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Theft by Receiving Arrest in Georgia

Georgia law has two different statutes that address the crime of theft by receiving. The first section defines the offense of receiving stolen property while the second Georgia statute describes receiving property that was stolen from another state.

The first statute describing the crime of theft by receiving is transcribed in O.C.G.A. § 16-8-7. In this section, theft by receiving occurs when a person receives, disposes of, or retains stolen property, which he/she knows or should have known was stolen unless the property is received, disposed of, or retained with the intent to restore it to the rightful owner.

In order for the prosecution to convict a person of theft by receiving, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following four elements. These elements include:

  • The accused bought or received the goods in question;
  • The goods in question have been stolen by some person other than the accused;
  • At the time of the transaction, the accused knew or should have known that the goods in question were stolen; and
  • The accused acted with criminal intent.

Therefore, if the direct and uncontested evidence proves that the accused is the original thief of the goods in question then the accused cannot be convicted of theft by receiving. Furthermore, even if the accused is not certain, but has reason to believe that the goods in question are stolen, the accused may have committed theft by receiving according to Georgia law.

The second section regarding the crime of theft by receiving is described in O.C.G.A. § 16-8-8. This statute is read in the same manner as O.C.G.A. § 16-8-7, except for the fact that the property in question was received, disposed of, or retained in another state other than the state of Georgia.

Value of Goods

In determining whether the theft by receiving charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the goods/property, which were allegedly stolen, and then received by the accused. For misdemeanor theft by receiving convictions, usually the value of the goods in question must be estimated at a value less than $1,500. For a felony conviction, the goods in question must at least be valued at $1,500 or more. However, if the value of the goods is estimated at more than $1,500, but less than $5,000, the judge has discretion in sentencing the accused to either a misdemeanor or a felony. This is also true for theft by receiving offenses in which the value of the goods is at least $5,000, but less than $25,000.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the punishment for a theft by receiving conviction, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by receiving, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by receiving, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Possession of Marijuana is Still a Crime in Georgia

Arrests for possession of marijuana are very common in Georgia. If an individual possesses less than one ounce of marijuana, they likely will be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if they are found to have possessed more than one ounce of marijuana, the offense will generally be classified as a felony. A conviction of possession of marijuana can have serious consequences on one’s life, such as fines, possible jail time, risk of a criminal record, possible probationary term, employment concerns, suspension of a driver’s license, etc. Therefore, if you have been arrested for possession of marijuana, it is strongly advised that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately about your pending case.

The Offense

Georgia Criminal Code § 16-13-30 states that it is illegal for any person to possess, purchase, or have under their dominion and control a controlled substance, such as marijuana. To have possessed marijuana, there must be actual or constructive possession of it by the defendant. This does not necessarily mean that it needs to be found on their person, instead the defendant can merely have constructive possession of the marijuana to be convicted of this offense.

Actual Possession: For purposes of determining possession of marijuana, a person who knowingly has direct physical control over the drug is considered to have actual possession of it.

Constructive Possession: Constructive possession of marijuana exists where a person, though not in actual or direct physical possession of the drug, knowingly has both the power and the intention at any given time to exercise dominion and control over it. This means that where a defendant knows that marijuana is in proximity to him/her, and they have an intent to possess or physically control it, that individual can be found guilty of possession of marijuana. However, spatial proximity to drugs alone, without any additional evidence such as evidence of the intent to possess, is not enough to support a conviction for possession of marijuana. Therefore, at trial an experienced criminal defense attorney could argue that if a defendant is not aware of the marijuana, does not have the intent to possess or control it, and does not have direct physical possession of it then they cannot be convicted of possession of marijuana.

Punishment

A defendant’s first conviction of possession of marijuana, where they possessed less than one ounce, can risk them facing up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. If the defendant possesses between one ounce and ten pounds of marijuana, the offense is a felony and the defendant can face anywhere from 1-10 years in jail or prison. If the aggregate amount of marijuana is more than ten pounds, the offense is considered to be trafficking of marijuana and a defendant can face up to fifteen years in prison. Because of the severity of the punishment for possession of marijuana, it is vital to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney that understands the law, is aware of the defendant’s rights in the criminal justice system, and can zealously defend their client at trial. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know the possible options if you have been arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, we are experienced and skilled at defending such a charge, and we work tirelessly at advocating for our client’s rights. Thus, if you or a loved one has been arrested for possession of marijuana, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Did I get arrested? A discussion of what constitutes an arrest and how it impacts your Georgia Criminal History

In Georgia, many offenses that are not crimes in every state, like traffic offenses, are considered criminal offenses. Because so many offenses that aren’t treated like crimes in every state are crimes, it’s important to know if your interaction with law enforcement constitutes an arrest in the State of Georgia.

Not every arrest will go on your criminal history. For an arrest to go on your Georgia criminal history or GCIC you must be fingerprinted and it must be reported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. If you aren’t fingerprinted, that arrest should not show up on your criminal history. Lets talk about some specific instances and whether they constitute an arrest

Traffic Citations

Traffic citations are considered arrests in Georgia, but not in the traditional sense, and most likely do not have to be reported. If you are given a traffic citation and allowed to drive away, or given a citation by an officer on the street and allowed to leave, that is technically an arrest. But that arrest will not show up on your criminal history because you were never fingerprinted. A conviction for any traffic offense will show up on your driving history.

Traditional Arrest (Handcuffed, Taken to Jail, and Fingerprinted)

If you were handcuffed, taken to jail, and fingerprinted by any Georgia law enforcement officer, you should expect that arrest to show up on your criminal history. Most non-traffic offenses will result in arrest, but occasionally some minor misdemeanor offenses in Georgia like possession of marijuana less than an ounce, theft by shoplifting, minor in possession of alcohol, and disorderly conduct will not result in arrest. You may only be issued a citation. However, in these instances, you may be asked to be fingerprinted when your case is resolved, even if that resolution ends in dismissal.

Warrant Application Hearings

A warrant application hearing is different than the traditional arrest process. If a citizen believes you have committed a crime against them, they can go to the Magistrate Court in the county which the alleged crime occurred and file a warrant application. You would then be required to appear in front of a judge. The Judge would hear evidence bfrom both parties regarding the alleged criminal conduct and decide if a warrant should be issued. If the Judge grants a warrant, they can either ask you to turn yourself in and post a bond (often times just a signature bond) or ask the Sheriff to take you into custody. That is the Judge’s discretion. A warrant application may or may not go on your Georgia criminal history. Again, it depends on whether or not you are fingerprinted during the process.

We hope this knowledge assists you in understanding the warrant process. Our office is here for all your Georgia criminal law needs. Please call us today at 404-581-0999.

DUI Less Safe

by Casey Cleaver

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 prohibits a person from driving or being in actual physical control of a moving vehicle when alcohol or a drug makes it “less safe” for that person to drive. The wording of the statute begs two major questions: (1) What does “less safe” mean? (2) How can the State prove alcohol or drugs made someone a less safe driver? This article serves to answer these questions.

In Jones v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the DUI statute does not require a finding that the driver was unsafe; it only requires a finding that the person was a less safe driver than they would have been were they not under the influence of alcohol [or drugs].[1] Therefore, there is no requirement that the person actually commit an unsafe act.[2]

In State v. Kachwalla the Supreme Court of Georgia held that “less safe to drive” under paragraph (a)(2) of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 and “rendered incapable of driving safely” under paragraph (a)(6) of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 set the same standard of impairment necessary to establish that a driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substance.[3]

Case law indicates that circumstantial evidence, opinion testimony, and/or expert witness testimony can be sufficient to prove that drinking alcohol or doing drugs made a defendant a less safe driver.[4] These cases, however, seem to avoid the issue of how, if a witness does not know a defendant’s usual driving habits (e.g. he/she usually speeds, weaves, fails to use turn signals, etc.) that witness can determine whether in a particular situation, consumption of alcohol rendered the driver less safe. It seems necessary that in order to prove alcohol or drugs made someone a less safe driver, the State would also have to provide evidence of the defendant’s normal driving habits and then compare those normal habits against the driving observed by law enforcement.[5]

If you or someone you know has been charged with DUI under the “less safe” provision contact our office today for a free consultation.

[1] Jones v. State, 207 Ga. App. 469 (1993)

[2] Moss v. State, 194 Ga. App. 181 (1990)

[3] State v. Kachwalla, 274 Ga. 886, 887-888 (2002) (stating, “less safe to drive” and “rendered incapable of driving safely” are equivalent standards, legally, historically, and semantically)

[4] Dudley v. State, 204 Ga. App. 327 (1992) (holding expert witness testimony that the amount of cocaine found in defendant’s system would render him a “less safe” driver was sufficient to support the jury’s finding of guilt); Geoffrion v. State, 224 Ga. App. 775, 779 (1997) (holding testimony that the defendant weaved and crossed the centerline was sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict that defendant was a less safe driver); Duggan v. State, 225 Ga. App. 291, 293 (1997) (holding that when there is evidence that the defendant has been drinking, evidence of the manner of driving, including excessive speed, may be taken into consideration to determine whether the intoxicant affected him to the extent that he drove less safely); Hamilton v. State, 228 Ga. App. 285 (1997) (holding officer testimony regarding his observations of defendant and defendant’s performance on Field Sobriety Tests was sufficient to establish the defendant was intoxicated to the point that he was less safe to drive).

[5] See Peck v. State, 245 Ga. App. 599 (2000)

Forgery Laws in Georgia

by Ryan Walsh

There are four degrees to the offense of Forgery in the State of Georgia.

Forgery in the first and second degree involves the making, possession or alteration of a writing other than a check in a fake name or in a manner that alleges the document was made by another person at another time without the authority of that other person. It is forgery in the first degree if that writing is used, presented , or delivered; and forgery in the second degree if it is never used, presented or delivered.

To be found guilty of forgery in the first or second degree you have to have knowledge that the writing is forged and that you have made, possessed or altered the document with the intent to defraud another party.

Forgery in the third and fourth degrees involve the same elements of forgery discussed above but the writing involved is a check.  If the check is for $1,500 or more or you have ten or more checks in your possession then you will be charged with forgery in the third degree. If the check is for less than $1,500 or you have less than ten checks in your possession then you will be charged with forgery in the fourth degree.

Forgery in the first through third degrees is a felony offense in the State of Georgia. Forgery in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor offense.

If you’ve been contacted by a law enforcement official about a potential issue at a bank it is important that you exercise your right to remain silent and call a lawyer immediately to discuss your case, your options, and potential outcomes.

Being convicted of a forgery charge can impact your ability to gain future employment or obtain professional certifications in the State of Georgia.

Our office of Georgia criminal defense attorneys have experience in defending forgery and fraud crimes. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Search Warrants and Social Media in Georgia Criminal Cases

by Mary Agramonte

Social media has become, for many of us, a central part of our lives. We use Facebook to share and view photos of friends and family, and even to catch up on daily news. We use Snapchat to send live photos or short clips and videos to those in our circle. Instagram exists to view photos of friends and strangers, and even to gain inspiration for food, travel, and lifestyle.

These social networking sites are used and enjoyed by people in all walks of life. Consequently, as the use by the general population increases, so does use for those engaged in drug dealing, gang activity, and other criminal acts. For this reason, social media and apps once thought to be private are becoming the key pieces of evidence as law enforcement is obtaining this information through search warrants. Search warrant allow police to conduct searches of people and their belongings for evidence of a crime and they are now being used to gain entry into your Facebook, Snapchat, and other sites.

Snapchat has recently come out to say that 350 million Snaps are sent every single day. Before these fleeting photos are opened, they exist on Snapchat’s server awaiting for the person on the other end to open it.  Some unopened Snaps, they’ve admitted, have been handed over to law enforcement through search warrants.

Facebook is no different and law enforcement is using the site regularly to investigate crimes. While a law enforcement agency is free to look at your public site, they are even able to obtain a search warrant even for the private aspects of your account. A recent case in the 11th Circuit, United States v. Blake, involved search warrants for email and Facebook accounts.  Law enforcement in Blake sought essentially every piece of data on the person’s Facebook account. The court stated that the search warrants were overly broad and stated they must still be specific and limited in scope. The data was still fair evidence despite this, as the officers relied on the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule, and the State was allowed to use the evidence from their Facebook account against them.

There tends to be a false sense of privacy for those engaged in sending Snaps, Facebooking, or Instagramming. These ‘private’ sites and photos can and do become to subject of search warrants in law enforcement investigations, and the biggest piece of evidence in a case might just end up being something you posted  or sent with the belief it would remain private.

Georgia DUI – License Hearing and Ignition Interlock Device

Do I fight for a license hearing or choose an Ignition Interlock Device? This is a tough question but one that must be answered within thirty days of your arrest. The Ignition Interlock device is a decent option for those individuals charged with a DUI-Refusal where they are facing a hard one-year suspension if they lose the administrative license hearing. The license hearing is the only recommended route for a DUI-Per Se case where you ultimately submitted to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine. This recommendation is based on the fact that you are eligible for a limited driving permit even if you lose the hearing. Installing the Ignition Interlock in this situation will just add unnecessary burden and expense. Still, many times we will advise you to submit a request for an administrative hearing even if you are facing the one-year hard suspension , but that decision is based on your personal needs and the facts of your case.

If you wish to file an appeal and request an administrative hearing, then the formal request must be mailed off within thirty days from the date of your arrest. Those are not thirty business days and that is a strict deadline so you must mail your request the Friday before the deadline if it falls on a weekend.

If you wish to go the Ignition Interlock route, then you must first install the Ignition Interlock device at a certified provider. With the Ignition Interlock installed, you must then go to your local DDS branch to show proof of installation and file a waiver of the administrative hearing.

Making this decision isn’t easy, but it’s often the first step of the DUI process. For an in-depth evaluation of all your options, call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Atlanta DUI Lawyer

by Mary Agramonte

If you or a loved one has been charged with an Atlanta DUI, picking the right criminal defense attorney can be challenging. You need to look to the credentials, success rate, and reputation of the attorney in the field. Even if you believe you are guilty of the DUI, it is still important to contact an attorney experienced in complex area of DUI law as having a knowledgeable DUI attorney can be the difference in saving and losing your driver’s license. There are some DUIs that if you plead guilty, your license is suspended without a limited permit. The license repercussions of a DUI conviction are one of many reasons to contact a DUI attorney.

Call our firm to speak with experienced DUI attorneys on how to best defend your case. Experienced Atlanta lawyers in our firm are available any time, including nights and weekends, to provide you with the best possible outcome and advice. We can be contacted 24/7 at 404-581-0999 and provide free consultations.

Our firm consists of six highly trained Atlanta and Fulton County attorneys. We have an office near the Municipal Court of Atlanta – and have successfully defended against hundreds of Atlanta DUIs. W. Scott Smith has 18 years of DUI under his belt. He is active The National College of DUI Defense, Georgia Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers, The Lawyer Club of Atlanta, the Cobb County Bar Association and the Sandy Springs Bar Association.

The address of the Atlanta Municipal Court is 150 Garnett Street. This court handles all cases where defendants are charged with traffic misdemeanors and local ordinances within the City of Atlanta in Fulton County. Atlanta has its own police department, and so if you are arrested for a DUI in Fulton County by an Atlanta Police Officer, your case will begin in the Atlanta Municipal Court. Additionally, if you are pulled over and arrested by a Trooper with the Georgia State Patrol within the City of Atlanta, your case will also begin in the Atlanta Municipal Court. DUI Court is currently held by Judge Bey at 1pm and 3pm daily. If you’ve been arrested and are in custody, Atlanta Muncipal Court Judges hold bond hearings Sunday through Friday, daily. The Atlanta Municipal Court does not always hold bond hearings Saturdays, so if you were arrested late Friday night or early Saturday morning you may not see a Judge until Sunday.

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

 

How Do I Get Out of the City of Atlanta Jail?

by Ryan Walsh

You’ve been arrested in the City of Atlanta. You’re in the back of the patrol car and being transported to Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center. What do you do?

First, do not make any statements to the police while you are being transported to the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center.

Second, do not make any statements about the facts of your case to anyone at the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center. This is not the time to plead your innocence. Your sole focus should be on getting out on bond.

You’ve been taken to the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center because your case is going to be beginning in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. The City of Atlanta Municipal Court has jurisdiction (or responsibility) in handling all traffic offenses, some state law misdemeanors including possession of marijuana, theft by shoplifting, and disorderly conduct; and all City of Atlanta ordinance violations.

You are entitled to a bond on all of these charges. Your bond will be set after first appearing in front of a Judge in most circumstances. City of Atlanta holds first appearance hearings Sunday through Friday. They do not hold first appearance hearings on Saturday, so if you’ve been arrested after first appearance on Friday, you may have to wait until Sunday to go in front of the Judge to get a bond.

The City of Atlanta Judge is required to consider four factors when setting a bond.

  1. Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;
  2. Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;
  3. Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial;
  4. Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.

There are several types of bonds available for your case.

  1. Cash Bond: The first option in the City of Atlanta is to pay a cash bond. This means that you pay the entire bond yourself. The benefit to this bond is that it is refundable to you once you resolve your case.
  2. Bail Bondsman: The second option is to call a bonding company. You will pay between 10% – 15% of the total bond to the bonding company. The bonding company will then post the entire bond and you will be released. This 10% – 15% is non-refundable. The City of Atlanta jail will provide you with a list of approved bonding companies.
  3. Signature Bond: In certain circumstances you will be released on Signature bond. A signature bond means you are signing your own bond, promising to appear in court on the next scheduled date.

If you or your loved one is arrested and taken to the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center, please contact us any time and we can assist you in helping get a bond set.

Our office is located in downtown Atlanta at 100 Peachtree Street, Suite 2060, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. Feel free to call us at 404-581-0999 anytime day or night. Also, please go to our website at www.peachstatelawyer.com

 

 

Public Indecency Crimes in Georgia

by Mike Jacobs

Public Indecency is a serious crime in Georgia. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you have been charged with public indecency.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-8(a) defines public indecency as follows:

A person commits the offense of public indecency when he or she performs any of the following acts in a public place:

  1. An act of sexual intercourse
  2. A lewd exposure of the sexual organs
  3. A lewd exposure in a state of partial or complete nudity; or
  4. A lewd caress or indecent fondling of the body of another person.

A public place means any place where the conduct involved may be reasonably be expected to be viewed by people other than members of the accused’s family or household.

Under O.C.G.A. 16-1-3(15), a public place is any place where the conduct involved may reasonably be expected to be viewed by someone other than immediately family members. In fact, the residence of the accused may be considered a public place if the person performs the lewd act in front of a window or someplace where he intends the public to see it.

Lewd has been defined as any gross indecency so notorious as to tend to corrupt community morals. The act is one in which it represents a moving away from some form of community morality norms towards amorality, immorality or obscenity which in the final analysis within community standards as to particular acts, as to acceptability or unacceptability, is best left to a jury for determination. The statute does not require that some person be embarrassed, offended or otherwise outraged by the lewd act.

The intent of the accused is relevant in a prosecution for public indecency.

The offense of public indecency is not a crime against the person. The person viewing the lewd act is a witness and not a victim of the crime.

The United States Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression does not prevent the State of Georgia from enforcing its public indecency laws.

The punishment for public indecency is up to 1 year in prison. If it is a 3rd or subsequent violation, then the punishment is 1 to 5 years imprisonment. Also, the accused may be required to register as a sex offender under O.C.G.A. §42-1-12.

It is imperative that you do not talk to the police if you are accused of public indecency. Only speak to a qualified attorney so that you can properly defend yourself.

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.