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Georgia Criminal Law – Justification as a Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising an Affirmative Defense

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

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

Deadly Force by Law Enforcement Officers

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

Good Samaritan Defense

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

Trafficking Marijuana through the Atlanta Airport

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

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

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

Restitution for Criminal Offenses under Georgia Law

What is Restitution?

Simply put, restitution is money paid by an offender to compensate a victim for harm caused by the offender’s unlawful acts. Restitution is a primary concern of the criminal justice system. O.C.G.A. § 17-14-1. Restitution includes all damages recoverable in a civil action except punitive damages and damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of consortium. O.C.G.A. § 17-14-2(2).

The Restitution Hearing

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-14-3 and O.C.G.A. § 17-14-7, a sentencing judge may order a defendant to pay restitution to the victim of his crime following a negotiated plea or restitution hearing.

At the restitution hearing the State has the burden of proving the specific amount of the victim’s loss by a preponderance of the evidence. The defendant bears the burden of proving their ability to pay (defendant’s financial resources). O.C.G.A. § 17-14-7(b).

Specifically, the Court looks to 8 factors when analyzing the defendant’s ability to pay restitution:

  • The financial resources and other assets of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution including whether any of the assets are jointly controlled;
  • The earnings and other income of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution;
  • Any financial obligations of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution, including obligations to dependents;
  • The amount of damages;
  • The goal of restitution to the victim and the goal of rehabilitation of the offender;
  • Any restitution previously made;
  • The period of time during which the restitution order will be in effect; and
  • Other factors which the ordering authority deems to be appropriate.

O.C.G.A. § 17-14-10.

If more than one offender has contributed to the loss of a victim, the court may make each offender liable for payment of the full amount of restitution or apportion liability amongst offenders. O.C.G.A. § 17-14-7(c).

Contact Us

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

 

 

 

Serious Violent Felonies under Georgia Law

Georgia law provides for the most serious violent offenses known as the “Seven Deadly Sins.” These are the most heinous crimes in our society and, as such, have specialized punishment including mandatory minimum punishment and limited eligibility for parole. This article will list the serious violent felonies as proscribed by law and detail the punishment surrounding them.

Seven Deadly Sins

O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(a) lists the “Serious Violent Felonies” in Georgia criminal law:

  • Murder, Felony Murder
  • Armed Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Aggravated Child Molestation
  • Aggravated Sodomy
  • Aggravated Sexual Battery

If convicted of any of these offenses, the sentencing court is required to impose no less than the statutory minimum sentences of imprisonment. O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(b).

Mandatory Minimum Sentences of Imprisonment

10 years imprisonment

  • Armed Robbery
  • Kidnapping (victim 14 years or older)

25 years (followed by probation for life)

  • Kidnapping (victim under 14)
  • Rape
  • Aggravated Child Molestation
  • Aggravated Sodomy
  • Aggravated Sexual Battery

Life

  • Murder, Felony Murder

 

Eligible for Parole?

  • Defendants sentenced to 10 years confinement must serve all 10 years and is not eligible for parole
  • Defendants sentenced to 25 years confinement must serve all 25 years without possibility of parole
  • Defendants sentenced to Life is parole eligible after 30 years
  • Defendants sentenced to death whose sentences is commuted to life is parole eligible after 30 years
  • Defendants sentenced to life without parole will never receive parole

O.C.G.A. § 17-10-6.1(c)(1) – (4).

First Offender Treatment is not available to any of the Serious Violent Felonies.

Contact Us

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

 

 

 

 

Understanding Computer Trespass Crimes in Georgia

By Mary Agramonte

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

The Offense

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

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

Possible Punishment

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

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

Contact Us

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

Understanding Computer Theft Crime in Georgia

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter Charges in Georgia

In our criminal justice system “homicide” is a broad umbrella term which encompasses different types of specific crimes. Homicide is generally defined as the killing of another person without justification or defense. This blog article aims to explore the different types of homicides under Georgia law.

 

Murder

 

O.C.G.A. § 16-5-1 sets out the ways a person can commit the offense of murder and second-degree murder.

 

  • A person commits the offense of murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.

 

Express malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof. Malice shall be implied where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.

 

  • A person commits the offense of murder when, in the commission of a felony, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.

 

This is also referred to as “felony murder.”

 

  • A person commits the offense of murder in the second degree when, in the commission of cruelty to children in the second degree, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.

 

Punishment if Convicted

 

A person convicted of the offense of murder shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, or by imprisonment for life. A person convicted of the offense of murder in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than 30 years.

 

Manslaughter

 

In Georgia, manslaughter can be either voluntary or involuntary.

 

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-2, a person commits the offense of voluntary manslaughter when he causes the death of another human being under circumstances which would otherwise be murder and if he acts solely as the result of a sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person; however, if there should have been an interval between the provocation and the killing sufficient for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard, of which the jury in all cases shall be the judge, the killing shall be attributed to deliberate revenge and be punished as murder.

 

Essentially, the law recognizes that a person can become so inflamed by passion or provoked to a certain degree that it negates the mental state of “malice” found in murder charges. Because there is no malice, a jury is authorized to convict a person on the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.

 

Examples of sufficient provocation or irresistible passion have been held to include adultery (Raines v. State, 247 Ga. 504 (1981)) and battered person syndrome (Paslay v. State, 285 Ga. 616 (2009)). Evidence of anger alone is not sufficient to set aside malice. It is also important to note there can not be a “cooling off” period between the provoking act and the killing.

 

A person who commits the offense of voluntary manslaughter, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years.

 

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-3, A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony.

 

In the situation of an unlawful act, upon conviction thereof, the person shall be convicted of a felony and punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years.

 

A person also commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so, by the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

 

Here, during the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner, upon conviction thereof, the person shall be punished as a misdemeanor.

 

Contact Us

 

Homicides are investigated aggressively by law enforcement. These crimes are extremely serious. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime involving the death or another, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Cruelty to Animals Charges under Georgia Law

Animals and pets are held close to our hearts in America. The idea of them being abused is upsetting. As a result, the Georgia legislature set out certain laws protecting animals.

Definition of “Animal”

The definition of “animal” shall not include any fish nor shall such term include any pest that might be exterminated or removed from a business, residence, or other structure.

Felony Offense

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-12-4(d)(1) a person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she:

(1) Maliciously causes the death of an animal;

(2) Maliciously causes physical harm to an animal by depriving it of a member of its body, by rendering a part of such animal’s body useless, or by seriously disfiguring such animal’s body or a member thereof;

(3) Maliciously tortures an animal by the infliction of or subjection to severe or prolonged physical pain;

(4) Maliciously administers poison to an animal, or exposes an animal to any poisonous substance, with the intent that the substance be taken or swallowed by the animal; or

(5) Having intentionally exercised custody, control, possession, or ownership of an animal, maliciously fails to provide to such animal adequate food, water, sanitary conditions, or ventilation that is consistent with what a reasonable person of ordinary knowledge would believe is the normal requirement and feeding habit for such animal’s size, species, breed, age, and physical condition to the extent that the death of such animal results or a member of its body is rendered useless or is seriously disfigured.

Any person convicted of the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, a fine not to exceed $15,000.00, or both.

Misdemeanor Offense

The lesser crime of cruelty to animals is provided under subsection (b), when a person:

(1) Causes physical pain, suffering, or death to an animal by any unjustifiable act or omission; or

(2) Having intentionally exercised custody, control, possession, or ownership of an animal, fails to provide to such animal adequate food, water, sanitary conditions, or ventilation that is consistent with what a reasonable person of ordinary knowledge would believe is the normal requirement and feeding habit for such animal’s size, species, breed, age, and physical condition.

Any person convicted of the offense of cruelty to animals shall be guilty of a misdemeanor (unless they have been previously convicted).

Contact Us

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

 

Possession of THC Oil under Georgia Law

 

Generally, possession of a personal amount of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-13-2(b). However, possession of other forms of THC, such as oil, resin, or wax, which are extracted from the plant, can be charged as a Schedule I felony in accordance with the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.

THE OFFENSE

V.G.C.S.A. offenses, which stands for “Violations of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act,” include criminal charges relating to the possession of THC oil. According to O.C.G.A. § 16-13-25 of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, THC oil is considered a Schedule I controlled substance. A Schedule I controlled substance is defined as:

  1. A drug or other substance that has a high potential for abuse;
  2. The drug or other substance does not currently have any accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

According to O.C.G.A § 16-13-30, it is unlawful for any person to purchase, possess, or have under his or her control any controlled substance, this includes non-medicinal THC oil, which is categorized as a Schedule I felony in the State of Georgia.

LOW THC OIL

However, an experienced criminal defense attorney could negotiate for a felony charge to be reduced down to a misdemeanor under O.C.G.A. § 16-12-191. This statute governs the possession of “low THC oil.” Pursuant to this statute, it is unlawful for any person to possess, purchase, or have under his control, 20 fluid ounces or less of low THC oil. If convicted under this statute, the accused will be sentenced to misdemeanor punishment.

In order for it to be considered “low THC,” the prosecution must prove that the oil was less than a 5% concentration of THC. Thus, the GBI crime lab must provide to the State, as well as to the defense, an analysis of THC concentration, which does not always happen in every case. If this is not provided, the prosecution will have difficulty proving that the oil is above a 5% concentration of THC, and therefore, an experienced criminal defense attorney could negotiate for a felony possession of THC oil charge to be reduced down to a misdemeanor.

CONTACT US

Due to the complexity of the charge of possession of THC oil, as well as the severity of the punishment, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such serious allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know the possible options of an accused arrested and charged with possession of THC oil, we are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations, and we work tirelessly at advocating for our client’s rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for possession of THC oil, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.