acts; the defendant must personally commit an enumerated offense himself.  However, if the state can prove that you are a member of a gang AND commit an illegal activity to further the interests of the gang, you can be charged with violation of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism Act. A conviction under the Georgia Gang Statute could result in up to 20 years in prison.

One way the state can charge an individual with violating the Georgia Gang Statute is under section (a) of the statute. Section (a) states that it shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with a criminal street gang to conduct or participate in criminal gang activity through the commission of any offense enumerated in paragraph (1) of Code Section 16-15-3. The enumerated offenses in paragraph 1 of 16-15-3 include things like racketeering, stalking, rape, kidnapping, criminal trespass or damage to property, any crime of violence, or compromising the security of a jail or prison.

Another way the state can charge an individual under the Georgia Gang Statute is under section (c) of the statute. Section (c) states that It shall be unlawful for any person to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, through criminal gang activity or proceeds derived therefrom any interest in or control of any real or personal property of any nature, including money. This simply means that a person could violate the Georgia Gang Statute by accepting money that was gained from illegal acts by a known gang. For example, a person who is holding money that was acquired through gang activity could be prosecuted under the Georgia Gang Statute.

It is important to remember that the state must prove 4 elements in order to convict someone of violating the Georgia Gang Statute:

(1) the existence of a “criminal street gang,” defined as “any organization, association, or group of three or more persons associated in fact, whether formal or informal, which engages in criminal gang activity”;

(2) the defendant’s association with the gang;

(3) that the defendant committed any of several enumerated criminal offenses, including those involving violence, possession of a weapon, or use of a weapon; and

(4) that the crime was intended to further the interests of the gang.

If you are charged with violating the Georgia Gang Act in Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Cobb, or Rockdale counties, it is important that you hire an attorney who understands the intricacies of the statute. At W. Scott Smith, our lawyers have handled numerous gang cases and require the state to meet their burden.  If you have been charged with gang crimes, call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation today.

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.

Terroristic Threats in Georgia

by Mary Agramonte

Many people are surprised to learn that you can actually be arrested for threatening to kick someone’s a**. There tends to be an assumption that such a statement would be covered by our country’s First Amendment on free speech. However, this is not the case. Threatening to commit any crime of violence can result with you facing serious criminal charges in Georgia, as it can land you with an arrest for Terroristic Threats.

Under O.C.G.A. §16-11-37(b), a person commits the criminal charge of Terroristic Threats in Georgia when he or she threatens to commit any crime of violence against another. Depending on the nature of the threat, the crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  For example, if you tell someone you are going to hit them, it is a misdemeanor; if you suggest you are going to cause the death of someone, then it is a felony. It does not matter if the threat is by phone or in person.

In Georgia, a misdemeanor Terroristic Threat charge carries with it probation, fines, classes, community service, and a criminal history that cannot be undone. If you have been charged with felony Terroristic Threat in Georgia, you can be punished with even higher fines. Additionally, you can spend one to five years in prison, and be considered a convicted felon for the rest of your life.

Given the harsh consequences associated with an arrest for a Terroristic Threats in Georgia, it is important you have a criminal defense firm on your side who is not afraid to fight for you. There are defenses to Terroristic Threats and ways to avoid criminal conviction for it. Call 404-581-0999 to schedule your FREE CONSULTATION with a Georgia Terroristic Threat attorney today.