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Robbery by Sudden Snatching

Robbery or Burglary?

It is not uncommon for people to use “robbery” and “burglary” interchangeably. For example, a person enters their home to discovery it’s been ransacked. They might exclaim, “I’ve been robbed!” That exclamation is inaccurate under Georgia law. In Georgia, that person is a victim of burglary, not robbery, because Georgia defines burglary as entering, or remaining in, a building without authority with the intent to commit a felony.

Robbery on the other hand contemplates taking property from the person or immediate presence of another with intent to commit theft. There are three types of robbery in Georgia: robbery by force, intimidation or threat of violence, and sudden snatching. I will review all three flavors in future blog posts, but for now let’s review sudden snatching.

Robbery by Snatching Scenario

When I think of robbery by sudden snatching, I picture an elderly woman walking along a city sidewalk with her purse. Suddenly, her purse is snatched off her shoulder by a swift offender. The offender does not use any force to take the purse from her; he merely snatches it off her person.

The lack of force employed to secure the purse highlights a key distinction between robbery by force and sudden snatching. If the elderly woman resisted and the offender used force by, say, pushing her to the ground to take her purse, then the offender committed robbery by force, not sudden snatching. Sudden snatching literally means taking the purse without any use of force.

A Key Distinction

Another key element of robbery by sudden snatching is that the victim must be conscious of the theft before it is completed. Say the elderly woman walking down the street does not realize the offender snatched her purse from her person, and only realizes her purse is missing when she attempts to pay the fee at her dry cleaners later that afternoon. As the offender’s attorney, I would argue the offender could not be prosecuted for robbery by sudden snatching because the victim was not aware of the theft when it happened. The offender may be guilty of theft by taking (because theft by taking does not require the victim to be conscious of the theft before it is completed), but he is not guilty of robbery by sudden snatching.

If you or someone you know has been charged with robbery contact our office today for a free consultation. We will be happy to walk through your goals and inform you of the various defenses that can be implemented for your case.

by Sarah Armstrong

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 mike@peachstatelawyer.com

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: http://sos.ga.gov/index.php/Elections/register_to_vote

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

Online Solicitation in Georgia

What is online solicitation?

Local law enforcement agencies are conducting more and more online child predator stings. Online solicitation of a child for purposes of engaging in a sexual act is a felony in Georgia. It carries a possible punishment of up to 20 years in prison and a $ 25,000 fine.

The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes (CEACC) Unit and local law enforcement agencies are conducting operations all over the State of Georgia to catch individuals who are using the internet to solicit underage children for sex.

What should you do?

If you are arrested in one of these stings, do not talk to the police without a lawyer. Do not attempt to tell your side of the story without a lawyer. If the police tell you that they will cut you a break if you speak to them about the case, please tell them that you want a lawyer before making a statement. Nothing you say to law enforcement when you are arrested is going to benefit your case. Do not make any statements such as you thought the person was an adult or that you did not intend to actually go through with the sexual act. Do not talk to law enforcement without a lawyer present.

You have an absolute right to speak to a lawyer before making any statements. If you have already made a statement to the police, then please do not make any further statements without calling a lawyer. The stakes in these cases are too high to not retain a lawyer and fight these allegations. Your freedom is literally at stake in these cases. The State of Georgia and its local law enforcement agencies are aggressively prosecuting these cases.

What qualifies as solicitation?

Online solicitation is when you intentionally or willfully utilize the internet, local bulletin board, chat room, e-mail, instant messaging service, or any other electronic device, to solicit, seduce, lure, or entice a child, another person believed by such person to be a child, any person having custody or control of a child, or another person believed by such person to have custody or control of a child to commit any illegal act, by, with, or against a child as described in O.C.G.A. 16-6-3, sodomy or aggravated sodomy; O.C.G.A. 16-6-4, child molestation or aggravated child molestation; O.C.G.A. 16-6-5, enticing a child for indecent purposes; or O.C.G.A 16-6-8 public indecency, or to engage in any conduct that by its nature is an unlawful sexual offense against a child.

So, if you are talking to someone that you believe is underage and it turns out that you are actually speaking to law enforcement, you can still be charged and convicted of online solicitation. Do not think that just because the person you were chatting with turned out to not be a child, then you have nothing to worry about. It is still against the law, even if the child turns out to be law enforcement.

Direct communication with a minor is not required for a conviction. There is no requirement that you actually perform any type of sexual act to be convicted. All that is required is that you believed that the person you were speaking to was underage and your purpose in talking to them was for a sexual act.

If you have been charged with online solicitation and exploitation, child pornography and/or human trafficking, then it is very important to hire a lawyer who handles these types of cases. Please call my office 24/7 at 404-581-0999. We will meet with you for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case and explain the procedure that will take place in court.

 

by Mike Jacobs

Possession of Drug Related Objects

What’s a drug related object?

It is not uncommon for an officer to search your car or home and not only arrest you for the marijuana or drugs they found, but also for Possession of Drug Related Objects. In Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 16-13-32.2, it is illegal to possess objects used to smoke, store, ingest, manufacture, and conceal drugs with. The most common drug related object we defend against are the use of pipes, but other examples are syringes, grinders, and scales. Possession of a drug related object is a misdemeanor charge in Georgia, and can carry up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Even if the pipe or other item does not have any residue in it, you can still be arrested. Even if there were no drugs found in the car, police officers will routinely arrest you nonetheless for any drug related object that comes up in the search.

What will my case look like?

The defense in these cases vary, but if the officer finds the paraphernalia or drug related object as a result of an unlawful search, then the drugs and the drug objects can be suppressed as what is referred to as fruit of the poisonous tree. Examples of unlawful searches include those without a warrant in some circumstances, or those with faulty search warrants. An experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney can attack the search and seizure of the drug paraphernalia or drugs found during a search by police officers. If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of drugs or possession of drug related objects in Georgia, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

by Mary Agramonte

Probation Revocation and Parole

Can a judge revoke my probation when I have allegedly violated probation after being sentenced but I have not yet started my probation?  Can a judge revoke my probation where it goes non-report or suspended upon completion of doing an act (classes, drug screens or evaluation).

The question requires some explanation as to situations as to where this scenario may rear its ugly head.  Defendant is sentenced in one county to a sentence of 10 years to serve 2, balanced probated.  While client is in prison or on parole he commits a new crime; ie he gets charged with possession of drugs in prison.  Even though he has not started probation as he is under the department of corrections supervision he can still be revoked on the county level by the judge.  Here are a couple of additional scenarios where the judge has the ability to revoke probation even though you are not technically on probation:

Judge sentences you in Cobb County to probation to run Consecutive to your sentence in Paulding County.  You are currently serving time in Paulding County and have not yet started serving your probation in Cobb.  Nonetheless, you can be revoked in Paulding and Cobb for committing a new crime.

Similarly, where a judge suspends a sentence.  For example you get 5 year sentence suspended upon completion of an alcohol evaluation.  You violate your probation shortly after being placed on the suspended sentence – in this scenario you can be revoked for the five years less any time that has elapsed since your sentence started even if you have already completed the evaluation – where the court has not signed an order allowing suspension to commence.

OCGA 17-10-1 (a) provides: that the trial court has the power and authority to suspend or probate all or any part of the entire sentence under such rules and regulations as the judge deems proper, including the authority to revoke the  [*630]  suspension or probation when the defendant has violated any of the rules and regulations prescribed by the court, even before the probationary period has beg

un.

Here are the reasons the court of appeals found persuasive on why  you can still be revoked even though you are not technically on reporting probation:

While probation may be considered a mild form of ambulatory punishment imposing meaningful restraints, its true nature is an act of judicial grace. The Legislature has granted to the judiciary discretionary power to grant probation as a means of testing a convicted defendant’s integrity and future good behavior. Unlike parole, granted by an administrative agency, probation is granted by the court when the sentencing judge deems the protection of society does not demand immediate incarceration. In cases where a convicted defendant’s “future good behavior” has already been compromised by the commission of another criminal act even before the formal probationary period begins, a trial court should not be required to allow such  defendant to serve a previously imposed probated sentence when the court deems the protection of society demands revocation.

by Scott Smith