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Georgia Criminal Law – Fulton Orders Stay-at-Home or Face Criminal Sanction

On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, district health director of the Fulton County Board of Health signed an order requiring all residents of Fulton County to stay in their residence. Individuals are “permitted to leave their places of residence only to provide or receive certain essential services or engage in certain essential activities and work for essential businesses and governmental functions.”

A violation of this order constitutes a misdemeanor offense which carries a maximum punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, or both.

According to the order, residents may leave their home for “essential activities” to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their families, or their pets. Outdoor activity like walking or running is allowed so long as social distancing is maintained (six feet apart from each other).

“Essential businesses” in Fulton County include:

  • Healthcare operations
  • Grocery stores
  • Farming, livestock, fishing
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals
  • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services
  • Gas stations, auto-supply, auto repair
  • Banks
  • Hardware stores
  • Hotels, motels, conference centers – but only to provide shelter not for gatherings
  • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes
  • Educational institutions for the purpose of facilitating distance learning
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners
  • Restaurants for drive-thru, deliver or carry-out
  • Cafeterias in hospitals, nursing homes, or similar facilities
  • Businesses that supply products for people to work from home
  • Home-based care, and residential facilities for seniors, adults or children
  • Legal or accounting services
  • Veterinary care facilities, animal shelters or animal care
  • Bike shops
  • Childcare facilities
  • Janitorial services
  • Funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries, while maintaining social distancing
  • Utility, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, railroad, public transportation, ride share, solid waste collection, internet services

All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes above. Nothing in the order prevents the gathering of members of a household or living unit. This order will remain in place until rescinded.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 for afree case evaluation. You’ll find a local Attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf.

Stalking in Georgia

If you have been arrested for stalking in Georgia, it is imperative that you fight your case. It is a serious crime in Georgia.

What is stalking?

Stalking is when you follow, place under surveillance, or contact another person at or about a place without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person; OR if you are in violation of a bond, order of the court, or condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole that prohibits the harassment or intimidation of another person, broadcasts or publishes without the person’s consent in such a manner that causes other persons to harass or intimidate that person and the person making the broadcast or publication knew or had reason to know that such act would cause the person to be harassed or intimidated by others. O.C.G.A. 16-5-90(a).

Aggravated Stalking

Aggravated Stalking is when in violation of a bond, order of the court, condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole in effect prohibiting the behavior described herein, follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place without the consent of the person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.

What are the elements of Aggravated Stalking:

  1. The defendant violated an order.
  2. This order prohibited contact with the victim.
  3. It was done without the victim’s consent
  4. The purpose was to harass or intimidate.

If # 4 is not met, then it is criminal contempt under O.C.G.A. 15-6-8(5).

Keep in mind, that proof of a written no contact order is not required. But there needs to be proof that the instruction was given and received by the defendant.

How do you define “contact” with the victim?

Contact is any communication, whether in person, by phone, by text, email , social media etc….

Where does the Stalking take place?

It includes any public or private property occupied by the victim, excluding the defendant’s residence, where the communication is received.

What is meant by Harassing and Intimidating Contact?

  • A knowing and willful course of conduct directed specifically at the victim.
  • The victim suffers emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear of their safety
  • Establish a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior. (There has to be more than 1 contact)
  • There is no legitimate purpose to this contact.

What does the Court look for in determining whether the contact is harassing and intimidating?

  1. The prior history between the defendant and victim.
  2. Whether the contact is overly confrontational
  3. Any attempts by the defendant to contact, communicate, or control the victim through another party.

The behavior of the defendant does not have to include threats of death or bodily harm. The defendant does not even have to make overt threats to the victim in a Stalking case.

What is NOT Stalking?

Georgia law does not prohibit a person from contacting or communicating with another person without consent, if the contact is not done with a harassing or intimidating purpose.

What am I facing if I am convicted of Stalking or Aggravated Stalking?

  1. Stalking:
    1. The first conviction for stalking is a Misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine
    1. A second conviction for Stalking is a felony and carries up to 1 to 10 years in prison.
  2. Aggravated Stalking
    1. Aggravated Stalking carries up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If you are charged with Stalking or Aggravated Stalking, it is important to get a lawyer as there are defenses to your case. A Stalking conviction on your record can carry many collateral consequences in addition to the punishment imposed by the court.

Call us at 404-581-0999 or visit us at www.peachstatelawyer.com for a free consultation.

Possession of Edibles in Georgia

In the past ten years, thanks to the decriminalization and legalization in other states, the possession and consumption of marijuana has changed drastically. Beyond just your typical green leafy marijuana, there are chocolates, gummy bears, hard candies, drinks, waxes, resins, oils, creams, and other substances used to intake THC into your body. 

Misdemeanor or Felony?

In Georgia, possession of green leafy marijuana  is a misdemeanor if you possess under an ounce. Possession of over an ounce of green, leafy marijuana is a felony. But what most people do not know is that possession of any other product that has THC in it that is not green, leafy marijuana is a felony. It doesn’t matter that the edible, weed cartridge, wax or other substance was under an ounce. It doesn’t matter if it was only one brownie, or gummy bear, or cartridge. It’s a felony in violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act (VGCSA). On top of that, if the THC is baked into a brownie, or in a beverage, officers use the entire weight of the substance to determine weight, and not just the part of it that has THC in it. These substances are heavy and can hit Possession with Intent and Trafficking levels quickly.

It’s important that you know the laws in Georgia.

Officers are now trained to look for substances beyond green, leafy marijuana. They are looking for cartridges. They are looking for edibles. They are looking for distinct smells given off by concentrated marijuana products. Five years ago we saw very few if any arrests for these weed products. But over the past year, we are seeing more and more clients come in and tell us, “He found my cartridges.” Or “They went looking straight for my wax.”

Our office has been on the forefront of this shift in marijuana products in Georgia. Our team of educated and knowledgeable attorneys can help you find defenses to your felony weed charges. Call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

DUI: Drugs

DUI drugs charges can be a source of confusion for defendants and lawyers alike. This article will explore these laws and explain their meaning, what must be proven, how they are proven, and how to defend against them.

There are three ways to charge DUI Drugs cases: (1) DUI Drugs – Less Safe; (2) DUI Drugs – Per Se; and (3) DUI Drugs – Combined Effect.

DUI Drugs – Less Safe

Georgia law prohibits a person from driving a vehicle while under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391(a)(2). This “less safe” statute requires proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the quantity or amount of the prescribed, illicit, or even over-the-counter drug in the person’s system caused impairment or rendered the person to be a “less safe driver.” Therefore, a person can be prosecuted even though the drugs were legally prescribed or were provided over-the-counter, so long as consuming those drugs caused you to be a less safe driver.

The “less safe” provision is the most common way DUI drugs charges are prosecuted. The State is not required to prove the accused had a particular level of drugs in their system. As a result, the State may prosecute even though no chemical test exists. The arresting officer will look for the following indications of impairment:

  • Admitting to using drugs
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Presence of drugs in vehicle or on person
  • Bad driving
  • Poor performance on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The key to defending these “less safe” drugs cases is raising doubt as to whether the drugs taken were the actual cause of the bad driving complained of. This causation element is something the State is required to prove. There are many reasons for bad driving unrelated to the consumption of drugs. In addition, defense counsel should raise challenges to the arresting officer’s training and experience in detecting and investigating DUI Drugs cases. In many instances, the arresting officer does not have the degree of training required to properly investigate these cases such as an officer who is qualified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Furthermore, defense counsel should raise a Harper challenge to the scientific validity of the Romberg Field Sobriety test if that test was performed by the accused. [1]

DUI Drugs – Per Se

Georgia law makes it illegal for a person to operate a vehicle while there is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-21, present in the person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391(a)(6).

Given the language of the law, the mere presence of a drug (prescribed or not) will constitute a violation of this code section. The question becomes how an arresting officer would know whether the accused had a valid prescription or not? Without an admission, this would be difficult for a prosecutor to prove.

Issues of proof aside, Love v. State, 271 Ga. 398 (1999), has essentially wiped out the “DUI Drugs – Per Se” law entirely. The Love case held that O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(6), was too broadly drawn, as it incriminates both legal and non-legal users of marijuana, constituting a violation of the Equal Protection clause of both the Georgia and United States Constitutions. This is the primary reason most DUI Drugs cases are prosecuted as “Less Safe” cases.

What remains of the DUI Drugs – Per Se statute is to punish those cases where someone is driving with drugs in their system which offer no lawful use (cocaine, heroin, etc.).

DUI Drugs – Combined Influence

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(4), a person is prohibited from driving a vehicle while under the influence of any two or more of the substances provided in the DUI code section (alcohol, drugs, or toxic vapors) to the extent it is less safe for the person to drive.

Again, we see the State being required to prove the accused was a less safe driver because of the combined effects of two or more intoxicants (alcohol and drugs – prescribed or not). Although these cases present greater challenges, a skilled attorney can raise doubt as to whether the combined effect of intoxicants actually caused less safe driving.  

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


[1] The Romberg test consists of the subject tilting their head back, closing their eyes, and counting in their head until the subject believes thirty seconds has elapsed and then telling the officer when they believe those thirty seconds had elapsed.

Elder Abuse in Georgia

As Georgia’s senior citizen population has increased, and as more and more of them are victims of crimes, Georgia legislature has enacted tough penalties for criminal defendants charged with Elder Abuse.

Most District Attorney’s office in Georgia have designated Elder Abuse prosecutors. If you are charged with Elder Abuse, it is vital that you take the charges seriously and prepare yourself to defend them.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder Abuse can be charged when the victim is 65 years or older. O.C.G.A. 16-5-100(4).

There are 4 specific types of Elder Abuse in Georgia.

  • Neglect – When a guardian or other person supervising the welfare of or having immediate charge, control, or custody willfully deprives a disabled adult, elder person, or resident of health care, shelter or necessary sustenance to the extent that the health or well-being of such person is jeopardized. O.C.G.A. 16-5-101(a)

With neglect, the conduct of the defendant has to be willful and not just negligent. If you are charged with Neglect in an Elder Abuse case, it is imperative that you do not make any statements and hire an attorney as soon as possible. The potential punishment for Neglect in an Elder Abuse case is 20 years in prison and a $ 50,000 fine. We have seen an increase each year in the number of prosecutions of Neglect in Elder Abuse cases.

  • Exploit – Any person who knowingly and willfully exploits, willfully inflicts physical pain or injury, sexual abuse, mental anguish or unreasonable confinement; or willfully deprives of essential services a disabled adult, elderly person or resident.

Exploitation cases involving elderly citizens compose the majority of the cases. The statute broadly describes ways in which you can be charged with Elder abuse. The potential punishment for Exploiting an Elder is 20 years in prison and a $ 50,000 fine.

  • Intimidate – Any person who threatens, intimidates, or attempts to intimidate a disabled person, elder person or resident can be charged with Elder Abuse.

In cases of intimidation, words matter. Prosecutors take these cases very seriously. The potential punishment for a case of intimidation of an elder is 1 year in prison and a $ 5,000 fine.

  • Obstruct – Any person who willfully or knowingly obstructs or in any way impedes an investigation conducted pursuant to 5 of Title 30 or Article 4 of Chapter 8 of Title 31.

In cases where you are alleged to have obstructed an investigation, the potential punishment is 1 year in prison and a $ 5,000 fine.

One area that is frequently asked of us is if a person who works at a long-term care facility is subject to prosecution in Elder Abuse cases due to the actions of someone else who works there. The answer is no unless you were a knowing and willful participant to or a conspirator in the abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

Call us today!

If you are charged with Elder Abuse, you need to take it seriously. The prosecutor you are up against likely only handles Elder Abuse cases and the prosecutor will be well prepared.

Please call us at 404-581-0999 or email me at mike@peachstatelawyer.com anytime for a free consultation.

Is DUI a Felony?

In most instances, the crime of DUI is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that has a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail. If this is your first time being charged with a DUI and no one was hurt, you will be facing a misdemeanor DUI.  Additionally, even if this is your second or third DUI in a short period of time, your DUI will still be charged as a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Punishments

Even if you are facing a misdemeanor-level DUI, the State can stack punishment, and request a longer sentence by adding additional jail time to an underlying charge. For example, if you are charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane, the Judge can sentence you up to 12 months on each charge, for a total of 24 months in custody. Additionally, misdemeanor DUIs do still appear on criminal histories and can require jail, probation, and a license suspension if you are convicted. The goal after a DUI arrest is to avoid a criminal conviction so you can avoid the harsh punishments associated with a conviction for DUI. 

When DUI is a Felony

There are situations where you will be facing a felony after a DUI arrest. A felony is defined as a crime that is punishable more than a year in jail. The first instance is when you are being charged with a fourth DUI within a 10 year period, measured from the dates of previous arrests. A fourth DUI within 10 years is a felony in Georgia, with considerable mandatory minimum jail time if convicted.

Another situation where a DUI is considered a felony in Georgia is if you were arrested for the crime of Serious Injury by Vehicle. This occurs when someone causes an accident resulting in bodily harm while Driving under the Influence. This felony is punished by imprisonment between 1 and 15 years. Bodily harm under Georgia law is defined as an injury to another person which deprives them of a member of their body, or renders part of the body useless, or seriously disfigures, or causes brain damage. There are certainly defenses to this serious crime including the causal connection as well as what constitutes a serious injury.

The final situation where a DUI is prosecuted as a felony offense is Homicide by Vehicle in the first degree, meaning you are arrested for DUI and someone actually dies in the accident. You can be charged with Homicide by Vehicle if it is your passenger who dies.  If convicted, the crime is punishable from 3-15 years. The law requires the State to prove a causal connection between the violation of the DUI statute and the victim’s death. However, under Georgia law, the person does not actually have to commit an unsafe act before facing this type of charge.

Call us today!

DUIs in Georgia require knowledgeable and skillful representation as the stakes are high. If you are facing a felony DUI, it is imperative to find a law firm with a track record of success, who are well-informed on the ever-changing aspects of DUI law in Georgia. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony DUI, call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. 

Driver’s License & New DUI Law

In May of 2019 the Georgia legislature approved a new implied consent warning for persons who have been arrested for DUI in Georgia. The implied consent warning informs drivers that Georgia law requires them to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test after they have been arrested for DUI; and submitting a sample that’s over the legal limit of .08 or refusing to submit to the requested test after arrest can result in a suspension of your drivers license.

What’s New?

This new implied consent notice removes a part of the old language that states “Your refusal to submit to breath testing can be used against you at trial.” This occurred after a Georgia Supreme Court opinion which stated that your refusal to submit to breath test evidence cannot be used against you at trial. However, this ruling is only related to the breath test option. Refusing to submit to blood and urine testing can still be introduced against you at trial.

What we have found after evaluating this new implied consent warning is that most well-trained officers are now just asking for a blood test instead of a breath test. Your refusal to submit to a blood test can be used to suspend your license as well as it can be used against you at trial.

Call us TODAY!

The law in relation to DUI cases in Georgia is constantly evolving. Having a well-trained lawyer on your side is the best way to maintain your ability to drive and keep a DUI conviction off your record. Our staff of attorneys is trained by the sane trainers who are teaching law enforcement officers to investigate DUI cases. Call our office today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Airport Marijuana Trafficking

The Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the world. Thousands of travelers pass through every day for business and pleasure alike. It is a hub for nearly every major airline, flying passengers to the four corners of the world.

On High Alert for Drugs

Due to the high volume of flights and passengers, airport security, TSA agents, FBI Agents, Clayton County Police Department, Atlanta Police Department and the US Drug Enforcement Agency are trained to spot and act quickly on any suspected criminal behavior. We often get calls regarding drugs or weapons found in passengers’ luggage. Marijuana charges and in particular trafficking in marijuana are incredibly common at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, especially from flights out of Arizona, California and Colorado.

What Happens To My Bag?

Your bag that contains marijuana is brought from underneath the plane and directed to baggage claim at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. While you exit and make your way to the next terminal or to pick up your bags, the luggage is subjected to a K-9 Unit search. Courts have continually determined that using canines at the airport is lawful, and their actions are not considered searches under the 14th Amendment (United States v. Place) as long as the bag is not opened or searched before the dog alerts on the luggage. Law enforcement have probable cause to search your bag if a dog alerts the agent that marijuana is present. Once they find the drugs, they will detain you and likely charge you with trafficking marijuana.

Where Will My Case Be?

If you are charged, you will be sent to the Clayton County Jail, and the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office will handle your prosecution in Superior Court. At this point, it is imperative that you seek out representation to move forward and get out of jail quickly. We have years of experience in Clayton County handling various charges, including those involving incidents at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport.  Recently we have been very successful in arranging a bond on Trafficking at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Call us today for your free consultation at 404-581-0999. We will hear the details of your case and provide you with legal advice that could save your freedom.

Child Molestation Charges: What To Do

If you or a loved one is arrested for child molestation in Georgia, it is important that you act immediately to protect yourself. Do not wait until your court date to get an attorney and to preserve evidence.

Do not think that just because you are innocent that the charges will be dismissed. Child molestation charges are aggressively prosecuted in Georgia and prosecutors and the police believe children who make the accusations.

Make sure your attorney has had jury trials in child molestation cases and has won these cases. Do not let an attorney handle your case who does not specifically handle these cases.

The law may say you are presumed innocent but in child molestation cases, you have to prove your innocence.

The Steps

Here is what you should do if arrested for child molestation:

  1. Hire an attorney – Make sure that attorney actually handles and tries child molestation cases. Most criminal defense attorneys do not handle child molestation cases. Make sure the attorney you talk to does regularly handles child molestation cases in Georgia.
  2. Avoid making any statements – Do not walk into the police department and profess your innocence. The police will not believe you. Do not think you can show up at your first court date and tell the prosecutor and judge that you are innocent and expect the charges to be dropped. If you are arrested for child molestation, you have to start preparing for your jury trial. Do not make any statements to anyone except your lawyer.
  3. Start gathering important evidence
    • Gather and preserve any physical evidence in your possession that might relate to the child making the accusation. This includes clothing, photos, video or any other tangible object.
    • Gather and preserve any documents that might relate to this accusation including emails, texts, social media, phone records, GPS records, computer records or any other document that might show where you were when this incident allegedly occurred.
    • Witnesses – Immediately make a list of any person who you think might have information about this child molestation accusation. Do not discuss the case with this person but pass this list of potential witnesses to your attorney and let your attorney contact them.

What NOT To Do when Charged with Child Molestation

Here is what you should never do if arrested for child molestation:

  1. Never talk to the alleged victim or the family.
  2. Never have any contact with the alleged victim through a 3rd party or through social media.
  3. Never talk to law enforcement without an attorney present.
  4. Never talk to a child welfare agency or any other governmental agency without an attorney present.

Call us TODAY

If you are arrested for child molestation or any sex offense in Georgia, please call our office 24/7 at 404-581-0999 or send us an email at mike@peachstatelawyer.com. We will sit down with you and fully discuss your case and what to expect in court. There is no charge for the initial consultation. You will only retain us if you feel we are the best law firm to represent you. It is your case and your life so you need to hire the lawyer that you feel gives you the best chance to win.

Prior False Allegations & Your Case

You are accused with child molestation or rape and your accuser has previously falsely accused another person of these horrific crimes. Can you bring up these prior false accusations in your case? The answer is yes.

State v. Burns Example

The Georgia Supreme Court held in State v. Burns, that a defendant in a sexual-offense prosecution may bring up evidence that the alleged victim has previously made false accusations of sexual misconduct. This evidence is admissible to attack the credibility of the victim and show that the current charges did not occur.

In this case, James Burns was charged with aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, and incest. It was discovered that the alleged victim had made up a prior rape allegation.

The Rape Shield Statute & Allegations

The Rape Shield Statute of Georgia does not prohibit testimony of previous false allegations by a victim. This is because prior false accusations establish that the victim has a propensity to make false statements regarding sexual misconduct. The Rape Shield Statute in Georgia is designed to prohibit bringing up the victim’s past sexual conduct. But it does not protect the victim in cases where a false allegation was made.

Your Rights for a Defense

A criminal defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to make a full defense. A defendant has the right to bring up prior false allegations where it can be shown that the allegation was indeed false. The Sixth Amendment also grants the defendant the right of confrontation. This includes the right to physically face the person who is testifying against him and the right to conduct a thorough cross-examination. A defendant is guaranteed the opportunity for effective cross-examination.

In addition, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. The defendant does not have a right to offer any testimony that is either privileged, irrelevant or excluded under the rules of evidence. However, if the defendant has evidence of a prior false allegation of the alleged victim then it is admissible in order to protect the integrity of the trial.

In State v. Burns, the Georgia Supreme Court has made a bright line rule that prior false allegations are admissible, regardless of other rules of evidence.

Call us Today!

If you are charged with child molestation, rape or any other sexual offense in Georgia, it is imperative that you aggressively defend yourself and learn everything you can about the alleged victim. If the alleged victim in your case has ever made up an allegation against any other person, you must use this information to your advantage when confronting your accuser in court. If you are charged with any sexual offense in Georgia, please contact us at 404-581-0999 or mike@peachstatelawyer.com for a free consultation