Is my Georgia License valid or suspended?

April 2, 2014

You can check the status of your Georgia drivers license 24 hours a day seven days a week. Call the Georgia Department of Drivers Services (GA DDS) at 404-657-9300 and follow the instructions to check the status of your license.

Failure to appear in court discussed by Sandy Springs Georgia Attorney Thomas C. Nagel

October 18, 2013

What happens when you fail to appear for court in Georgia? In most cases, the judge will issue an arrest warrant also called a bench warrant. If this happens, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Understand all your options and take immediate action.

If your case was in city court, traffic court, recorders court or any other court that prosecutes driving offenses, your Georgia Driver's License may be suspended. If you are pulled over by the police after you missed a court date, you could be arrested for driving on a suspended license. This creates a separate offense from the one you failed to appear for. The sooner you addresses your failure to appear, the better your chance to resolve your situation favorably. Bench warrants and license suspensions will not go away.

The most common failure to appear scenario is when the arrestee moved from the address they gave to the jail at the time of arrest and failed to notify the court, bonding company and prosecuting agency of their new address. Had the arrestee hired a criminal defense lawyer immediately after their arrest, their attorney would have "entered an appearance" with the court. The court would notify the attorney of the court date who would in-turn have notified you and prepared you for your court date.

After a warrant has been issued, if you are questioned by or pulled over by police in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction that issued the warrant, you will most likely be arrested and jailed until the jurisdiction that issued the warrant picks you up and returns you to face the judge or court that issued the warrant. That jurisdiction may or may not pick you up. You could remain in jail for an extended period of time before knowing if you will be picked up or released.

Why should you immediately consult with a criminal defense lawyer if this happens to you?

In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can prevent an arrest warrant from being issued for failure to appear. They can also file documents requesting that a warrant that was issued be withdrawn before an arrest or license suspension occurrs. If you are unable to appear in court, attorneys can appear for you and request a court date reset thereby avoiding a warrant or suspension. You have to hire your crimial defense lawyer soon after arrest to maximize your options.

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Theft by Shoplifting in Georgia discussed by Sandy Springs Attorney Thomas Nagel

October 10, 2013

There is a general misconception that in order to be charged with the offense of theft by shoplifting in the State of Georgia that you have to leave the store in order to be charged with shoplifting. The crime of shoplifting does not require one to exit the store. There are five different scenarios which are considered shoplifting in Georgia. These include concealing or taking possession of merchandise, altering the price tag, transferring merchandise from one container to another, changing the price tag or label of one item with another item, and wrongfully causing the amount paid to be less than the stores price listed for the item. O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14

If the value of the shoplifted items is $499.99 or less, the law treats this as a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a $1,000.00 fine and 12 months in jail. If the value is $500.00 or more, it is considered a felony punishable by 1-10 years. A third offense carries mandatory jail time. A fourth offense is considered a felony with a mandatory one year in prison even if the offense was of a misdemeanor level. The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that a ten-year sentence for a fourth offense shoplifting was not excessive.

There are many ways to defend shoplifting cases. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I can maximize your options when facing shoplifting charges. I have represented many individuals who were facing fourth offense shoplifting charges who avoided being prosecuted for felony charges thereby avoiding the mandatory one year in prison. In many case I have been able to negotiate a dismissal of charges and expungement or restriction of their arrest record. This will make a huge difference when applying for employment.

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Atlanta Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney Tom Nagel discusses the right to remain silent

October 10, 2013

What exactly is the right to remain silent? The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution addresses this important right.

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

What does it mean that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself?

You have an absolute right to refuse to disclose information when you are being questioned in a criminal investigation.

If you are being questioned by the police, a prosecutor or a law enforcement agent, you should assert your right to remain silent.

The right to remain silent was recognized in English law as early as 1637. Prior to that, American colonists were subject to torture in an effort to extract confessions from individuals accused of capital crimes.

The landmark case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966) cemented our Fifth Amendment rights. In Miranda the Court held that any statements made by defendants while in police custody before trial will be inadmissible during prosecution unless the police first warn the defendants that they have (1) the right to remain silent, (2) the right to consult an attorney before being questioned by the police, (3) the right to have an attorney present during police questioning, (4) the right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one, and (5) the right to be informed that any statements they do make can and will be used in their prosecution.

Even though Miranda warnings are not a part of the Fifth Amendment's Self-Incrimination Clause, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that Miranda Rights constitute an essential part of a judicially created buffer zone that is necessary to protect the rights of United States citizens.

If you are under arrest, i.e. not free to leave, confessions, admissions, and other statements you make without being advised of your Miranda Rights can not be used against you if you have been charged with a crime. If you are convicted at trial and the conviction is based on statements you made in custody and you were not informed of your right to remain silent, your conviction may be reversed on appeal unless other evidence supports a guilty verdict.

The right against self-incrimination applies to persons but not corporations. If you have been contacted by the police, a detective or other government official and they are asking questions, you have an absolute right to remain silent. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before you make any statements to law enforcement. Your failure to remain silent may very well result in you being convicted of a crime.

I have represented thousands of individuals accused of violations of laws in the State of Georgia. If you have been contacted by a police officer, detective or other law enforcement official and they are asking you questions, call me BEFORE you give any statement and I will help you protect your legal rights.

Georgia Fourth of July Operation Zero Tolerance

June 27, 2013

When it comes to car accidents, the Fourth of July holiday is one of the most
dangerous times to be on the road. The Governors Office of Highway Safety has
reported that over the last two years, Georgia has averaged 88 alcohol impaired
crashes from the period of July 3 to July 5.

In order to keep the roads safe, Georgia law enforcement will begin Operation Zero Tolerance this Friday through July 7. Be prepared to see more state patrol, city and county police officers on the road and roadblocks to test people for driving under influence. The Georgia Department of natural resources will also be enforcing Georgia's new DUI laws for boaters that went into effect on May 15, 2013. The new law sets a limit of .08 blood alcohol limit for boaters down from .10.

Attorney Tom Nagel discusses the legality of cussing at the police

May 31, 2013

Charges of disorderly conduct were recently dropped by a judge in Cobb County Georgia in a case involving a woman who said "F--- the police" and "police suck" as she rode her bicycle past two officers questioning a burglary suspect. The officers abandoned the burglary investigation and arrested the woman. She was charged under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-39(a)(4) which bars "without provocation" the use of "obscene and vulgar language in the presence of a person under the age of 14 years which threatens an immediate breach of the peace."

The judge found that even though the police testified a child was present, the woman's words were not fighting words. "the police cannot arrest someone for disrespecting them by the use of a curse word."

Even though cursing at the police in this specific scenario was not against the law, I would NEVER recommend that you do such a thing. Even though the woman's charges were dropped, she spent 23 hours in jail with 6 in solitary confinement. She also had to hire a lawyer and stress out for a year until her case was heard.

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Atlanta Attorney Tom Nagel explains the Court Plea & Arraignment Process

April 17, 2013

You've been charged with a traffic violation, city ordinance violation, been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony and posted bond. What happens next?


ARRAIGNMENT
Your first court appearance is called Arraignment. The judge or clerk will make general announcements and explain your basic legal rights. They read each persons name out loud, one at a time. When your name is called, you are expected to enter a plea. The three basic pleas are NOT GUILTY, GUILTY or NOLO-CONTENDERE (NOLO). However, there are many other types of pleas and legal options you may have at that time. You should have your attorney present at the arraignment of your case. Certain legal filings must be done at or before the arraignment.

If you are not sure what to plead, the judge will enter a not guilty plea for you and reset your case for trial. You can also request a reset to consult with an attorney.

NOT GUILTY
If you plead not guilty, your case will be set for a trial. You must decide whether you want a
judge or a jury trial. If you are charged with a city ordinance violation, you may only be entitled to a judge trial. (Also called a "bench trial") If you ask for a jury trial, your case will be heard in the state or superior court of the county where the offense occurred.

GUILTY
If you plead guilty at the arraignment, your case should be concluded that day and you will be sentenced. Your sentence may include fines and fees, probation or jail time, community service, alcohol and/or drug evaluations or other punishments depending on your charges. In many situations you can pay a fine and your case will be completed. However, if you can't pay the fine on the day of court, you will be put on probation. Being on probation involves reporting on a regular basis to a probation officer, paying a monthly fee as well as a portion of your fine and showing proof you are complying with the court's sentence.

NOLO
If a plea of nolo is entered, you are not admitting or denying that you committed the crime you're charged with, but you want to resolve your case without a trial or a plea of guilty. Nolo pleas are discretionary. The judge does not have to accept a nolo plea. If a nolo plea is rejected, you will have to change your plea to guilty, not guilty or another legally accepted plea.

In some situations, a nolo plea will prevent points from going on your Georgia driving record or keep your Georgia driver's license from being suspended. If you have an out of state driver's license, a nolo plea to an offense in the State of Georgia may be treated as a guilty plea in your home state and result in points or suspension of your privilege to drive. The nolo plea has been described as a "guilty plea dressed in a tuxedo" meaning that your fine and sentence is the same as a guilty plea. The offense still goes on your driving record but you can avoid points or suspension in certain scenarios. Please note that for individuals under 21 and drivers with prior offenses, nolo pleas may not avoid points on your record or save your license from going into suspension. Nolo pleas can typically be used once every five years per offense. You should consult with a qualified criminal or traffic defense attorney to determine if a nolo plea will benefit you.

PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE
In many courts you have the option of requesting a pretrial conference with the prosecutor. This gives you an opportunity to meet with the prosecutor and hear what they are offering as a punishment in your case. You may be able to resolve your case by a mutual agreement. Note however that EVERYTHING you say during a pretrial conference can be used against you at trial or during a plea so you need to be VERY CAREFUL what you say during a pretrial conference. It is STRONGLY advised that you have an attorney represent you at the pretrial conference. There may be a missing piece to the prosecutor's case and you might provide them with the missing piece. Finally, it is up to the judge as to whether or not he or she will accept any agreement you worked out with the prosecutor.

If you don't opt for a pretrial conference with the prosecutor and you enter your plea of guilty or nolo contendere on the day of the arraignment, it is up to the judge to determine your final sentence. In the majority of cases, if you hire an attorney, they can determine ahead of time what your likely sentence will be. That gives you ample time to prepare for court and present your case in the best light possible.

If you resolve your case at the arraignment, the court will give you a waiver of rights form to sign. The waiver of rights form lists your constitutional rights including your right to a jury trial. It also states that if you resolve your case at the arraignment, you will be giving up each and every right that you would have if you took your case to trial.

If you think you will save money by not hiring an attorney prior to the arraignment, nothing can be further from the truth. An experienced criminal defense attorney will research your case and determine what evidence is necessary to prove your case. They can identify defenses that may result in your charges being reduced or dismissed. They will shield you from admitting incriminating facts to the prosecutor ensuring you invoke your constitutional right to remain silent. They will prepare you for court. There are many other options available that your attorney may be able to negotiate on your behalf.

As you can see, there are many things an attorney can do to minimize the damage that can occur when you appear in court. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney BEFORE you go to court.

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Mug Shot Removal Law Passes Georgia House of Representatives

March 12, 2013

You've been arrested. You hire an attorney and your charges are eventually dismissed. What's next? Google your name and see if your mug shot appears. You might find your book-in photo on one or more of the seventeen different mug shot sites. If your charges were expunged, sealed or you are a juvenile or you were found not guilty, many of the sites will remove your mug shot for free. Otherwise, they will charge anywhere from $35.00 to as much as $400.00 to remove your photo. One site called jailbase.com will not remove your photo. It drops off automatically after 6 months. Several sites will remove your photo at no charge just by requesting it be removed.

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill recently dealing with companies that charge fees to remove mug shots. HB 150 states that in certain cases, if a person was arrested and had their photograph taken, it is to be removed within 30 days, free of charge when a written request is made and sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or by statutory overnight mail to the registered agent or principal place of business of the web site. This would apply to certain cases where the information was not to be disseminated to the public or private businesses pursuant to O.C.G.A. 35-3-34; cases that were never forwarded to the prosecuting attorney by the arresting law enforcement agency; cases that were forwarded for prosecution but were later dismissed; cases where the statute of limitations had run; cases that were no-billed two times; after indictment or accusation all charges were dismissed or nolle prossed; drug cases dismissed under O.C.G.A. 16-13-2 and cases where an individual was acquitted of all charges by a judge or jury.

Agencies exempt from this bill would include certain newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations.

Of course this bill would have to be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor in order to become law.

You can read HB 150 at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/132552.pdf

Attorney Thomas Nagel discusses police reports containing false allegations

January 29, 2013

You got arrested for DUI. You pick up your arrest report from the police department. As you read through the report you can't believe it what you are reading. You are in shock. Thats not what happened. The officer is lying! What do you do?

Most police officers are honest hardworking individuals just like you and me. As in every profession, there are bad apples. Most arrest reports are relatively accurate. Some contain exaggerated facts. Some are completely false. They contain language that bolsters the officers case in an attempt to secure a conviction.

The New York Times published an article about a decorated corporal who was doing just this. She was accused of falsifying dozens of arrest over a decade. She accused and arrested many drivers of DUI who were not impaired drivers. Many didn't even drink alcohol. Others were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs but blood tests revealed no drugs in their system. 20 cases alleging marijuana impairment revealed no presence of marijuana in their system.

A group of lawyers filed lawsuits suing the corporal and the highway patrol. Prosecutors were dropping cases made by the officer because of the allegations.

I have personally seen reports that an officer submitted where he merely changed the accused's name, date of birth, address, and identifying information and then submitted the identical arrest report. Those cases were dismissed. I also see many reports that contain "canned language". This occurs a lot in DUI arrest reports.

See below for the link to the complete article. If you have been arrested in the State of Georgia and you believe that you have been falsely accused of a crime, its imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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Georgia Super Speeder Law by Atlanta & Sandy Springs Georgia Attorney Tom Nagel

January 8, 2013

Since January 1, 2010, Georgia's Super Speeder Law has been in force. A "Super Speeder" is someone convicted of speeding 75 mph or more on any two-lane road OR speeding 85 mph or more on any other road in Georgia. A super speeder will pay a fine in court as a result of conviction of the speeding ticket. The Super Speeder law imposes an additional $200.00 penalty on top of the court fine although the additional penalty is not paid to the court.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services "GA DDS" is required to notify the convicted driver within 30 days of the date of conviction that failure to pay the imposed $200.00 fee within 90 days from the date of conviction shall result in the suspension of their privilege to drive in the State of Georgia. Failure to pay within the 90-day period results in a suspension of your Georgia license. After suspension occurs, the Super Speeder will be required to pay an additional $50.00 reinstatement fee on top of the $200.00 Super Speeder fee.

Payment of the $200.00 fee prior to the 90-day period avoids suspension of driving privileges.

It's important to stress that all drivers should ensure the address listed on their license is current. DDS will send notice to this address only. It is not a defense that you didn't receive notice of the Super Speeder violation because it went to the wrong address.

The Office of the State Treasury is required to separately account for all the money collected under the Super Speeder Law which was enacted to help fund trauma care in the State of Georgia because there is an average of one death a day that's related to speeding.

A plea of Guilty on a Super Speeder offense does not add any additional points other than the points associated with the speed on the ticket. A plea of nolo-contendere may result in avoidance of points but will not avoid the $200.00 penalty. Pleas of nolo-contendere are within the discretion of each individual judge.

A non-resident driver convicted under Super Speeder who doesn't pay the fee will have their privilege to drive suspended in the state of Georgia. Georgia cannot suspend the license of a driver from another state but it can suspend their driving privileges. The offense will be reported to the driver's home state who would then decide whether or not to suspend their license.

Atlanta Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer Thomas Nagel discusses teen party ordinances laws

December 19, 2012

Another city in Cobb County Georgia has passed a law that targets parents and adults who let individuals under the age of 21 consume alcohol. These types of laws are sometimes called "teen party ordinances" or "social host ordinances."

The city of Kennesaw in Cobb county Georgia passed a law last week which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail or a $300.00 fine in addition to possible civil penalties. The City of Austell in Cobb County Georgia has a similar ordinance. Municipalities and counties in 24 other states have passed similar ordinances.

The law targets parents and adults who knowingly allow individuals under 21 to consume alcohol at their home, but does not punish them in situations where individuals under 21 hold secret drinking parties or when the parents are out of town or out for the evening. The law also applies to older siblings, landlords and tenants who host underage drinking parties.

Interestingly, There are situations in which a parent or guardian can legally furnish alcohol to a child under the age of 21. O.C.G.A. section 3-3-23(c) allows individuals under the age of 21 to possess and consume alcoholic beverages when the parent or guardian gives the alcohol to the individual in the home of the parent or guardian and the parent or guardian is present. The two other exceptions that allow individuals under the age of 21 to consume alcohol is when the consumption is at a religious ceremony or when it is consumed for medical purposes and the alcohol is legally prescribed by a physician authorized to practice medicine in the State of Georgia.

Otherwise, furnishing to, purchase of, or possession by persons under the age of 21 of alcoholic beverages is a misdemeanor generally punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $300.00 fine or both. Using a fake I.D. is punishable by the same penalties.

There are many things an attorney can do to minimize the damage when representing individuals charged with this type of crime. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney BEFORE you go to court.

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Thomas Nagel Discusses Avoiding DUI Charges

December 11, 2012

As a criminal defense and DUI defense attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, many people ask me how to avoid being charged with a DUI. You probably already know the easy answer to that question but what can you really do?

Let me start by saying I have never promoted drinking and driving and I never will. However, it's not against the law to drink and drive unless you are less safe to drive as a result of being under the influence of alcohol or you are over the legal limit as defined by Georgia law. Different rules apply to drivers under the age of 21.

So how can you avoid being charged with a DUI? If you have never been arrested for DUI, you can prevent the chances of that happening by knowing your limits regarding alcohol consumption. There are many ways to do that, but it's a simple calculation based on how much you weigh and how much you drank over a specific period of time. Alcohol consumed over time eventually dissipates out of your system. Once you know how much you weigh and how much alcohol you consumed over what period of time, you can estimate your blood alcohol concentration. For example, a 165 lb. male that consumes four twelve-ounce beers within a one-hour period would have a breath alcohol concentration of approximately .08, which would be in violation of the law. Two twelve-ounce beers in a one-hour period would be approximately .04 and would suggest the person was presumed not under the influence. Different weights of the individual and the time frame in which the alcohol was consumed will affect the concentration. Food and other factors can also affect the alcohol concentration.

You can find alcohol monitoring products all over the web that cost a few dollars up to as much as thousands of dollars. Some are very accurate but others are not. If you consult with me regarding your DUI case, I will provide you with a free drinking/driving calculator.

If you drink, don't drive, know your limits and arm your self with the tools you need to avoid being arrested for DUI.

Recording police making an arrest - Is it Legal?

December 10, 2012

Video recording the police making an arrest has resulted in many citizens being arrested for obstruction. In most cases, individuals were charged with misdemeanors that were eventually dismissed. In the state of Illinois it was a felony if the microphone was turned on while recording. The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to review a federal appeals court decision finding that videotaping the police making an arrest was unconstitutional. The federal court held it violated 1st amendment free speech and free press guarantees.

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Atlanta attorney Thomas Nagel discusses traffic court tickets

September 5, 2012

You got pulled over by Johnny Law. Now what do you do? It will take a week or so before the ticket is registered into the court system. Many citations can be paid online. However, it will probably show up on your driving record as a guilty plea. If you want to avoid this, you will have to appear in court on the date written on your ticket.

When you appear in court, you will have the opportunity to speak with the prosecutor about your case. Many courts will advise you that the prosecutor is a lawyer for the state and cannot give you legal advice. You need to have your own attorney if you want legal advice. Anything you say when you are discussing your case with the prosecutor can be used against you. If you don't practice law, this is where an experienced criminal defense lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. For example if you are charged with speeding 80 mph in a 65 mph zone and you tell the prosecutor you were only doing 72 mph you just admitted you were driving over the speed limit and violated the law. However, if you are represented by an attorney you don't have to worry about incriminating yourself and your lawyer can negotiate a resolution of your case without the risk of admitting you violated the law.

You have many options regarding the resolution of your case in traffic court. You can plead guilty, not guilty, nolo, trial by judge and in many cases trial by jury. How you plead is dependent on the facts of your case. You should consult with an experienced criminal defense/traffic court defense lawyer to evaluate your options.

If you fail to appear in court on the date assigned for your case, the judge will typically issue a warrant for your arrest. The judge can also suspend your Georgia driver's license or privilege to drive in the State of Georgia if you are licensed to drive in another state.

Your driving record is a permanent record that follows you around for life. If you want to keep it clean, your best bet is to seek the advice of an attorney before you go to court to evaluate all of your options.

Georgia Drivers Licenses Suspension & Points System

August 28, 2012

I am often asked about how to keep points off of one's driving record. In my opinion, the real issue is keeping the charges from going on your driving record alltogether. Once an offense is lodged on your driving record, it stays there for life. Many people think auto insurance companies use the points system to determine there rates. They do review your record, but they are more concerned with the offenses that show up versus the points for an offense. For example, A DUI conviction has no points associated with it because it carries an automatic license suspension. You can be sure they will hold it against you even though no points are associated with it.

In the State of Georgia, if you are convicted of a driving offense, points will be added to your record. If you accumulate 15 points in a two year period, you will be subject to a suspension of your license. Georgia Code Section 40-5-57 lays out the points system. Different rules apply if you are under 21 or under 18 years old. If you are under 21 and are convicted of a traffic offense that carries 4 or more points, a licenses suspension will occur. If you are 18 or under, the accumulation of 4 points will result in a license suspension. That means two 2-point offenses will result in a license suspension.

Some people think driving offenses "come off your record" after a certain period of time. This is not true. Everything stays on your driving record for life.

In many cases, a driver may be over-charged or not charged with the correct offense they committed. In these cases I can negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges modified, reduced or even dismissed. This makes a big difference when it comes time to renew your Georgia auto insurance.

In these times of economic uncertainty, most people charged with violations of Georgia traffic law believe its too expensive to hire an attorney to represent them in traffic court. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish. An experienced traffic court attorney will be able to preserve your good record which will save you handsomely in the long run.

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