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Stalking in Georgia

If you have been arrested for stalking in Georgia, it is imperative that you fight your case. It is a serious crime in Georgia.

What is stalking?

Stalking is when you follow, place under surveillance, or contact another person at or about a place without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person; OR if you are in violation of a bond, order of the court, or condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole that prohibits the harassment or intimidation of another person, broadcasts or publishes without the person’s consent in such a manner that causes other persons to harass or intimidate that person and the person making the broadcast or publication knew or had reason to know that such act would cause the person to be harassed or intimidated by others. O.C.G.A. 16-5-90(a).

Aggravated Stalking

Aggravated Stalking is when in violation of a bond, order of the court, condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole in effect prohibiting the behavior described herein, follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place without the consent of the person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.

What are the elements of Aggravated Stalking:

  1. The defendant violated an order.
  2. This order prohibited contact with the victim.
  3. It was done without the victim’s consent
  4. The purpose was to harass or intimidate.

If # 4 is not met, then it is criminal contempt under O.C.G.A. 15-6-8(5).

Keep in mind, that proof of a written no contact order is not required. But there needs to be proof that the instruction was given and received by the defendant.

How do you define “contact” with the victim?

Contact is any communication, whether in person, by phone, by text, email , social media etc….

Where does the Stalking take place?

It includes any public or private property occupied by the victim, excluding the defendant’s residence, where the communication is received.

What is meant by Harassing and Intimidating Contact?

  • A knowing and willful course of conduct directed specifically at the victim.
  • The victim suffers emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear of their safety
  • Establish a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior. (There has to be more than 1 contact)
  • There is no legitimate purpose to this contact.

What does the Court look for in determining whether the contact is harassing and intimidating?

  1. The prior history between the defendant and victim.
  2. Whether the contact is overly confrontational
  3. Any attempts by the defendant to contact, communicate, or control the victim through another party.

The behavior of the defendant does not have to include threats of death or bodily harm. The defendant does not even have to make overt threats to the victim in a Stalking case.

What is NOT Stalking?

Georgia law does not prohibit a person from contacting or communicating with another person without consent, if the contact is not done with a harassing or intimidating purpose.

What am I facing if I am convicted of Stalking or Aggravated Stalking?

  1. Stalking:
    1. The first conviction for stalking is a Misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine
    1. A second conviction for Stalking is a felony and carries up to 1 to 10 years in prison.
  2. Aggravated Stalking
    1. Aggravated Stalking carries up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If you are charged with Stalking or Aggravated Stalking, it is important to get a lawyer as there are defenses to your case. A Stalking conviction on your record can carry many collateral consequences in addition to the punishment imposed by the court.

Call us at 404-581-0999 or visit us at www.peachstatelawyer.com for a free consultation.

Is DUI a Felony?

In most instances, the crime of DUI is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that has a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail. If this is your first time being charged with a DUI and no one was hurt, you will be facing a misdemeanor DUI.  Additionally, even if this is your second or third DUI in a short period of time, your DUI will still be charged as a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Punishments

Even if you are facing a misdemeanor-level DUI, the State can stack punishment, and request a longer sentence by adding additional jail time to an underlying charge. For example, if you are charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane, the Judge can sentence you up to 12 months on each charge, for a total of 24 months in custody. Additionally, misdemeanor DUIs do still appear on criminal histories and can require jail, probation, and a license suspension if you are convicted. The goal after a DUI arrest is to avoid a criminal conviction so you can avoid the harsh punishments associated with a conviction for DUI. 

When DUI is a Felony

There are situations where you will be facing a felony after a DUI arrest. A felony is defined as a crime that is punishable more than a year in jail. The first instance is when you are being charged with a fourth DUI within a 10 year period, measured from the dates of previous arrests. A fourth DUI within 10 years is a felony in Georgia, with considerable mandatory minimum jail time if convicted.

Another situation where a DUI is considered a felony in Georgia is if you were arrested for the crime of Serious Injury by Vehicle. This occurs when someone causes an accident resulting in bodily harm while Driving under the Influence. This felony is punished by imprisonment between 1 and 15 years. Bodily harm under Georgia law is defined as an injury to another person which deprives them of a member of their body, or renders part of the body useless, or seriously disfigures, or causes brain damage. There are certainly defenses to this serious crime including the causal connection as well as what constitutes a serious injury.

The final situation where a DUI is prosecuted as a felony offense is Homicide by Vehicle in the first degree, meaning you are arrested for DUI and someone actually dies in the accident. You can be charged with Homicide by Vehicle if it is your passenger who dies.  If convicted, the crime is punishable from 3-15 years. The law requires the State to prove a causal connection between the violation of the DUI statute and the victim’s death. However, under Georgia law, the person does not actually have to commit an unsafe act before facing this type of charge.

Call us today!

DUIs in Georgia require knowledgeable and skillful representation as the stakes are high. If you are facing a felony DUI, it is imperative to find a law firm with a track record of success, who are well-informed on the ever-changing aspects of DUI law in Georgia. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony DUI, call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. 

Prior False Allegations & Your Case

You are accused with child molestation or rape and your accuser has previously falsely accused another person of these horrific crimes. Can you bring up these prior false accusations in your case? The answer is yes.

State v. Burns Example

The Georgia Supreme Court held in State v. Burns, that a defendant in a sexual-offense prosecution may bring up evidence that the alleged victim has previously made false accusations of sexual misconduct. This evidence is admissible to attack the credibility of the victim and show that the current charges did not occur.

In this case, James Burns was charged with aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, and incest. It was discovered that the alleged victim had made up a prior rape allegation.

The Rape Shield Statute & Allegations

The Rape Shield Statute of Georgia does not prohibit testimony of previous false allegations by a victim. This is because prior false accusations establish that the victim has a propensity to make false statements regarding sexual misconduct. The Rape Shield Statute in Georgia is designed to prohibit bringing up the victim’s past sexual conduct. But it does not protect the victim in cases where a false allegation was made.

Your Rights for a Defense

A criminal defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to make a full defense. A defendant has the right to bring up prior false allegations where it can be shown that the allegation was indeed false. The Sixth Amendment also grants the defendant the right of confrontation. This includes the right to physically face the person who is testifying against him and the right to conduct a thorough cross-examination. A defendant is guaranteed the opportunity for effective cross-examination.

In addition, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. The defendant does not have a right to offer any testimony that is either privileged, irrelevant or excluded under the rules of evidence. However, if the defendant has evidence of a prior false allegation of the alleged victim then it is admissible in order to protect the integrity of the trial.

In State v. Burns, the Georgia Supreme Court has made a bright line rule that prior false allegations are admissible, regardless of other rules of evidence.

Call us Today!

If you are charged with child molestation, rape or any other sexual offense in Georgia, it is imperative that you aggressively defend yourself and learn everything you can about the alleged victim. If the alleged victim in your case has ever made up an allegation against any other person, you must use this information to your advantage when confronting your accuser in court. If you are charged with any sexual offense in Georgia, please contact us at 404-581-0999 or mike@peachstatelawyer.com for a free consultation

Georgia Underage DUI

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(k) prohibits a person under the age of 21 to have a BAC of, “0.02 grams or more at any time within three hours after” driving a vehicle, from alcohol consumed prior to driving. This 0.02 BAC limit is substantially lower than the 0.08 limit provided for those aged 21 and over. Underage persons convicted under this code section are subject to the same penalties as adults, except in regards to periods of imprisonment and license suspensions.

Underage DUI Sentencing

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-10-3.1, if a judge orders an underage person to serve a prison sentence in conjunction with a first DUI conviction, the sentencing judge has the authority and discretion to “allow the sentence to be served on weekends by weekend confinement or during the nonworking hours of the defendant.” In addition, if this is the underage defendant’s first DUI, the defendant “shall be kept segregated from all other offenders” other than similar underage DUI offenders.

License Suspension

Regarding license suspension, upon a first conviction, drivers under 21 will have their license suspended for either six months or twelve months, depending on the BAC measurement. If the BAC is less than 0.08 grams, the period of suspension is for six months. Otherwise, the period of suspension is for twelve months. Importantly, the driver is ineligible for a driving permit and no early reinstatement is available. A new driver’s license will not be issued without proof of completion of the risk reduction program and payment equivalent to the driver’s license restoration fee for a suspended license ($200 or $210).  Finally, the driver shall, as an additional prerequisite for license reinstatement, be required to successfully complete the examination requirements of O.C.G.A. § 40-5-27 (driver’s license exam).

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.

by Casey Cleaver

Homicide in Georgia: Blood

Does it matter in Georgia criminal defense that the victim in a murder case was impaired on drugs or alcohol at the time he was killed?

Yes and no. 

In all homicide cases, pursuant to the Georgia Death Investigation Act, a Georgia medical examiner will perform an autopsy for potential prosecution.  Six of Georgia’s 189 counties have their own medical examiner’s offices including Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton.  In all other counties in Georgia the individual counties contract with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to perform their examinations.

What’s the procedure?

In almost all cases the medical examiner will draw central blood, urine and vitreous fluid from the body of the decedent.  However, the medical examiner will not order the bodily fluids to be tested by the forensic toxicology division for impairment.  Further, you must be aware, in a homicide case the GBI will hold the specimens for only 24 months before destroying them.  IN order to preserve and test the samples, the GBI will need a copy of a court order or written authorization from the prosecuting agency to test the samples.

Will this be used in court?

Assuming the results come back as showing impairment in the “victim’s” blood the argument over whether they come in depends on relevance.  Generally, a murder victim’s character is not admissible unless there is some connection as to the reason it is coming in.  Generally speaking, an expert’s testimony as to the effects of the impairing substance will be necessary.

Call us today if you or someone you love has been charged with Murder in the state of Georgia. We would love to meet with you for free. Our number is 404-581-0999.

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

Aggravated Child Molestation

Aggravated Child Molestation is a serious crime in the State of Georgia. In fact, it is the worst crime that one can be accused of committing. It is imperative that you retain a qualified attorney immediately if you are being accused of aggravated child molestation. Many allegations of aggravated child molestation are false. Even if you know the allegation of aggravated child molestation against you is made up, you still must take it very seriously and aggressively defend yourself.

What’s the Law?

O.C.G.A. § 16-6-4 defines aggravated child molestation as follows:

A person commits the offense of aggravated child molestation when such person commits an offense of child molestation which physically injures the child or involves an act of sodomy.

If the alleged victim was physically injured then it is not necessary for the state to prove sodomy.

It must be shown that the alleged victim was under 16 at the time of the act in order to be charged with aggravated child molestation.

Penetration or force is not a requirement of aggravated child molestation. The victim’s testimony that it was painful is sufficient to prove physical injury and no medical evidence is required to corroborate.

Sentencing

If you are convicted of aggravated child molestation, then the sentence will either be life imprisonment or a split sentence of a mandatory minimum of 25 years imprisonment and probation for life. The defendant will also have to be placed on the sex offender registry for life.

If someone is making an allegation of aggravated child molestation against you, it is imperative that you do not talk to the police, do not talk to the person who is accusing you of aggravated child molestation and call us. Time is of the essence to properly investigate the allegations.

Do not wait until the State actually returns an indictment against you before seeking an attorney. Child Molestation cases can be proven solely on the victim’s own testimony. Therefore, it is vital that you immediately retain an attorney and get to work in defending yourself of these allegations.

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.

Creating Fake Checks

Beyond the crimes of Deposit Account Fraud and Forgery in Georgia, it is also unlawful to create fake checks or other negotiable instruments that appear as they are the real checks of any financial institution.

What’s the Law on Fake Checks?

The statute, O.C.G.A. 16-9-21 reads:

It shall be unlawful for any person to print or cause to be printed checks, drafts, orders, or debit card sales drafts, drawn upon any financial institution or to execute or negotiate any check, draft, order, or debit card sales draft knowing that the account number, routing number, or other information printed on such check, draft, order, or debit card sales draft is in error, fictitious, or assigned to another account holder or financial institution.

Any person who is found to have broken the law as it relates to the above statute would be guilty of a felony with a prison sentence ranging from one to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

What Should I Do?

If you are being investigated for creating fake or fraudulent checks in Georgia, call our office today for a free consultation. Our staff is experienced in defending these white-collar cases and can discuss potential defenses with you at your free consultation. Call us today at 404-581-0999.

by Ryan Walsh

Field Sobriety Tests Introduction

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

            In virtually every situation where a person has been pulled over for an alleged traffic violation and the officer “detects an odor of alcohol,” the officer will routinely ask the driver to perform Field Sobriety Tests (“FSTs”). These FSTs are used by the officer as tools used to assist them in determining whether probable cause exists to arrest a driver for the offense of DUI.

A Little About the Tests

            After many years of research and in an attempt to standardize Field Sobriety Testing, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) adopted three field sobriety evaluations for use by police officers nationwide: the One Leg Stand, the Walk & Turn, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. NHTSA has issued strict standards by which the evaluations must be administered in order to ensure the tests’ results are consistently reliable and valid. These standards are published in a manual given to every NHTSA trained officer. The manual provides the precise procedures police officers are to use when administering the NHTSA-approved FSTs to DUI suspects.

FSTs to our Advantage

As a result, lawyers are able to question officers about their administration and interpretation of these FSTs under the NHTSA standards. In Georgia, every police officer is required to be trained under the standards provided by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T.). As of October 1, 1995, P.O.S.T. adopted the three NHTSA-approved FSTs.

            This FST blog series will explore each of the three NHTSA FSTs in detail. We will discuss the tests themselves, how these tests are administered, how officers score the tests, and common mistakes officers make in giving these tests.  

by Casey Cleaver

Financial Transaction Card Forgery

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

What is Financial Transaction Card Forgery?

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

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

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

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

Sentencing

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

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