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Georgia Court Dates

Months ago, you had one of your worst days ever: you were arrested. The time it took to bond out seemed like an eternity. But you’re finally out of jail, and you swear you’ll never be back. Weeks pass, and it all seems like a bad dream. Until one day you check your mail and find a letter from a superior, state or municipal court. The letter is about your arrest. It says you have to be in court on specific days for arraignment, motions, and calendar call. The letter also says if you don’t appear as instructed, you may be issued a bench warrant. But what do these terms mean?

Arraignments

Then and Now

Let’s start with arraignment. Arraignment is a word from British common law adapted into the U.S. Criminal Justice System. Literacy was at an all-time low during the olden days of England. Arraignment was created by their judicial system to tell illiterate defendants their pending charges. Prosecutors would do this by reading defendants’ charges to them in open court, since they couldn’t read the law themselves. Defendants would then be given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Similarly, modern arraignment is the court date at which defendants enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Should you choose Peachstate Lawyer as your legal representation, we will file the appropriate paperwork to ensure you do not have to be in court for arraignment. That paperwork is called a “waiver” of formal arraignment. The waiver we file enables you to enter a plea of not guilty without having to go in front of a judge. The waiver also preserves your attorney’s right to file motions in your case and receive discovery (i.e. evidence) from the state about your case.

Motions

That brings us to the next most important court date in your case: motions. Depending on the county, you may or may not have to be in court for motions. But rest assured that Peachstate Lawyer will file appropriate motions in your case. Motions are important pre-trial steps to contest the state’s evidence against you. Sometimes motions can get a case thrown out all-together. So, it is very important that you have legal defense, like us, who know which motions to file, and ultimately argue, on your behalf.

Calendar Call

Finally, the last court date referenced in the judicial notice you received is for calendar call. My rule of thumb is to instruct all of my clients to be present at calendar call. Most counties in Georgia issue bench warrants for those who do not appear as instructed. And while that is something our firm can take care of, it is in your best interest to avoid having a bench warrant issued for you. (After all, you swore you’d never go back to jail after bonding out months ago.)

Calendar Call is the date at which your attorney tells the Judge how you plan to resolve your case. Even though you initially entered a plea of not guilty, you may decide to resolve you case by guilty plea if don’t want to have a jury trial & your attorney secured a plea offer that you want to accept. Alternatively, your attorney may also announce ready for trial and your case will be added to the Judge’s next trial calendar.

If you’ve received judicial notice in the mail and do not know what to do next, contact our office today for a free consultation.

by Sarah Armstrong

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.

Sodomy Crimes in Georgia

by Mike Jacobs

Sodomy is a serious crime in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-2 established two separate criminal offenses. O.C.G.A.  §16-6-2(a)(1) defines sodomy as the performance of or submission to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another. O.C.G.A. § 16-6-2(a)(2) defines aggravated sodomy  as the commission of sodomy with force and against the will of the other person involved or with a person who is less than ten years of age.

The offense of aggravated sodomy protects individuals from violent acts where the offense of sodomy punishes consensual sexual behavior.

For sodomy, all that is required is contact between the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another person. Proof of penetration is not required in a sodomy case unless is specifically listed in the indictment. Whether there was prohibited contact between the defendant and alleged victim is solely a question for a jury.

No corroboration is required in a sodomy case.

Aggravated Sodomy is different than Sodomy. In order to make out a case for Aggravated Sodomy, the State must show that the contact was made both with force and against the will or without the consent of the alleged victim. The standard of proof is the same as required for a rape case. Both the words and actions of the accused can be used to determine if the alleged victim was in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-15 prohibits the solicitation of sodomy. Solicitation of sodomy is defined as soliciting another individual to perform to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one and the mouth or anus of another and such act is to be performed in public in exchange for money or anything of value or by force or by or with an individual who is incapable of giving legal consent to sexual activity. In order to be convicted of solicitation of sodomy, the State must be present sufficient evidence of all three elements of the crime.

If you are convicted of sodomy, it is a felony punishable by not less than one nor more than twenty years in prison and is subject to the sentencing provisions of § 17-10-6.2 which requires the sexual offender to receive a split sentence including the minimum sentence of imprisonment.

Aggravated Sodomy is also a felony and is punishable by either life imprisonment or by a split sentence of imprisonment for not less than 25 years and probation for life.

Solicitation of sodomy is a misdemeanor. However if the solicitation is of someone under 18 years of age or the solicitation is for money then it is felony punishable of not less than 5 nor more than 20 years in prison.

If the victim is at least 13 years old but less than 16 years of age and the person convicted of sodomy is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than 4 years older than the victim, then the accused would be guilty of a misdemeanor and would not be subject to the sentencing provision of O.C.G.A. §17-10-6.2.

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’s New Distracted Driving Law for Georgia Drivers

by Mary Agramonte

 

As you have probably heard, Georgia’s new law on Distracted Driving will become effective on July 1, 2018. Georgia’s legislature has made the use of a cell phone will driving illegal in response to an alarming rise of traffic fatalities and serious injuries from car accidents.

The new law will prohibit Georgia drivers from the following:

  • Holding a cell phone at all
  • Texting, reading/ sending emails, using internet
  • Watching or recording videos

The following use of electronic devices will still be allowed even under the new law:

  • Speaking/texting with voice based communication
  • Using an earpiece or Bluetooth to talk on the phone
  • Using a navigation or GPS app

The punishment under this new law will be fines, fees, and points. Specifically, for a first conviction in 24 months, you will face a fine of $50.00 which will not include any surcharges and taxes. A second conviction will increase to $100.00 plus court costs and surcharges.

While the cost is fairly slight for a traffic offense, there will be other repercussions of the law. If an officer sees you on the phone, he now has the ability to pull your vehicle over which in some cases could lead to more serious charges. For example, an officer who has lawfully pulled you over for using your phone can then observe an odor of alcohol coming from your vehicle which can then lead to a DUI arrest.

Overall, this bill is being enacted to save lives as talking and texting on a cell phone while driving places other drivers and pedestrians at risk. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Georgia will now join the other 47 states that have already enacted laws prohibited texting and driving.

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.