Atlanta Pre-Trial Intervention

The Municipal Court of Atlanta has a special program for minor traffic offenses and some accident cases that involves dismissing these cases without them going on your driving history, without any points going on your drivers license, and without you using your nolo contendere plea. It is called the pre-trial intervention program – traffic division, and you can use the program once a year in the Municipal Court of Atlanta for certain citations.

What qualifies?

Some offenses that qualify are:

  1. Speeding offenses UNDER 34 miles per hour
  2. Minor traffic accidents without any injuries
  3. Three point moving violations that do not involve accidents

Entry into the program is voluntary and involves the payment of a fee and potentially completing a driver improvement course or other requirements. You can choose not to handle your case through the PTI-T program and preserve your right to a jury trial in your case. 

Call us today!

Finally, we’d love to help you navigate your traffic citation in the Municipal Court of Atlanta. Call our office for a free in-depth consultation of all your options to resolve your citation. During that consultation we will explain to you the possible and likely outcomes and what we can do for you to save you time and money. Many traffic citations in Atlanta can be handled by us without you ever going to court. Call us today for a free consultation regarding your traffic ticket at 404-581-0999.

Theft by Deception

What is Theft by Deception?

In Georgia, a person commits Theft by Deception when the obtain property by any deceitful means or artful practice with the intention of depriving the owner of said property. At trial, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intended to deceive. According to the statute intentional deception is demonstrated when the accused:

  1. Creates or confirms false impressions, which he knows or believes to be false; or,
  2. Fails to correct false impression previously created or confirmed
  3. Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to disposition of property; or,
  4. Sells, transfers, or encumbers property intentionally failing to disclose a legal impediment that is or is not a matter of official record, or,
  5. Promises performance of services, which he does not perform and/or knows will not be performed.

In plain language, a person commits theft by deception when they get property (or money) from someone by deceiving them. Here’s a scenario to illustrate:

An Example

You’re in the market for a grandfather clock for your living room. You see one for sale on craigslist and reach out to the seller. You and the seller strike a deal for the clock. You send him the money via PayPal and go to the seller’s antique store to pick up the clock. When you arrive, you’re informed that the clock is not for sale. In fact, the clock does not even belong to the seller. Here, the seller acquired money from you by deceiving you into believing the clock was his to sell.

An Alternative Example

On the flip side, let’s say you’re the seller in this scenario. You, the seller, and your brother sell antiques out of the store. You’re brother purchased the grandfather clock and put it in the store. So, you assumed your brother wanted to sell the clock pursuant to your antique business. Turns out you sold a clock he did not want to sell. Your defense in this scenario is that you, the accused seller, did not intend to deceive the clock’s buyer because you genuinely thought the clock was for sale by your antique-selling partner.

 The moral of the story here is to always make sure that if you sell something that was procured by someone else, make sure that person actually want to sell it before you sell it to a customer. Otherwise, you might face charges for theft by deception.

If you or someone you know has been charged with theft by deception or any other theft charge contact our office today for a free consultation.

by Sarah Armstrong

Financial Transaction Card Forgery

In Georgia it is against the law to make a fake financial transaction card in the name of another person or to alter any credit or debit card’s encoded information.

What is Financial Transaction Card Forgery?

A person commits the offense of financial transaction card forgery when:

(1)  With intent to defraud a purported issuer; a person or organization providing money, goods, services, or anything else of value; or any other person, he falsely makes or falsely embosses a purported financial transaction card;

(2)  With intent to defraud a purported issuer; a person or organization providing money, goods, services, or anything else of value; or any other person, he falsely encodes, duplicates, or alters existing encoded information on a financial transaction card or utters such a financial transaction card; or

(3)  He, not being the cardholder or a person authorized by him, with intent to defraud the issuer; a person or organization providing money, goods, services, or anything else of value; or any other person, signs a financial transaction card.


Falsely making a financial transaction card in Georgia occurs when someone makes or draws a card that is in someone else’s name but is not their actual card because they did not authorize the making or drawing of the card which was issued by the credit or debit card company.

Falsely embossing a financial transaction card in Georgia occurs when someone adds a name, card number, expiration date or security code to a card that already exists.

Falsely encoding a financial transaction card in Georgia occurs when someone erases or alters, electronically, magnetically, or electromagnetically information on the card that will permit acceptance of that card by an ATM.

If you are found in Georgia with two falsely made, embossed, or encoded financial transaction cards it is evidence under the statute that a crime has been committed.


If you are found guilty of violating this statute, you will be convicted of a felony and sentenced one to three years in custody.

Please call us today for a free consultation regarding financial transaction card forgery in Georgia at 404-581-0999.

Theft by Receiving

Everyone knows you can be arrested, and subsequently prosecuted, for taking something that doesn’t belong to you. But what about receivingsomething that doesn’t belong to you?

What Does This Mean?

Yep, you can be arrested for that, too. Welcome to the world of theft by receiving. Under Georgia law, you can be arrested for “receiving, disposing of, or retaining stolen property”. Sounds straight forward, right? But here’s the catch: the State has to prove that you (the accused) knewor should have known the property was stolen and that you did not intend to give the property back to its rightful owner.

Confusing? Let me explain using two hypothetical scenarios.

iPhone Gift

Your significant other gives you a present for your 3 month anniversary. Inside the wrapped package is the iPhone you’ve dropped not-so-subtle hints about wanting for your anniversary. Although grateful for the gesture, you’re a bit confused about why the iPhone isn’t in Apple factory packaging. Your significant other assures you they took it out of the box so it would fit in the gift box they wrapped for you.

A few weeks later your significant other is taken into custody on multiple theft by taking warrants. Turns out they’ve been involved in an iPhone theft ring the entire time you’ve been dating. The State then executes a theft by receiving warrant for your arrest because you have one of the stolen iPhones.

At trial,the prosecutor seeks to present evidence that you knew or should have known the iPhone was stolen. Pursuant to case law, they point to “circumstance[(s) that]would excite suspicion in the mind of an ordinary person.”[1]They’ll point out to the jury that the iPhone was not in factory packaging when you received it and, after all, how could you not have known your significant other was involved in a theft ring?

What’s My Defense?

As your attorney my primary defense on your behalf would be that you simply did not know the iPhone was stolen.Moreover, the circumstances do not indicate that you should have known the iPhone was stolen. You assumed they purchased the phone with their own money because your significant other is gainfully employed. They also explained away the iPhone not being in factory packaging as a consequence of fitting in the gift box. Most importantly, you have only been dating for three months, so you ultimately did not know them well enough to discover their criminal activity.

Used Car Purchase

After being found not guilty of theft by receiving the iPhone you decide to treat yourself by purchasing a car. You’re on a budget, so you’re looking for a well-maintained used car. After browsing listings on Autotrader, you decide to check one out in person. The car is perfect: low mileage, clean, even has that new car smell. The only weird thing is that the car is missing a VIN. But you found the car on Autotrader and it’s at a dealership, so you conclude it must be legitimate. Besides, you reallywant this car.

Shoving your suspicions aside, you decide to buy the car. Soon after rolling it off the lot you spy a police car in your rear-view mirror. Its blue lights activate within seconds. You pull off to the shoulder, totally confused as to why you’re being stopped.The police officer approaches your rolled-down window and asks if you’re aware the vehicle you’re driving has been reported stolen. You tell him you had no idea, but he takes you in to custody anyway on a theft by receiving warrant.

Telling the jury you didn’t know the car was stolen is not a convincing defense this time around. The jury finds you guilty on the basis you should have known the car was stolen because the car didn’t have a VIN when you purchased it. Here, knowledge of stolen property is inferred by circumstances that “excite suspicion in the mind of an ordinary person”.[2]

Don’t Take It!

Moral of the story: do not buy or keep anything you think could have been stolen because,even if you did not steal it yourself, you could be arrested for merely possessing stolen property.

If you or someone you know has been charged with theft by receiving contact our office today for a free consultation. We can help you fight your charges.

by Sarah Armstrong 

[1] Thomas v. State, 270 Ga.App. 181, 606 S.E.2d 275 (2004).

[2] Id.

Probation Revocation in Georgia

Understanding Probation and Revocation

Most sentences in criminal cases involve a period on probation. Probation, while timely and expensive, allows you to serve your sentence in the outside world and not behind bars. The downside of this is if your probation officer alleges you violated a term of probation, he or she can petition for a probation revocation, which can land you in jail for a period of time, even up to the full amount left on your sentence.

A Word on Probation 

             Probation can come with a myriad of requirements that you must adhere to in order to steer clear from trouble in the courts. For example, the judge may order you to complete classes, fines, or pay restitution while on probation. The judge will also likely require you to stay away from alcohol and drugs.Another important term of probation is that you not commit any new crimes while on probation. 

What happens when probation is revoked?

             If the probation officer believes you have violated a term of your probation, they will draft a petition for probation revocation and issue a warrant for your arrest. A hearing is later held where the person accused will have the opportunity to essentially admit to the allegation for the purpose of the hearing, or to deny what the probation officer is alleging and have a hearing.In a hearing with this much on the line, it is imperative to have an attorney represent your interests.

Am I going back to jail?

             A probation revocation does not necessarily mean you are going back to jail, although it certainly can end that way. An experienced criminal defense attorney can potentially negotiate other options that do not involve jail. An attorney can also have a contested hearing when the allegations within the petition are denied. The standard of proof is lower in probation revocation hearings than in criminal trials. In a trial, the judge or jury has to find beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. In a probation revocation, it is a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means the judge has to find you ‘more likely than not’ violated your probation in the ways the officer is saying.

Find the right Attorney

             Having an attorney who is familiar with the playing field is key in these cases as it is imperative to be familiar with the judge, prosecutor, and probation officers involved. Having a pending probation revocation can be a frightening experience to go through, because of the time in jail that may be over your head going into it. A failed drug screen can land you in jail for months. Committing a new crime can land you back in jail for years. There is a lot on the line, but not all hope is lost. If you or a loved one is facing a probation revocation in Georgia, give us a call today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

by Mary Agramonte

Cobb County Misdemeanor Pretrial Diversion

Am I eligible?

If you are arrested for the following offenses, you may be eligible to participate in a diversion program.

The eligible offenses are:

  1. Minor in Possession of Alcohol
  2. Possession of a Fake ID
  3. Possession of Marijuana (VGCSA)
  4. Theft by Shoplifting
  5. Theft by Taking

So if you are arrested on any of these charges, do not walk in to court and plead guilty. You definitely will want to consider the diversion program. If you are accepted and complete the diversion program, then the case will be dismissed and your record will be sealed.

What do I do?

In Cobb County, the prosecutor, otherwise known as the Solicitor General, will require you to have an attorney. They will not let anyone enter into the diversion program if they are not represented by an attorney. We will work with you on a payment plan that fits your budget.

There is a $ 350 fee for any person that would like to participate in the diversion program.

There are several requirements that must be completed within 12 weeks once you enter the program. You can complete the requirements earlier than 12 weeks.

  1. Community Service:
    1. For Marijuana possession, theft by shoplifting and theft by taking, you must complete 40 hours of community service.
    2. For possession of a fake ID, you must complete 60 hours of community service.
    3. For minor in possession of alcohol, the community service varies:
      1. 40 hours – if you blow below a .08 or are not offered an opportunity to blow into a portable breath device
      2. 60 hours – if you possess a fake ID and blow below a .08
  • 80 hours – if you blow between a .08 and .15
  1. 120 hours – if you blow above a .15 or refuse.
  1. All Cobb County Police Officers are trained to request a breath test if you are caught with an alcohol and are not 21 years of age.
  1. Admissions
    1. For possession of a Fake ID and Minor in Possession of Alcohol, the defendant must admit, in writing, from whom and where they obtained the alcohol and fake ID
  2. Clean Screens
    1. You must pass 3 drug/alcohol screens during the 12 weeks. These drugs screens must be done through the Cobb County Superior Court Drug Lab unless previous permission is granted to do it elsewhere.
    2. These drug screens are for Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Fake ID and Marijuana Possession cases only.
  3. Alcohol and Drug Evaluation
    1. If you are charged with Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Fake ID or Marijuana Possession then you must complete an evaluation from a state certified evaluator. If this evaluation requires treatment, then you must complete the treatment within the allotted time.
  4. Theft Seminar
    1. If charged with theft by shoplifting or theft by taking, you must complete an approved theft seminar.
  5. Essay
    1. If you are under 21 years old, then you must handwrite a 2 page essay about why you should be admitted into the diversion program.
  6. Additional Classes
    1. For Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Possession of a Fake ID and Possession of Marijuana (VGCSA) you must complete one of the following:
      1. MADD Victim Impact Panel
      2. Teen Drug and Alcohol Impact Program (only if under 25 years old)
  • S.M.A.R.T. Program

So if you are arrested for any of the above, do not panic. Please call us so we can discuss your case, your defenses to your case and see if you are eligible to participate in the diversion program. It is a great way to make sure you do not have a criminal record.

Give us a call 24/7 at 404-581-0999 or email

Can I Vote if I am a Felon in Georgia?

Can I Vote? Good News!

If you are finished with your felony sentence, then yes, you are able to vote in the State of Georgia. Many people incorrectly believe that once they are convicted of a felony, their voting rights are gone forever.  The good news is that Georgia will allow you to regain your voting rights back! As soon as you are finished with your felony sentence,  your right to vote is automatically restored even if you have a felony on your record. You may vote so long as you are not in prison for a felony sentence, nor on probation or parole for a felony sentence. Once you are done with your probation or parole sentence, your ability to vote is automatically restored. There is no separate application process.

But what if I am in jail pending my trial date?

 If you are in jail awaiting your trial in a felony case, then you are eligible to vote.

What if I am currently on First Offender felony probation?

You should be able to vote given you are not serving time for a felony conviction. A first offender case is not a conviction unless the judge chooses to revoke your first offender status for a violation of terms.

General Information

To register to vote, you must be a United States citizen, be 18 years old, not be serving a sentence for a felony conviction, and have not been found mentally incompetent by a judge. For more information and to download a voter registration application, visit the Secretary of State’s website here:

Prostitution, Pimping and Pandering in Georgia

What is prostitution?

Prostitution is when a person performs or offers or consents to perform a sexual act for money or other items of value. O.C.G.A. §16-6-9.

The statute is not about sexual activity per se but is solely concerned with commercial transactions involving sexual activity. The harm is done to society and not to the individual. Therefore, the State is not required to name the person solicited for prostitution.

Both males and females are prohibited from selling sexual acts. Prostitution is only concerned with the seller. The buyer’s activities are not prostitution.

Is prostitution a misdemeanor or felony?

Prostitution is a misdemeanor and is punished up to 1 year imprisonment. In addition, a person may be fined up to $ 2,500 for prostitution if the offense was committed within 1,000 feet of any school building, school grounds, public place of worship, or playground or recreation center which is primarily used of people under the age of 17.


What is pimping?

Pimping is when a person performs any of the following acts:

  1. Offers or agrees to procure a prostitute for another;
  2. Offers or agrees to arrange a meeting of persons for the purposes of prostitution
  3. Directs or transports another person to a place when he or she knows or should know that the direction or transportation is for the purpose of prostitution;
  4. Receives money or other thing of value from a prostitute, without lawful consideration, knowing it was earned in whole or in part from prostitution; or
  5. Aids or abets, counsels, or commands another in the commission of prostitution or aids of assists in prostitutions where the proceeds or profits derived therefrom are to be divided on a pro rata basis.

An indictment for pimping does not need to name the prostitute or the person solicited because the focus is on the harm done to society.

Misdemeanor or felony?

Pimping is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which is punishable by 12 months imprisonment and up to a $ 5,000 fine. However, when the pimping involves the conduct of a person who is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age, the offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment of or a period of not less than 5 years nor more than 20 years.

What is pandering?

Pandering is when a person solicits another person to perform an act of prostitution in his or her own behalf or on behalf of a third person or when he or she knowingly assembles persons at a fixed place for the purpose of being solicited by others to perform an act of prostitution.

Pandering is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which is punishable by 12 months imprisonment and up to a $ 5,000 fine. However, when the pandering involves the conduct of a person who is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age, the offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment of or a period of not less than 5 years nor more than 20 years.

The clerk of court in which a person is convicted of pandering must cause to be published a notice of conviction for that person in the legal organ of the county in which the person resides or, if a nonresident, in the legal organ of the county in which the person was convicted of pandering.

What do I do?

It is imperative that you do not talk to the police if you are accused of prostitution, pimping or pandering. 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.

Georgia DUI Blood Cases

Can The Government Take My Blood for DUI?

This section addresses the question of how law enforcement can legally obtain an individual’s blood in the context of a DUI arrest. Generally speaking, a law enforcement agent may obtain a person’s blood in three ways:

  • Pursuant to a lawful search warrant;
  • The presence of an emergency circumstance; and
  • Through that person’s consent
  • Search Warrant

“A suspect’s right under the Fourth Amendment to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the compelled withdrawal of blood, and the extraction of blood is a search within the meaning of the Georgia Constitution.” Williams v. State, 296 Ga. 817, 819 (2015). There are generally two types of searches, those with a search warrant and those without. Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable, “subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” Id.

Therefore, if a police officer can obtain a valid search warrant for your blood, then they are entitled to draw your blood for purposes of investigating a DUI. It is important to note that even though your blood may have been drawn legally; there are still viable defenses to blood analysis (discussed in section below).  

Emergency Circumstances

One of the “specifically established and well-delineated exceptions” to the search warrant requirement is the presence of exigent [emergency] circumstances. But what constitutes an emergency circumstance? The answer is . . . it depends.

Georgia case law used to say that because intoxicants naturally dissipate in the body over time, this fact alone provided the exigency (emergency). Essentially, this meant that because the evidence of intoxication would disappear over time, the police would be prevented from obtaining that evidence if there was not enough time to get a search warrant. The Supreme Court of Georgia later adopted the United States Supreme Court’s decision rejecting this line of thought. The law now states that just because you have alcohol or another intoxicant in your system, that fact by itself does not create an exigency (emergency) justifying the drawing of a person’s blood. Instead, the court held, “whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable [is to] be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.”[1]

The resulting rule is that rather than automatically being entitled to drawing blood just because intoxicants naturally dissipate over time, courts will review police conduct on a case by case basis to determine whether an emergency situation exists sufficient to justify a blood draw.[2]

Defending Blood Test Cases

Analysis of a DUI suspect’s blood for intoxicants (alcohol or drugs) is considered to be the most reliable method of obtaining an accurate reading of a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). This scientific procedure is designed to determine the amount of alcohol present in a person’s blood at a given time.

The BAC results from a blood analysis can be inaccurate, however, for a number of reasons:

  • Human error in performing the blood testing;
  • Flawed preservation and handling techniques of the blood sample;
  • Improperly maintained or malfunctioning machines which measure results;
  • Testing of blood plasma rather than whole blood can produce higher BAC readings;
  • Trauma or other incidents suffered by hospitalized suspect may affect BAC readings

Peach State Lawyers have been trained to attack the following aspects of blood test cases:

  • Qualifications of the person who drew the blood;
  • Qualifications of the analyst;
  • Whether the analyst followed laboratory procedures;
  • Whether the machine measuring results was working properly;
  • Whether the blood sample itself flowed through the proper chain of custody; and
  • Whether the analyst is required to testify

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, do not hesitate to contact our office. Our highly skilled and experienced attorneys will work tirelessly to resolve your case. Feel free to call us 24 hours a day at 404.581.0999.

[1]  Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U. S. ___ (133 S.Ct. 1552, 1563, 185 LE2d 696) (2013)

[2] An potential example of such an emergency case is where there is a car accident and a DUI suspect is not located for several hours and after the suspect is found the police believe they do not have time to obtain a warrant; but they know if they do not get a blood sample soon, the possible evidence of intoxication will be lost.


by Casey Cleaver

Shoplifting in Georgia Part III

Welcome to the third entry in a multi-part blog series about misdemeanor shoplifting in Georgia. We discussed what constitutes shoplifting under Georgia law, what to expect in court after you’ve been arrested for shoplifting, and what sentence you may receive if you either plead guilty or are found guilty of shoplifting (fingers crossed for a Diversion offer from the State).

Civil Demand Letters

Today I want to talk about Civil Demand Letters. Let’s say you have been accused of shoplifting from Wal Mart. You bonded out of jail and hired the Law Office of Scott Smith to defend you, so you’re feeling relieved and hopeful about resolving your case.

Then one day, soon after your arrest, you receive a letter in the mail from Wal Mart’s Corporate Loss Prevention Office. The letter is about the shoplifting accusation. In strongly-worded terms, it says Wal Mart is prepared to seek civil judgement against you in the monetary amount of the item (or items) you’re accused of stealing.

Scared and confused, you call your attorney at Scott Smith’s Office. After all, your attorney is taking care of the shoplifting so why is Wal Mart even contacting you? This is a scenario I handle frequently with clients accused of shoplifting. And it’s a confusing one. That’s because shoplifting charges exist in the worlds of both criminal and civil law.

What Does This Mean?

The State of Georgia can pursue criminal charges against you for (allegedly) shoplifting from Wal Mart. Criminal charges contemplate the deprivation of your freedom, meaning the worst-case scenario would be going to jail.  At the same time, Wal Mart, as a civil plaintiff, can sue you for damages (the idea being they suffered a financial loss from you stealing their merchandise). Unlike criminal charges, civil damages are for money. So Wal Mart would sue you for the cost of the item(s) you’re accused of stealing. Even more confusing, Wal Mart can sue you for the cost of the item(s) you allegedly stole even if they got the item back, or even if the item never left the store.

Often, these strongly-worded, bullying letters make a scary situation for my clients even scarier. But I’m here to tell you not to worry.

Do Not Worry

In a shoplifting case, your main concern is the criminal charge. With Scott Smith’s Office representing you, your criminal charge will easily be resolved. Wal Mart can, indeed, take action to sue you for monetary damages in the amount of the item you allegedly stole. But in the 18 years this office has existed (and in my two years of practicing criminal law), we have never seen a big store like Wal Mart actually sue for civil damages. That’s partially because the filing fee alone (to file suit in court) is more than the amount of money they’d win at trial.

Essentially, stores like Wal Mart send these letters in an effort to intimate people into paying them money. Moreover, some of my clients have responded to the letters by sending money thinking that doing so will resolve their case, not realizing the criminal charge has nothing to do with the civil demand letter.

What Do I Do?

In these situations I advise my clients that I will call the corporate loss prevention office to tell them my client is represented by counsel. That way all letters are sent to me rather than my client (which eases a lot of stress). I also advise my client not to pay the money demanded in the letters. This is important to defending your case, as the State could use that payment as an admission of guilt against you at trial. Finally, note that stores like Wal Mart only have two years to file suit against you for civil damages suffered as a result of your alleged shoplifting.

If you or someone you know has received a civil demand letter contact our office today for a free consultation.

by Sarah Armstrong