Posts

Rebel Thinking & Defense

I am going to digress from a legal analysis this month. When not practicing law, I enjoy, among other activities, walking and gardening. Both lend themselves to listening to podcasts. One of my favorite podcasts is “Hidden Brain” on NPR. The host, Shankar Vedantam, “uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.” You can imagine that this would be insightful to a trial attorney!

A recent episode entitled, “Rebel with a Cause” discusses the importance of being willing to break out of the norm. The old adage, “Think outside the box” has truth. The truth is that it is important to reevaluate our suppositions from time to time. Nowhere is this truer than in defending persons accused by the mighty government.

What does this have to do with me?

Recently, I was approached by a client who was represented by one of the preeminent Atlanta attorneys. The attorney had negotiated what, under nearly all circumstances, would have been a terrific plea agreement to avoid significant time in federal prison. However, the plea of guilty would result in time in federal prison, the client’s green card not being renewed, and, ultimately, deportation.

My client hired me to replace this other high-profile attorney. I looked at the case with a fresh set of eyes and found the problem. I filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. Before a United States Judge ruled on my motion, the government dismissed the charges!

Take a Fresh Look

Back to the “Rebel” podcast. There is no need to be the proverbial “bull in the china cabinet.” I have encountered those attorneys. They usually don’t last long. It is also inappropriate to be the defense attorney who is the “waterboy” for the government. Do I even have to comment on what we think of that “attorney?”

It is critical to look at every case as if it’s the first case. Bring your experience to the case. It’s invaluable to bring experience to a case. But, it’s also important to look at it and think about it as if it is the first case you have ever reviewed.

The other experienced attorney just followed the routine. He saw evidence of guilt in the form of a wiretap and phone calls. He then negotiated what would otherwise be an excellent plea disposition. However, he did not see the glaring defect in the case that would require dismissal.

In “Hidden Brain” terminology: Experience + Fresh (Rebel) Thinking = Best Chance of Success!

by John Lovell

Privacy Rights- Carpenter vs. United States

by John Lovell

Last month, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the privacy rights of individuals. The Government, without a warrant or a showing of probable cause, issued an order to a cell phone company to provide Timothy Carpenter’s cell site data. The Government sought to gather the extensive records, including the location of Carpenter’s phones. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, found that Mr. Carpenter had a privacy right in his phone records. For the Government to seize these records, the Government needed to present to a magistrate a warrant based on sworn testimony establishing probable cause. The Court noted that a significant factor causing the War for Independence was Britain’s use of warrantless searches … Americans have never been fond of warrantless searches!

Do not be quick to conclude that this ruling makes it necessary for the police to obtain a warrant for all types of stored records. Your privacy could still be affected. Previously, the Court has held that a warrant is not necessary to obtain records of the numbers called by a cell phone-not the content of the calls but just the fact that the “target” phone called particular numbers at particular times. The Court has also held that other stored records such as bank records may be obtained without a warrant. A couple of years ago, the Court ruled that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. The critical distinction that the Court has made is in information that reveals the location of the subject. We have a greater expectation of privacy in where we are than is more typical records such as numbers called and even bank records. Protect your privacy rights today and call Peachstate Lawyer for your FREE consultation!

Bestiality and Necrophilia Crimes in Georgia

by Mike Jacobs

 

Bestiality is a serious crime in the State of Georgia.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-6:  A person commits the offense of bestiality when he performs or submits to any sexual act with an animal involving the sex organs of the one and the mouth, anus, penis or vagina of the other.

A person convicted of bestiality shall be punished by imprisonment not less than 1 nor more than 5 years.

Necrophilia is a serious crime in Georgia.

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-7: A person commits the offense of necrophilia when he performs any sexual act with a dead human body involving the sex organs of the one and the mouth, anus, penis or vagina of the other.

A person convicted of necrophilia is punishable by imprisonment for not less than 1 nor more than 10 years.

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.

The “Safety Valve” Alternative to Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Federal Court

by John Lovell

I recently wrote about mandatory minimum sentences in federal court. There is a means to be sentenced below the mandatory minimum sentence, the “safety valve” provision.

First, let me tell you what the safety valve is not: It is not a first offender statute similar to the Georgia statute where, when certain conditions are met, there is no conviction on the record of the beneficiary. A federal conviction, with rare exceptions, remains a federal conviction for life.

Safety valve is only available for certain narcotics related crimes.

There are two benefits obtained from safety valve in United States District Court: 1) A two level reduction in the sentencing guidelines, and 2) “Permission” for a United States District Judge to sentence below the guidelines.

There are five requirements to be granted a safety valve:

(1) No more than 1 criminal history point under the sentencing guidelines (you will need to consult an attorney as calculation of criminal history points can be tricky. For instance, one could be on probation for shoplifting a $25 pair of sunglasses while committing the crime charged in federal court and not be eligible for safety valve);

(2) The accused “did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense;”

(3) The “offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury” to anyone;

(4) The accused was not a leader or organizer of the offense; and

(5) the person told the prosecutor all that he knows about the offense.

The last requirement can be tricky. The person seeking safety valve must meet with the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) and, usually, one or more agents (the case agent) and tell them everything they know about the case. Technically, it is not “cooperation,” but, in practice, it often becomes cooperation. The AUSA and case agent are permitted to ask questions. They may ask for names, locations, and endless other details. If, at sentencing, the AUSA tells the judge that you were not truthful, and the judge believes the AUSA, safety valve must be denied. Of course, a zealous attorney will assist in proving that the statement was truthful where facts demonstrate that it was truthful. However, the best practice is to not participate in the safety valve unless you are prepared to tell the complete truth.

The best advice: Seek the advice of an attorney with extensive experience in federal court.

Terroristic Threats in Georgia

by Mary Agramonte

Many people are surprised to learn that you can actually be arrested for threatening to kick someone’s a**. There tends to be an assumption that such a statement would be covered by our country’s First Amendment on free speech. However, this is not the case. Threatening to commit any crime of violence can result with you facing serious criminal charges in Georgia, as it can land you with an arrest for Terroristic Threats.

Under O.C.G.A. §16-11-37(b), a person commits the criminal charge of Terroristic Threats in Georgia when he or she threatens to commit any crime of violence against another. Depending on the nature of the threat, the crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  For example, if you tell someone you are going to hit them, it is a misdemeanor; if you suggest you are going to cause the death of someone, then it is a felony. It does not matter if the threat is by phone or in person.

In Georgia, a misdemeanor Terroristic Threat charge carries with it probation, fines, classes, community service, and a criminal history that cannot be undone. If you have been charged with felony Terroristic Threat in Georgia, you can be punished with even higher fines. Additionally, you can spend one to five years in prison, and be considered a convicted felon for the rest of your life.

Given the harsh consequences associated with an arrest for a Terroristic Threats in Georgia, it is important you have a criminal defense firm on your side who is not afraid to fight for you. There are defenses to Terroristic Threats and ways to avoid criminal conviction for it. Call 404-581-0999 to schedule your FREE CONSULTATION with a Georgia Terroristic Threat attorney today.

Trials in Federal Court

by John Lovell

For my first blog with Peach State Lawyers, I’ll address trials in federal court. Because every client is cloaked in a presumption of innocence, I start with the view that the government has made an error in charging my client. My concern is based on my experience – the last three cases I tried in federal court resulted in acquittals for all or the most serious charges. The three trials resulted in acquittals for 1) murder and a gun possession charge, 2) two counts of attempted murder and a parallel gun possession charge for each count, and 3) four counts alleging the production of child pornography.

All three clients knew they were innocent of these charges and told me they wished to go to trial. After evaluating the government’s cases, I agreed with them and prepared for trial. The murder acquittal is an example of how we defend serious charges. In this case, we had more than a mere attack on the credibility of the government’s witnesses, we put up a case for innocence that was stronger than the federal government’s case. Together with my investigator, we discovered the person who committed the murder. We found witnesses who saw the murder and they were more credible than the “snitches” who testified with hopes of getting themselves out of trouble.

Not every case is appropriate for trial. However, a skilled attorney advises a client whether the case is triable.

When searching for an attorney in federal court, ask direct questions such as:
• How many cases have you handled in the courthouse where my case will be heard?
• How many trials have you represented a client as first chair (not as an assistant)?
• What were the outcomes of the cases you tried?

If an attorney tells you of terrific outcomes, ask to see proof. It is your duty as a person defending his freedom to find out which attorneys are marketing geniuses and which are skilled trial attorneys (some are both). The attorney focused on marketing may not have the skills to represent you in court. Even if the case is not a case that should be tried, you do not want an attorney negotiating for you who has a reputation of avoiding trials. You want an attorney who brings credibility to the table! After all, this may be the most important decision you make.