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Georgia Criminal Law – Drug Paraphernalia and Drug Related Objects

Not only does Georgia law prohibit the possession of controlled substances, it also makes it unlawful to possess the tools or equipment used in the drug trade or use of drugs. These tools are commonly referred to as paraphernalia. Items such as pipes, needles, grinders, or bongs often come to mind. In and of themselves, these items may be perfectly legal to possess, but when discovered adjacent to a controlled substance, or when the items contain the residue of a controlled substance, that’s when you could be charged with “Drug Related Objects.”

 

The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 16-13-32.2 makes it unlawful to possess or use drug related objects. “It shall be unlawful for any person to use, or possess with the intent to use, any object or materials of any kind for the purpose of planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body marijuana or a controlled substance.”

 

It is important to note that any object or material of any kind can constitute a drug related object. However, Georgia Senate Bill No. 164 would amend and revise the above law by making it inapplicable hypodermic needles or syringes.

 

Defenses

No possession: The State has to prove the person was in knowing possession (actual or constructive) in order to sustain a conviction.

 

In Wright v. State, 355 Ga.App. 417 (2020), the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that probationer possessed methamphetamine pipe found in truck parked outside residence where probationer was being arrested on unrelated charge, and thus revocation of probation was precluded based on possession of pipe; there was no admissible evidence showing that probationer possessed pipe, and no non-hearsay evidence showed that probationer owned truck.

 

Lawful Purpose / No Intent: The State has to prove the items were possessed with the intent to be used with an illegal purpose. A bong, in and of itself, with no marijuana residue and without any evidence of drug possession or use would not be sufficient to convict for drug related objects.

 

In Holloway v. State, 297 Ga.App. 81 (2009), the evidence was sufficient to show that defendant had joint possession of two crack-pipe filters found in a vehicle that he was driving and in which a passenger was riding, so as to support a conviction for possessing a drug-related object; as the driver, defendant was presumed to have possession of contraband in the vehicle, and the state presented evidence that defendant and the passenger were involved in the crack-cocaine drug trade.

 

Punishment

Possession of a drug related object is a misdemeanor and can carry up to 12 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aggravated Battery Charges in Georgia

In Georgia, there are multiple types of battery offenses such as simple battery, battery, family violence battery, and aggravated battery. This blog will solely focus on aggravated battery.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-24, a person commits the offense of aggravated battery when he/she maliciously causes bodily harm to another by depriving him/her of a member of his/her body, by rendering a member of his/her body useless, or by seriously disfiguring his/her body or a member thereof. The crime of aggravated battery does not require that the victim’s disfigurement be permanent, however, the injury must be more severe than a superficial wound. Some examples of aggravated battery include, but are not limited to:

  • Striking a person with a weapon or dangerous object;
  • Inflicting an injury upon a person in which causes them to have blurred vision, broken bones, severe bruising, memory lapse, or permanent nerve damage;
  • Shooting a person with a firearm;
  • Inflicting an injury upon a person in which causes them to suffer temporary or permanent disfigurement;
  • A battery against a particular group of people that are protected such as police officers, healthcare providers, social services workers, the elderly, and the developmentally disabled.

A conviction of aggravated battery requires the jury to find that an accused person acted with intent. Thus, an experienced criminal defense attorney may defend these allegations by arguing that the accused did not have the requisite state of mind to commit an aggravated battery. Another example of an affirmative defense that may be raised in a case like this is self-defense.

Penalties

An aggravated battery charge is a serious offense and is characterized as a felony. A person convicted of this offense can be punished anywhere between 1-20 years in prison. However, the punishment is enhanced when the victim of an aggravated battery is part of a particular class of persons. If the victim is a police officer engaged in his/her official duties then the accused, if convicted, may be sentenced to a prison term of at least 10 years, but no more than 20 years. Furthermore, if the victim is a person over the age of 65 years old, the accused may be punished anywhere between 5-20 years in prison. Additionally, if the victim is a teacher or other school personnel, and the offense occurred within a school safety zone, the penalty upon conviction is at least 5 years, but no more than 20 years in prison. Finally, if the aggravated battery is considered to have been committed against a person who has a familial relationship with the accused, he/she could be sentenced anywhere between 3-20 years in prison.

Due to the severity of the penalties for an aggravated battery charge, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable of all possible options for an accused dealing with such serious allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained at defending such charges. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for aggravated battery, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Drug Possession in Atlanta, Fulton County Georgia

The legal system in Fulton County treats drug crimes very seriously. If you have been arrested for the possession of drugs in Fulton County, you could be facing prison time.

If you have been arrested in Fulton County, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. The Fulton County Superior Court is located at 136 Pryor Street in Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly after arrest, you will have a First Appearance hearing where the Judge will notify you of your charges and rights and then make a determination for bond. In Georgia, there are five factors Judges use to determine whether or not to release someone on bond. These are known as the Ayala factors (Ayala v. State, 262 Ga. 704 (1993)). Judges may issue a bond upon a finding of the following factors:

  • The person poses no significant risk of fleeing or failing to appear in court when required
  • The person poses no significant risk or danger to a person, property, or community
  • The person poses no significant risk of committing a felony while out on bond
  • The person poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing justice

Under the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, drugs are classified into 5 schedules based on their potential for abuse, tendency for addiction, and their recognized medical uses. Schedule I is considered to have the highest risk of physical and psychological dependency and are considered to have no medical use, while Schedule V is recognized to have lower risk of dependency and legitimate medical use. The following are common examples of drugs that the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have defended in the past.

Schedule I

Heroin, THC, LSD, and MDMA (ecstasy).

Schedule II

Cocaine, Codein, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Methadone, Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, Oxycontin, Percocet

Schedule III

Suboxone, Ketamine, Anabolic steroids

Schedule IV

Xanax, Ambien, Valium

Drug Possession Penalties in Fulton County

The penalties in Fulton County and in Georgia are harsh. Possession of drugs in Georgia is a felony, except for marijuana if it less than an ounce. If it is your first offense and you are found guilty of a Schedule I or II drug, you are looking at 2-15 years in prison, intense probation, and high fines.

On second or subsequent offenses of Schedule I or II drugs, you are looking at at least 5 years in prison, and up to 30, with the possibility of similar probation and high fines as the first.

If you are found with Schedule III, IV, or V drugs, the penalty will be 1 to 5 years in prison. If it is your second or subsequent offense, you are facing 1 to 10 years prison time.

Additionally, if you are found guilty and a car was used during the felony, your driver’s license will be suspended.

How the State Proves Possession

The drugs do not have to be found on your person for you to be guilty of drug possession. Driving a car in which drugs are found is sufficient for the law to determine that you are in violation of the Controlled Substance Act. Even if the drugs are found thrown out or hidden, the State will still try to prove you were in possession. Depending on where the drugs were found, two people or more can be considered to have possession of the same drugs. Important facts for both the state and defense are whether or not paraphernalia or residue in plain view was found, and also whether you attempted to flee.

Additionally, drug crimes almost always implicate Fourth Amendment a analysis which can serve as a basis for suppression of the drugs. This means that if the State unlawfully searched or seized the drugs, the drugs are thrown out of evidence, and the case dismissed.

Talk to an Attorney

Because a conviction of drug possession carries serious prison time, it is important you speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable about drug possession laws in Georgia. Pleading guilty to any drug possession offense will have lifelong consequences that we want you to avoid. We would like for you to understand what you are facing and all of your legal options so that you can move on from this arrest in the best way possible. Call us for a FREE CONSULTATION today at 404-581-0999 and mention this blog.

Can I get a DUI if I am under .08 in Georgia?

            Most of us are aware that the legal limit for a DUI for a driver over 21 years old is .08. What comes as a surprise to most, however, is that you can also be charged with DUI even if you were well below the legal limit. How is this possible? You can be arrested and charged with DUI, even if you blew below the legal limit, under Georgia’s DUI Less Safe law. In practice, it is a very common way to be charged with DUI in Georgia.

            Georgia law has criminalized DUIs into a few different categories. The two most common ways to be charged with DUI are DUI Per Se and DUI Less Safe. DUI Per Se occurs when a person is arrested after being alleged to be in control of a moving vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams or more. This means that after he or she was arrested, law enforcement obtained a blood alcohol reading either by a breath, blood, or urine test taken typically at the jail or a hospital.

What happens if I don’t blow or take a breathalyzer?

            In this situation, you can still be charged with DUI Less Safe. DUI Less Safe in Georgia means you were in control of a moving vehicle, after having consumed alcohol, to the extent it made you a less safe driver. Evidence in this situation may not include an actual BAC number, but the State will attempt to prove DUI with other pieces of evidence. For example, the State may bring forward evidence of an odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, open containers, and/or poor performance on field sobriety tests.

            In some instances, if you decline or refuse the breath or blood test at the officer’s request, the police officer will take out a search warrant to take your blood over your objection. In this situation, you can be charged with both DUI Less Safe and DUI Per Se if the BAC comes back as over .08.

What happens if I blow below the legal limit?

            In Georgia, you can still be arrested and charged with DUI Less Safe. This is because a BAC greater than .08 is not a requirement in DUI Less Safe cases. If you blow a .07, a .06, or even a .05, you can and will still be prosecuted for DUI. This seems shocking to some, but we see it happen regularly. The State, in this situation, still has to prove impairment- meaning the prosecutor must still prove you were a less safe driver because of the alcohol.

Georgia’s Law on Alcohol Content

In Georgia, you are Per Se impaired if your blood or breath test shows a result of .08 grams or more. If your BAC is more than .05 but less than .08 grams, there is no inference of impairment. This means it is up to the judge or the jury to consider whether or not you were actually a Less Safe driver or not. In Georgia, a BAC of even less than .04 can get you into court fighting for your life and freedom. In a scenario where the BAC was les than a .04, Georgia law has a presumption that you were NOT impaired. The State can rebut this inference through other evidence in a trial. A different BAC applies in cases where the driver is under 21 years old. In that situation, an under 21 DUI ‘legal limit’ is .02 grams.

We routinely see drivers with a ‘below the legal limit’ DUI have their cases prosecuted. Do not assume that the prosecuting attorney will throw the case out based on having been less than .08 grams. If you were arrested, the State will most likely bring the prosecution’s case with any other evidence they have, even if they do not have a BAC or if the BAC was below a .08 grams.

DUI cases are one of them most litigated cases in Georgia courtrooms. This is because there is so much at stake with a DUI conviction: jail time, lengthy and involved probation sentences, suspended licenses, and a criminal history that cannot be expunged. There are numerous defenses to DUI Less Safe and DUI Per Se cases, no matter what the BAC is or what county you were arrested in. If you or a loved one has been arrested for Driving under the Influence, call W. Scott Smith today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

What happens after being arrested for Armed Robbery in Georgia?

by Mary Agramonte      

      Armed Robbery occurs when someone takes property from someone by use of a weapon, device, or a replica weapon. It is treated seriously under Georgia law in that it is a “capital felony.” A capital felony is a crime that is punishable by life or death in the State of Georgia. This blog lays out the criminal justice process for someone who has been arrested for Armed Robbery in Georgia.

            The first thing that happens after someone is arrested for Armed Robbery is that they will see judge in their First Appearance hearing. This typically occurs within 48-72 hours of the person being arrested, depending on whether or not there was an arrest warrant. At the First Appearance hearing, a Magistrate Judge will read the charges to the suspect, as well as inform them of their right to counsel and right to remain silent. In some cases, bond can be considered at a First Appearances hearing. However, in Armed Robbery cases, the procedure is different. This is because only Superior Court Judges can hear bond arguments for the crime of Armed Robbery. This means unless the First Appearance Judge is “sitting in designation” then a bond will not be set or considered at the onset of arrest at the initial hearing.

Following the arrest and First Appearance hearing in Armed Robbery cases, an attorney will need to file a request for a Probable Cause and Bond hearing. This hearing will determine whether or not there is enough evidence to even prosecute you for Armed Robbery. If there is not, the charges can get thrown out at this stage. If the Judge does find probable cause that an Armed Robbery had occurred and you were the person who did it, or was a party to it, then the Judge “binds the case over to Superior Court” since that is the court with jurisdiction to proceed over the case. Once in Superior Court, the Judge can consider whether or not to release the person on bond.

The court may release a person on bond if the court finds that the person:

(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; and

(4) Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.

These are known as the Ayala factors in Georgia based after the case that laid out our standards in bond determination. Ayala v. State, 262 Ga. 704 (1993).

If a bond is granted, there may be certain conditions attached. For example, the Judge may order you to have a curfew, or stay away from the alleged victim in this case.

The Armed Robbery case will then proceed with Arraignment where you will enter a Not Guilty plea, file Motions, which are later followed by Plea Negotiations, Motions Hearings, and Trial. During this process, the attorney will do intensive investigation to the facts and defenses of the case and represent client’s interests zealously.

There are several defenses to Armed Robbery cases in Georgia. First, if you were only present at the time it occurred, and you did not share the same criminal mentality of the co-defendants, then you cannot be guilty of Armed Robbery.  Simply being there when an armed robbery occurs is not a crime. The State still has to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

You can be charged with Armed Robbery as being a Party to a crime law in Georgia means that you can be convicted and sentenced as if you directly committed the crime- even if you did not directly commit the crime.  You can be charged with Party to a Crime to Armed Robbery if you:

1. Commit the crime

2. Intentionally aid or abet in the commission of the crime;

3. Intentionally advises, encourages, or counsels another to commit the crime.

This means you can be charged, convicted, and sentenced to Armed Robbery in Georgia if the State proves you encouraged the person to commit the crime, or if you provided them with the weapon, whether it be fake or not. All of this must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard in our Justice system.

Sentencing in Armed Robbery

As previously discussed, the stakes are high in Armed Robbery given a life or death sentence is allowed in Georgia law. Additionally, it has a mandatory minimum sentence of 10-20 years in prison. This is why it is imperative to move quickly in obtaining an Armed Robbery attorney early on to establish defenses and thoroughly investigate the case. The lawyers of W. Scott Smith are available 24/7 to answer you questions via a FREE CONSULTATION on Armed Robbery charges. 404-581-0999

Georgia DUI Law: Challenging the Stop, Defective Equipment

Georgia DUI investigations usually begin with a routine traffic stop. At a minimum, in order to stop you and your vehicle, the stopping officer needs to have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to believe a crime has, or is about to be committed. An officer normally satisfies this requirement by observing a traffic or equipment violation. However, if it is determined the officer did NOT have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle; this could result in the suppression of evidence and the ultimate dismissal of a DUI charge.

Therefore, it is crucial to examine the most common types of traffic violations that result in a DUI investigation. This article serves to inform you of the nature, methods of proof, penalties, and challenges to a defective equipment offense in Georgia.

The Offense

O.C.G.A. §§ 40-8-7(a) and (b) state:

(a) No person shall drive or move on any highway any motor vehicle, trailer, semi trailer, or pole trailer, or any combination thereof, unless the equipment upon any and every such vehicle is in good working order and adjustment as required in this chapter and the vehicle is in such safe mechanical condition as not to endanger the driver or other occupant or any person upon the highway.

(b) It is a misdemeanor for any person to drive or move, or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved, on any street or highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles:

(1) Which is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person;

(2) Which does not contain those parts or is not at all times equipped with such lights and other equipment in proper condition and adjustment as required in this chapter; or

(3) Which is equipped in any manner in violation of this chapter.

Even if you are driving perfectly, a police officer may still stop your vehicle if any of its equipment is non-operational. Examples include, but are not limited to, missing taillight, broken tag light, or a low hanging bumper. Although the spirit of this law is to protect other motorists from defective vehicles on the road, this traffic offense is often used as a “pre-textual stop,” meaning the officer stops you for this offense in hopes of discovering another criminal offense, particularly DUI. Although the law used to criticize these types of stops, a line of United States Supreme Court cases has weakened these types of challenges.[1]   

Penalties

Under Georgia law, technically, these equipment violations are misdemeanors and are therefore punishable with up to a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail. Although these are the maximum punishments, equipment violations generally do not result in jail time. Normally, if you get the defective equipment fixed, and provide proof of such to the prosecuting attorney, your case will likely be dismissed.

Challenging the Stop

If an officer pulls you over for an equipment violation and ultimately arrests you for DUI, you may lodge a challenge to the stop of your vehicle through a motion to suppress or a motion in limine. These challenges are designed to attack the stop, arrest, or any evidence gathered as a result of an unlawful stop and/or arrest.

If you are facing a DUI-Less Safe case, the State will have to prove “less safe driving.” If you have only been cited for defective equipment, the State will have great difficulty in proving alcohol caused you to be a less safe driver because there is no “less safe” driving act (ie. speeding, failure to maintain lane, improper turn, etc.). This is a major issue a defense attorney should raise during trial.

Contact Us

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] See, Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 121 S. Ct. 1536 (2001); Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806, 116 S. Ct. 1769  (1996); Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 117 S. Ct. 417 (1996); and Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 117 S. Ct. 882 (1997).

What do you do if you are arrested for child molestation in Fulton County?

If you or a loved one is arrested for child molestation in Fulton County, 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.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office has a dedicated division called the Crimes Against Women and Children Unit. They will vigorously prosecute you if you are charged with child molestation. 

Do not think that just because you are innocent that the charges will be dismissed. Child molestation charges are aggressively prosecuted in Fulton County 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 child molestation cases.

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

Here is what you should do if arrested for child molestation in Fulton County.

  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
    1. 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.
    1. 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.
    1. 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.

Here is what you should never do if arrested for child molestation in Fulton County.

  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.

If you are arrested for child molestation or any sex offense in Fulton County, 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.

Georgia DUI Law: Challenging the Stop, Driving While Distracted or While Using Mobile Device

Georgia DUI investigations usually begin with a routine traffic stop. At a minimum, in order to stop you and your vehicle, the stopping officer needs to have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to believe a crime has, or is about to be committed. An officer normally satisfies this requirement by observing a traffic or equipment violation. However, if it is determined the officer did NOT have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle; this could result in the suppression of evidence and the ultimate dismissal of a DUI charge.

Therefore, it is crucial to examine the most common types of traffic violations that result in a DUI investigation. This article serves to inform you of what type of things police officers are looking for when stopping for driving while distracted or while using mobile device.

The Offense

As of July 1, 2018, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 requires drivers to exercise due care while operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and prohibits “any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.”

In addition, drivers may not:

(1) physically hold or support a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, except for the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication;

(2) write, send, or read any text-based communication, including text messages, instant messages, e-mails, or Internet data, other than voice commands that are converted to text by the device or used for GPS/navigation feature control;

(3) watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle; or

(4) record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device, other than devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle.

Commercial vehicle drivers are restricted from using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication or reaching for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a safety belt.

Exceptions

These prohibitions do not apply if the driver is:

(1) reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard;

(2) an employee or contractor of a utility services provider acting within the scope of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency;

(3) a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or

(4) in a lawfully parked motor vehicle.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(g).

Punishment

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(f) states that violations are punished as misdemeanors, as follows:

(A) For a first conviction with no conviction of and no plea of nolo contendere accepted to a charge of violating this Code section within the previous 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $50.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof;

(B) For a second conviction within a 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $100.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof; or

(C) For a third or subsequent conviction within a 24 month period of time, as measured from the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $150.00, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof.

A person convicted of simply holding a mobile device while driving may avoid conviction if they bring to court a device or proof of purchase of such device that would allow that person to operate a mobile device hands-free in the future. However, a person may take advantage of this saving provision only once. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(f)(2).

Challenging the Stop

Police officers are looking for distracted drivers, especially those drivers holding their cell phones while driving. If an officer observes this, they would have a lawful reason to stop your vehicle, and possibly launch a DUI investigation. As a result, it is important to challenge the officer’s observations to determine whether the stopping officer has reasonable and articulable suspicion necessary to stop your car. The most successful way to accomplish this is to challenge the officer’s perception. Key issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Distance between the officer and your vehicle
  • Angles of officer’s observation
  • Traffic conditions
  • Lighting
  • Window tint, if any
  • Whether you were lawfully parked

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.

Marijuana Possession in Georgia

by Mary Agramonte

Even as the nationwide trend moves to legalization and decriminalization, possession of marijuana remains illegal in the State of Georgia. In most jurisdictions across the state, a possession of marijuana charge in Georgia will land you in jail, forcing you to dish out hundreds or thousands of dollars in bond money to be released. If you later plead or are found guilty, you can expect high fines, at least 12 months of probation, community service, drug evaluations, costly classes, and depending on your record, even more jail time.  An experienced criminal defense attorney has the ability to alleviate this by evaluating your defenses and advocating on your behalf.

If you have been arrested or cited for possession of marijuana less than an ounce, call the leading defense firm W. Scott Smith to protect your rights, your wallet, and your criminal history. A nolo contendere charge will not keep the charge off your record, and will not eliminate punishment. There are defenses beginning with the reason the officer stopped you, how the search was conducted, even down to the testing of the marijuana found. Being convicted of any crime can be detrimental to your future. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 404-581-0999.

 

 

DUI Less Safe

by Casey Cleaver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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