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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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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?

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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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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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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 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.