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Georgia Criminal Law – Justification as a Defense

As an affirmative defense, the fact that a person’s conduct is justified under the law is a defense to prosecution for any crime based on that conduct. The defense of justification can be claimed:

(1) When the person’s conduct is justified under Code Section 16-3-21, 16-3-23, 16-3-24, 16-3-25, or 16-3-26;

(2) When the person’s conduct is in reasonable fulfillment of his duties as a government officer or employee;

(3) When the person’s conduct is the reasonable discipline of a minor by his parent or a person in loco parentis;

(4) When the person’s conduct is reasonable and is performed in the course of making a lawful arrest;

(5) When the person’s conduct is justified for any other reason under the laws of this state, including as provided in Code Section 51-1-29; or

(6) In all other instances which stand upon the same footing of reason and justice as those enumerated in this article.

Raising an Affirmative Defense

With respect to any affirmative defense authorized under Georgia law, unless the state’s evidence raises the issue invoking the alleged defense, the defendant, to raise the issue, must present evidence of an affirmative defense. See O.C.G.A. § 16-1-3(1).

In order to raise an affirmative defense, a criminal defendant need not “admit” anything, in the sense of acknowledging that any facts alleged in the indictment or accusation are true. Rather, in asserting an affirmative defense, a defendant may accept certain facts as true for the sake of argument, and the defendant may do so for the limited purpose of raising the specific affirmative defense at issue. A defendant is entitled to a requested jury instruction regarding an affirmative defense when at least slight evidence supports the theory of the charge, whether in the state’s evidence or evidence presented by the defendant, and regardless of whether the theory of the affirmative defense conflicts with any other theory being advanced by the defendant.

Deadly Force by Law Enforcement Officers

Georgia’s statute on the use of deadly force provides that law enforcement agents may use deadly force to apprehend a suspected felon only (1) when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect possesses a deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury; (2) when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officer or others; or (3) when there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm. This statute does not prevent sheriffs or peace officers from using reasonable nondeadly force as may be necessary to apprehend and arrest a suspected felon or misdemeanant.

Good Samaritan Defense

In 2014, there were numerous incidents where children, who were left inside hot, locked motor vehicles, were injured or died. In order to encourage the rescue of children in these situations, the General Assembly made it clear with the amendment of O.C.G.A. § 16-3-20(5) in 2015 that individuals who damaged and entered such motor vehicles in order to rescue children from injury or death would be justified in doing so and would have a defense to criminal prosecution.

Battery – Family Violence Charges in Haralson County, Georgia

A conviction for Family Violence Battery in Georgia can have consequences that go far beyond a conviction for other misdemeanors.   For some clients, this is their first interaction with law enforcement and their concerns include: jail time, a permanent mark on their criminal history , and the possibility of trial. All these concerns are very real when facing Family Violence Battery charges. This is especially true when charged with Family Violence Battery in Haralson County. This jurisdiction has specifically allocated money and resources in aggressively prosecuting domestic violence charges.  This article aims to explain the nature of the offense, punishments, and how these cases are handled within Haralson County.

 

The Offense

 

Georgia Criminal Code § 16-5-23.1 defines domestic violence (named “battery – family violence”) as whenever a battery, an intentional physical harm or visible bodily harm, is committed against “past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household.”

 

Therefore, in order to be charged with Family Violence Battery, the alleged victim must be within a certain relationship of the defendant:

 

  • A spouse
  • Persons who are parents of the same child
  • Children
  • Step-Children
  • Foster Children
  • Other persons living in the same household (roommates)

 

Punishment

 

A first conviction for Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine.  A second or subsequent conviction with the same family member (as classified above) or another family member results in a felony conviction with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1

 

While a first lifetime conviction of Family Violence Battery appears to be just a misdemeanor, there are several collateral consequences unknown to most people.  For example, because Georgia’s classification of Family Violence Battery falls within the Federal definition of “domestic violence,” a Georgia citizen who is convicted of Family Violence Battery is prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal Law.

 

Furthermore, while the maximum penalty includes 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine, many judges throughout the State will also require individuals convicted of Family Violence Battery to serve time on probation (in lieu of jail time), but with the conditions of completing a domestic violence program.  These programs go by several different names (usually Domestic Violence Intervention Program – DVIP), but they generally include 24 weeks of classes, counseling, and program fees that are not included in the fine ordered by the judge.  In addition, judges can add community service, counseling requirements, fines, and alcohol and drug evaluations.  It is important to know that your attorney can negotiate all of these things.

 

How it Works in Haralson

 

The first step after arrest is getting a bond. If charged with misdemeanor Family Violence Battery, the law provides you shall be given a bond (in all misdemeanor cases).  But, in addition to having to pay bail money to bond out, the judge will also typically impose a No Contact provision as a condition of your pre-trial release. For example, in a case where a husband is accused of battering his wife, and the couple have minor children who live with them, a judge will usually order the defendant to have No Contact with the wife (alleged victim), the children, and be prevented from returning to the shared home. This No Contact provision places a great burden and strain on the accused as a violation of this bond condition (any form of contact, direct or indirect) can land the accused person in custody until the case is resolved. Therefore, the accused has to find alternative living arrangements and be estranged from their family.

 

As a result, our office routinely files a Motion to Modify Bond Conditions to change the No Contact provision to No Violent or Harassing Contact. This will allow the accused to return home and have contact with the alleged victim and anyone else protected under the bond order; allowing the accused to return to some semblance of a normal lifestyle.

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Haralson County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Haralson County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case. An experienced attorney should periodically check to see whether the case has been accused prior to arraignment.

 

It is possible to resolve a Family Violence Battery charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the Haralson County Domestic Violence Pre-Trial Intervention Program. If the accused successfully completes the DVPTI program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

 

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” If accused and not eligible for DVPTI, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, Haralson County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss Family Violence Battery charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to Family Violence Battery or proceed to trial.

 

Haralson County State Court prosecutors will often include multiple counts of Battery, Simple Battery, and Family Violence Battery within the accusation.  Unfortunately, many people go to court on their first court date, without exploring the consequences of a Family Violence Battery conviction, and enter a plea.  Whether the person committed the acts alleged or they simply just want to put this chapter of their life behind them, even though they’re innocent, it’s vital to consult with an attorney.  At the very least, an attorney can discuss the implications of being convicted of Family Violence Battery.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Family Violence Battery can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every Family Violence Battery case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with Family Violence Battery, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

 

Trafficking Marijuana through the Atlanta Airport

When a person traveling to Atlanta is charged with trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport the first concern is going to be how to get a bond to get the person charged with trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport out of jail as soon as possible.  Another question is, how much will my bond be for trafficking marijuana?  At our law firm we have handled a number of bond hearings and received consent bonds in Clayton County on trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport.  We believe we have a recipe for success that you can follow in order to get a bond on a trafficking marijuana case.  A bond hearing is where a judge will decide if the person trafficking in marijuana at the Atlanta airport is a good candidate for bond.  The factors a judge will consider on trafficking cases generally include, criminal record or lack of a criminal record, flight risk or whether the person will appear in court when directed, and/or likelihood of committing a new felony offense while out on bond.  Since people who are charged with trafficking in marijuana are generally transient or they generally have out of Georgia ties, the court will be concerned they will not appear in court when the case comes up for additional court dates.  You must be in a position to allay the court’s fears the person charged with trafficking marijuana will in fact appear in court when directed to do so.  A consent bond is where the State’s prosecutor agrees to a bond amount and the defense accepts because the person arrested for trafficking marijuana at the Atlanta airport feels they can afford the bond amount.

First question for consideration is how much did the Marijuana in the person traveling with marijuana in their suitcase at the Atlanta airport weigh.  If it is less that twenty pounds your chances of getting a lower bond in Clayton County are greater.  Second, did the person traveling have more that $1000 cash on them.  If they did, they are likely a mule.  A mule is someone who is generally destitute or poor and they are so desperate for money that they agree to transport a suitcase or luggage without knowing its contents.  If the person is poor and you can show the prosecutor this evidence and they had a large sum of money (which is consistent with the mule’s fee) the prosecutor is more likely to grant a bond.  Third, do the flight records show a first-time travel for that person on the same flight origination?  If so, this is likely the first time the person traveling with the large amounts of marijuana is flying with marijuana.  If you can show no pattern of travel the State is more likely to consent to a low bond.  The State’s prosecutor and Court will want to know the criminal history of client.  Things of major importance will be does the person have any felonies on their record?  Has the person ever failed to appear in court – even for traffic violations?  Does the person have any violations of probation or parole?  Furthermore, it is important to have a local address in which the person charged with trafficking marijuana will live at while the case is pending.

If you are an attorney trying to acquire a consent bond for trafficking marijuana in Clayton County at the Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield Airport, here is what you need to do.  Go through the criminal history to have a good handle on what the criminal history provides.  If any discrepancies come up on the persons charged GCIC or NCIC be in a position to pull the official court record to confirm the inaccuracies in the official record.  In our experience this happens way too often.  Second, pull a copy of the incident report.  You will need to make a copy of the incident report and provide a copy to the State’s prosecutor in order to get a quick bond offer.  If client has a passport, obtain the passport and be willing to turn the passport in to law enforcement to hold pending the case’s outcome.  If client is poor, have client provide you access to his or her bank account to show how little amount she has in the account.  If client lives in an apartment or humble residence, have someone take photos of the residence to show the State’s prosecutor client’s simple living arrangements.  If client does not have a local address to live at see if client’s family can acquire a local address.  Lastly, do not have client snitch or become a state witness.  In my experience it serves no purpose as it does not assist in getting a bond.

Rape Charges in DeKalb County, Georgia

Rape is a serious crime in Dekalb 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.

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 punished by death, 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 Georgia 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.

If you are charged with Rape in Dekalb County, you will be brought over before a Magistrate Judge within the first 72 hours of your arrest. This judge will not set a bond on Rape. You will need to have a bond motion filed before a Dekalb County Superior Court judge.

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.

Initial (First) Appearance in Georgia Criminal Cases

An “initial appearance” is an accused’s first face-to-face encounter with a judge after arrest. The purpose of an initial appearance is to inform the accused of the nature of the charges and advise him/her of their basic rights.

The initial appearance may also serve as a probable cause hearing if the person was arrested without a warrant and no arrest warrant is secured prior to the initial appearance. However, getting an arrest warrant within 48 hours after a warrantless arrest satisfies this probable cause requirement.

Police making an arrest without a warrant shall bring the arrested person in front of a judge within 48 hours after the arrest. O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62.

Police making an arrest with a warrant shall bring the arrested person in front of a judge within 72 hours after the arrest. O.C.G.A. § 17-4-26. These time limitations include weekends and holidays.

Failure to meet these time requirements may result in the release of the arrested person through a writ of habeus corpus under O.C.G.A. § 17-4-62. The failure to provide a timely first appearance, however, will not prevent the State from prosecuting the case.

At the initial appearance the judge shall:

  • Inform the accused of the charges
  • Inform the accused of their Miranda rights
  • Determine whether the accused wants a court appointed attorney and how to obtain one
  • Inform the accused of their right to a committal (probable cause) hearing, unless waived by getting bond
  • In the case of a warrantless arrest, make a probable cause determination
  • Inform accused of right to grand jury indictment or accusation
  • Inform accused of when grand jury will next convene
  • Inform accused of right to jury trial
  • Inform accused of right to waive rights and plead guilty
  • Set bail unless offense is only bailable by superior court judge

Importantly, a defendant’s volunteered statements at the initial appearance may be admissible against the accused at trial. The accused person is NOT entitled to an attorney at the initial appearance because the initial appearance is not considered a “critical stage” in the criminal justice process. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975).

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

Theft by Shoplifting Charge in Cobb County, Georgia

A shoplifting conviction is no small matter. It will negatively impact your ability to gain employment, apply for housing, and it will permanently remain on your criminal record. It is critical you contact an experienced attorney to investigate the facts, prepare legal challenges and defenses, and mitigate possible punishment. Our firm routinely handles shoplifting cases in Cobb County State Court. This article means to explain the nature of shoplifting under Georgia law, the possible punishment, and how these matters are specifically handled in Cobb County.

 

The Offense

 

Under O.C.G.A § 16-8-14, the offense of theft by shoplifting occurs when a person has the intent to either appropriate merchandise without paying for it or deprive the owner of possession of the merchandise or of its value AND:

 

  • Takes possession of or conceals the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment;
  • Alters the price marked on the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment;
  • Transfers the goods or merchandise of a store or retail establishment from its original box or container to another one;
  • Switches the price tag or label from one merchandise item with the price tag or label from another merchandise item; or
  • Wrongfully causes the amount paid for an item to be less than the merchant’s state price for the item

 

Arrest, formal criminal charges, and aggressive prosecution are all possibilities if you engage in the above conduct.

 

Punishment

 

The penalties for shoplifting in Cobb County depend on the “value” of the property taken. A first shoplifting conviction involving the theft of merchandise valued at $500 or less is a misdemeanor. This is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and incarceration for up to 12 months in jail, or both. Shoplifting offenses involving the theft of merchandise worth more than $500 are deemed felonies and can be punished by imprisonment for as long as ten years, depending on the total value of merchandise stolen.

 

It is important to note that a fourth or subsequent conviction for shoplifting is punished as a felony even though the prior convictions were all for misdemeanor shoplifting. Fourth or subsequent convictions are punishable by a prison sentence of one to ten years.

 

 

In addition to jail time and a fine, punishment may also include a psychological evaluation and treatment at their own expense, shoplifting seminars, community service, and restitution for the value of the property taken (if not returned).

 

How it Works in Cobb

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Cobb County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case.

 

It is possible to resolve a theft by shoplifting charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the Cobb County Pre-Trial Diversion Program. If the accused successfully completes the diversion program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

 

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” If accused and not eligible for diversion, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, Cobb County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss shoplifting charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to shoplifting or proceed to trial.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Theft By Shoplifting can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every shoplifting case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with shoplifting, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

 

 

Family Violence Battery in Cobb County, Georgia

A conviction for Family Violence Battery in Georgia can have consequences that go far beyond a conviction for other misdemeanors.   For some clients, this is their first interaction with law enforcement and their concerns include: jail time, a permanent mark on their criminal history , and the possibility of trial.   All of these concerns are very real when facing Family Violence Battery charges. This is especially true when charged with Family Violence Battery in Cobb County. This jurisdiction has specifically allocated money and resources in aggressively prosecuting domestic violence charges.  This article aims to explain the nature of the offense, punishments, and how these cases are handled within Cobb County.

 

The Offense

 

Georgia Criminal Code § 16-5-23.1 defines domestic violence (named “battery – family violence”) as whenever a battery, an intentional physical harm or visible bodily harm, is committed against “past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household.”

 

Therefore, in order to be charged with Family Violence Battery, the alleged victim must be within a certain relationship of the defendant:

 

  • A spouse
  • Persons who are parents of the same child
  • Children
  • Step-Children
  • Foster Children
  • Other persons living in the same household (roommates)

 

Punishment

 

A first conviction for Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine.  A second or subsequent conviction with the same family member (as classified above) or another family member results in a felony conviction with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1

 

While a first lifetime conviction of Family Violence Battery appears to be just a misdemeanor, there are several collateral consequences unknown to most people.  For example, because Georgia’s classification of Family Violence Battery falls within the Federal definition of “domestic violence,” a Georgia citizen who is convicted of Family Violence Battery is prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal Law.

 

Furthermore, while the maximum penalty includes 12 months in custody and a $1,000 fine, many judges throughout the State will also require individuals convicted of Family Violence Battery to serve time on probation (in lieu of jail time), but with the conditions of completing a domestic violence program.  These programs go by several different names (usually Domestic Violence Intervention Program – DVIP), but they generally include 24 weeks of classes, counseling, and program fees that are not included in the fine ordered by the judge.  In addition, judges can add community service, counseling requirements, fines, and alcohol and drug evaluations.  It is important to know that your attorney can negotiate all of these things.

 

How it Works in Cobb

 

The first step after arrest is getting a bond. If charged with misdemeanor Family Violence Battery, the law provides you shall be given a bond (in all misdemeanor cases).  But, in addition to having to pay bail money to bond out, the judge will also typically impose a No Contact provision as a condition of your pre-trial release. For example, in a case where a husband is accused of battering his wife, and the couple have minor children who live with them, a judge will usually order the defendant to have No Contact with the wife (alleged victim), the children, and be prevented from returning to the shared home. This No Contact provision places a great burden and strain on the accused as a violation of this bond condition (any form of contact, direct or indirect) can land the accused person in custody until the case is resolved. Therefore, the accused has to find alternative living arrangements and be estranged from their family.

 

As a result, our office routinely files a Motion to Modify Bond Conditions to change the No Contact provision to No Violent or Harassing Contact. This will allow the accused to return home and have contact with the alleged victim and anyone else protected under the bond order; allowing the accused to return to some semblance of a normal lifestyle.

 

After arrest, a case file is created with the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office. They are responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor cases within Cobb County. At first, the case will be “unaccused.” This simply means that no accusation has yet been filed on the case. An accusation is the official charging document for misdemeanors in Georgia. It is intended to provide notice to the accused of the charges, the dates of the offense, and information sufficient to place the defendant on notice of how to defend the case. An experienced attorney should periodically check to see whether the case has been accused prior to arraignment.

 

It is possible to resolve a Family Violence Battery charge prior to the filing of an accusation. Attorneys should contact the Solicitor General’s Office to see if they are eligible to be admitted into the Cobb County Domestic Violence Pre-Trial Intervention Program. If the accused successfully completes the DVPTI program, their charges will be dismissed with their records restricted.

 

Once a prosecutor reviews the file and believes there is at least probable cause to proceed upon, the accusation is filed and the case is formally “accused.” If accused and not eligible for DVPTI, the accused must begin preparing their case for a possible trial, subject to reaching a plea negotiation with the prosecutor. This includes investigating the case and gathering evidence. In our experience, Cobb County prosecutors are largely unwilling to outright dismiss Family Violence Battery charges. Therefore, defendants are typically confronted with deciding whether to take a no jail time plea deal to Family Violence Battery or proceed to trial.

 

Cobb County State Court prosecutors will often include multiple counts of Battery, Simple Battery, and Family Violence Battery within the accusation.  Unfortunately, many people go to court on their first court date, without exploring the consequences of a Family Violence Battery conviction, and enter a plea.  Whether the person committed the acts alleged or they simply just want to put this chapter of their life behind them, even though they’re innocent, it’s vital to consult with an attorney.  At the very least, an attorney can discuss the implications of being convicted of Family Violence Battery.

 

Contact Us

 

Being charged with Family Violence Battery can be a stressful event in anyone’s life.  At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to explore the legal issues with every Family Violence Battery case.  We are aware of all the possible options available to avoid jail time and to protect your criminal history and ultimately your privacy.   If you or a loved one has been charged with Family Violence Battery, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

 

Understanding Computer Trespass Crimes in Georgia

By Mary Agramonte

 

In response to a growing number of computer-related crimes in both the government and private sectors, the State of Georgia enacted the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act, O.C.G.A. §16-9-90 et. seq. The Act establishes four criminal offenses, all felonies, for violations of the Act: Computer Theft, Computer Trespass, Computer Invasion of Privacy, and Computer Forgery.

 

Computer Trespass is defined at O.C.G.A. § 16-9-93 as when any person who uses a computer or network with knowledge that such use is without authority and with the intention of (1) deleting or removing any program or data; (2) obstructing or interfering with the use of a computer program or data; or (3) altering, damaging, or causing the malfunction of a computer, computer network, or program.

 

The State of Georgia can still prosecute the felony case even if the removing of data is temporary, or if the damage to the computer is minimal or eventually restored. However, Georgia Courts have required that data must actually be hindered or interfered with. For example, in Kinslow v. State, an employee altered a network to get his supervisor’s e-mail rerouted to his own personal e-mail. The supervisor continued receiving his e-mails normally. The Supreme Court of Georgia in June of 2021 held that this was insufficient evidence of Criminal Trespass as the action never blocked or hindered the flow of data. Instead, the e-mails were going to the correct supervisor e-mail as well as being copying to the suspect’s private e-mail and thus he could not be found guilty of the felony crime of Criminal Trespass.

 

The State of Georgia will continue to vigorously prosecute computer crimes. If someone is found guilty of Computer Trespass, the maximum penalty is a $50,000 fine or 15 years in prison, or both. In some situations, if someone is charged with Computer Trespass, there may be enough facts to also charge them with the other computer crimes like computer theft and computer forgery, which can increase the sentencing if convicted. There is also a civil component to the Act, which allows for monetary damages for those who claim they have been victim to a computer crime in Georgia.

 

If you or a loved one has been charged with a computer crime in Georgia, call the Law Office of W. Scott Smith for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. An aggressive criminal defense team can investigate and raise numerous defenses in Computer Crime and Computer Trespass cases, and can protect you through the criminal justice system.

Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, How a Misdemeanor becomes a Felony

I had a misdemeanor amount of weed (less than one ounce) but I am being charged with a felony, what gives?

The Offense

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(j)(1), “it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense, administer, sell, or possess with intent to distribute marijuana.” Even though the police and prosecutor may not be able to prove an actual sale occurred, they will try to discover and introduce circumstantial evidence that the person intended to distribute marijuana.

Circumstantial evidence of intent to distribute can include: scales, empty Ziploc bags, drug paraphernalia, large amounts of cash in different denominations, firearms, division of drugs into individual packages, cell phone data, or a prior conviction of possession with intent to distribute.

Possible Punishment

O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(j)(2) states that anyone violating O.C.G.A. §16-13-30(j)(1) “shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years.” This charge is eligible for probation, but a felony conviction can create issues in obtaining employment, housing, and schooling.

If no defenses are available, certain sentencing options such as conditional discharge or first offender treatment may be available which ultimately result in the case getting dismissed.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Understanding Computer Theft Crime in Georgia

In response to a growing number of computer-related crimes in both the government and private sectors, the State of Georgia enacted the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act (Act), O.C.G.A. §16-9-90 et. seq. The Act establishes four criminal offenses, all major felonies, for violations of the Act: Computer Theft, Computer Trespass, Computer Invasion of Privacy, and Computer Forgery.

 

Computer Theft is defined as when any person who uses a computer or network with knowledge that such use is without authority and with the intention of either taking property of another; obtaining property by any deceitful means or artful practice; or converting property to such person’s use in violation of an agreement to make a specified application or disposition of such property.

 

Courts have held that there is sufficient evidence of computer theft when the defendant used a computer, owned by her employer, with knowledge that such use was without authority, and with intention of removing programs or data from that computer and appropriating them for her own use.

 

However, courts have held there was no criminal theft where an employee got on his employer-owned computer, printed out e-mails, and used the e-mails for a competing business while still employed. The Court held that the use of the computer was not without authority and so he cannot be guilty of the computer theft crime. See Sitton v. Print Direction, Inc., 312 Ga. App. 365 (2011).

 

The State of Georgia vigorously prosecutes these types of cases. If someone is found guilty of computer theft, the maximum penalty is a $50,000 fine or 15 years in prison, or both. In most situations, if someone is charged with computer theft, there may be enough facts to also charge them with the other computer crimes like computer trespass and computer forgery, which can increase the sentencing if convicted.

 

If you or a loved one has been charged with a computer crime in Georgia, call the Law Office of W. Scott Smith for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. An aggressive criminal defense team can investigate and raise numerous defenses in Computer Crime and Computer Theft cases, and can protect you through the criminal justice system.