Atlanta Criminal Lawyer Blog
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If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime that requires you to appear in a city court, traffic court, recorders court, magistrate court or municipal court or anywhere else in the State of Georgia, you have several ways to resolve your case. Your basic options include pleading guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere.

If you plead not guilty, your case will be scheduled for a bench trial in that court where the judge will hear the evidence in your case and decide if you are guilty or not guilty. There are no jury trials held in city court.  Your case must be bound over to state or superior court if you decide to have a jury trial. (O.C.G.A. 15-7-1

How you ultimately decide to plead is up to you.  Pleading guilty or nolo contendere can result in the Georgia DDS (Georgia Department of Driver Services) assessing points on your driving record if you have a Georgia Drivers license or reporting of the offense to the state in which your are currently licensed. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you face up to 12 months in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine, as well as probation, community service, drug or mental health evaluations and other significant penalties which the judge can impose.  These types of pleas can also have an impact on your job, sholarship or immigration status.

Transfer & Bind-over of a Traffic Citation or Criminal Charge in Georgia (O.C.G.A. 15-8-1)

If your case is in a city traffic court, city court recorders court or any other court that handles traffic citations or misdemeanor shoplifting or possession of marijuana less than one ounce charges, or you have been charged with a state offense, as opposed to a city offense or city ordinance violation, you have the option of binding over or transferring your case to the county state or superior court located in the county in which that city resides.

The decision to transfer your case to a state court or superior court is an important decision based on many factors. It could be extremely advantageous to transfer your case to the county, however, it could also be a big mistake and result in a much harsher sentence in your case.

Once you bind over your case, you’ll be notified from the clerk of court as to your new court date.  That date is called your arraignment. It can take anywhere from a month to a year for you to receive your next court date. If your case is in Sandy Springs Municipal Court, Dunwoody Municipal Court, Alpharetta Municipal Court, Brookhaven Municipal Court or any other city court in Fulton County Georgia, it can take up to 23 months for your case to be formally charged and your first court date to be scheduled.

The decision to bind-over or transfer a case should be made carefully and only after consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who specializes in this area.  Only after careful consideration of the law and all of the facts and circumstances surrounding your case should this decision be made.

If you have a court date coming up and you don’t know what you should do,call me now and schedule a free consultation to go over all your options.  Calling costs you nothing, not calling could cost you everything!

 

Thomas C. Nagel
Attorney at Law
5855 Sandy Springs Circle
Suite 150
Atlanta, Georgia 30328

404-255-1600
404-255-7373 fax
esqtom@aol.com

http://www.atlantacriminalattorney.net

 

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I got a call today from a parent whose child was charged with minor in possession of alcohol in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. He was driving his parents car. There was a passenger, also under 21, in the car and they were pulled over by the police. The passenger admitted drinking one beer and there was one empty beer can on the floor. He was arrested. The driver said he did not drink anything, took field sobriety tests and took a breath test and tested 0.00. He was still arrested and charged with minor in possession of alcohol because he admitted drinking 1 beer earlier in the evening. Had he invoked his right to remain silent, he would not have been charged with a crime.

In the state of Georgia this is a very common situation. If you are under the age of 21, it’s illegal to possess alcohol. There are however several exceptions to the law such as if you’re at home, your parents provide the alcohol and they supervise you. There is also an exception for religious services.

A minor in possession charge can result in a license suspension in certain factual scenarios. There are also Georgia statutes which can be used to get your case dismissed. The majority of clients that I represent who are charged with minor in possession that have not been in trouble before end up with their charges being dismissed and their arrest being expunged/restricted.

If you or your child is facing a minor possession charge and has to appear in court to answer to charges, you should immediately consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer who routinely handles those types of cases in the court you have to appear in. I handle minor in possession cases on a regular basis in Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb and Gwinnett counties and all cities in each of those counties including Sandy Springs Municipal Court and Dunwoody Municipal Court.

If you are accused of Minor in possession or another crime in Georgia, there may be serious consequences. Contact experienced criminal defense attorney Tom Nagel at (404) 255-1600 or via our online form.

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barbed-wire-1390182-m.jpgIn Georgia, anyone under the age of 17 is considered a juvenile offender and enters a separate system for juvenile offenders, rather than the adult criminal justice system. A judge reviews their cases and decides an outcome. In a worst-case scenario, the outcome of a juvenile case can result in long-term confinement in a correctional facility. However, in most cases, the goal is not punishment, but rehabilitation.

Under some circumstances, depending on the juvenile’s age, he or she can be tried as an adult, and his or her case can be transferred to adult court. In the past, too many kids wound up in a juvenile detention facility. The system didn’t work. More than half of the kids previously in the system simply wound up in the system again within three years. The old system was also tremendously expensive. Each bed in a juvenile detention facility cost $90,000 yearly, and this resulted in a budget for Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice that was at a high of $300 million.

In 2013, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2013 was passed as HB 242. This law not only reduced costs but also changed the philosophy of juvenile detention in Georgia. Under this law, only the most serious and dangerous juvenile offenders are kept in custody.
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Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.51.01 AM.pngShoplifting is illegal in Georgia. Shoplifting can be charged when the defendant performed actions with the intent of taking merchandise without paying or of depriving the owner of possession of merchandise or its value. Shoplifting includes altering price tags, switching labels, transferring merchandise between containers, or otherwise causing less to be paid for a particular item. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how much was stolen and whether there were any aggravating circumstances.

In a recent appellate decision, a Georgia jury found the defendant guilty of shoplifting. The defendant had entered guilty pleas in four earlier shoplifting cases, and the government presented these so that it could ask for recidivist punishment under OCGA § 16-8-14 (b)(1)(C). Under this code section, when somebody is convicted of a fourth or subsequent shoplifting offense, and the earlier convictions were either misdemeanors or felonies or a combination, the defendant commits a felony and must be punished with imprisonment for 1-10 years without suspending or deferring the first year of the sentence. The defendant is considered a recidivist or repeat offender and sentenced accordingly. In this case, the trial court sentenced the defendant as a recidivist.

The defendant appealed. He argued that he shouldn’t have been sentenced as a recidivist because the government didn’t establish he had waived his right to counsel in two of the prior shoplifting convictions.
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speeding-1-1091825-m.jpgIn Prigmore v. State, the defendant was arrested for a hit and run under OCGA § 40-6-270. He was also arrested for vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and driving under the influence of drugs.

Under the hit and run statute, a driver of any vehicle that is involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to anybody is required to stop the car at the scene. If the driver can’t stop right at the scene, he or she must stop as close to the scene as possible and go back to the scene to give help to the victims. For a first conviction, the defendant must be fined between $300 and $1,000, which may not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months.

In Prigmore v. State, the defendant was driving along Lawrenceville Highway, crossed a lane of traffic, left the road, drove along the sidewalk, and struck and killed a woman and her six-year-old daughter. After hitting the pedestrians, the defendant came back to the roadway and kept driving for about a quarter of a mile, then parked in a business drive-thru. Witnesses told the police where he was.
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Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb County Hit-and-run lawyer

Nearly every week I’ll get a call from somebody who was involved in a hit-and-run situation. You may have left the scene for many different reasons. Within the next few days following a hit-and-run, it’s not uncommon to receive a call from a hit-and-run detective or police officer from the city or county in which the incident occurred. The detective wants to talk to you about what happened to get your version of the events. The detective or police officer will ask you to come to the station to discuss what happened. Don’t discuss the facts of the case on the phone. You have an absolute right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. Immediately call an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. I’m not suggesting you don’t cooperate. You should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who handles these types of cases on a regular basis in the jurisdictions that your case occurred.

There are defenses to hit-and-run cases, and in many situations, I can get your charges reduced or dismissed depending on the facts of your case. In more serious cases, the detectives or the police officers can take out a warrant for your arrest for violating O.C.G.A. 40-6-270.

There is a right way and a wrong way to prepare yourself for court when you answer to the charges. A conviction for a hit-and-run can result in up to a $1,000.00 fine and/or 12 months in jail and the suspension of your Georgia driver’s license or your privilege to drive in the state of Georgia. Different laws apply to individuals under the age of 21. A conviction can lead to an increase of your auto insurance premiums and have serious repercussions on your job depending on what you do for a living.
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The Georgia Constitution protects its citizens against multiple punishment for the same offense. This is known as double jeopardy, yet it does not forbid additional punishment for separate offenses which have been deemed to warrant separate sanctions.

There is protection against multiple or successive prosecutions for crimes arising from the same conduct. This mandates that different crimes arising from the same conduct and known to the prosecution at the time must be tried in a single prosecution. If several crimes arising from the same conduct are known to the proper prosecuting officer at the time of commencing the prosecution and are within the jurisdiction of a single court, they must be prosecuted in a single prosecution.

A person is not placed in jeopardy by having a preliminary, commitment or probable cause hearing even if the charges against him were dismissed at that time.

When multiple crimes occur within more than one county and one crime which is included within one of the multiple crimes as committed was done in only one of the counties, the defendant cannot be tried in more than one county for the same included offense.

In Georgia, jeopardy generally attaches when the jury is impaneled and sworn, or in a non-jury case, after the first witness has been sworn and the court begins to hear testimony. Entering a nolo contendere plea constitutes jeopardy even if entered before a jury was impaneled and sworn.

If the defendant was indicted for two charges arising out of the same transaction and the defendant pled guilty to one of the charges, the state can still attempt to try the defendant for the other charge and double jeopardy is not a valid defense.
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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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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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