What Are the Different Types of Drug Charges?

If you have been charged with a drug crime in the state of Georgia, the charges that come with severe penalties, ranging from steep fines to jail time. The severity of the penalty will depend on the nature of the crime, and the type of drug that is found in your possession. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it is imperative that you have a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side who will protect your legal rights and recommend the most effective defense strategy that will result in the charges against you being reduced or dismissed.

What Are the Most Common Types of Drug Crimes?

Georgia has some of the strictest laws against drug possession and distribution in the country. When facing drug charges, it is important that you understand the type of drug crime that you have been charged with, as the penalty will vary based on the severity of the crime. The following are examples of the different types of drug crimes in Georgia:

  • Drug use: If you were charged with drug use, it means that you were caught taking an illegal drug. You could also be charged with possession if you took a prescription drug like opioids, sedatives, or stimulants without a prescription.
  • Drug possession: This is the most common type of drug offense. It occurs when you are in possession of a drug, but you do not have a valid prescription. There are two types of drug possession, including actual possession, which could be charged with if the drug is found on your person. The second type of drug possession is constructed possession, which occurs if you were in close enough proximity to a drug to possess it. 
  • Manufacturing: If you are involved in any step of the production of an illegal drug, including growing marijuana or manufacturing methamphetamines, you could face manufacturing charges. Repackaging a drug for resale is also illegal and may lead to manufacturing charges.
  • Possession with the intent to distribute: This charge involves the sale, smuggling, and delivery of illegal drugs and substances. If you are caught with scales, syringes, pipes, rolling papers, packaging, and other materials that are generally used to profit from illegal drugs, a possession charge can escalate to an intent to sell, which comes with additional severe penalties. However, the arresting police officer must be able to prove that you were selling drugs, and that there was no other reasonable use for the materials found in your home.
  • Drug trafficking: If you are facing a drug trafficking charge, this is one of the most serious drug crimes, and the penalties are severe. This charge usually involves the transportation of a significant amount of drugs, so if you are in possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs, a police officer will likely assume that you plan to sell the drugs, which will result in a distribution charge. The officer does not have to prove that you intend to sell the drug in order to charge you with drug trafficking.

How Are Drugs Classified?

The type of drug that is found in your possession will affect the seriousness of the crime for which you are charged. Drugs are categorized into five different “schedules,” based on their potential for abuse. The following are the five drug schedules, and examples of drugs that fall into each category:

  • Schedule I drugs and substances: These drugs have the highest potential for abuse, and they have no accepted medical use. They include drugs like heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin mushrooms, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy. 
  • Schedule II drugs and substances: These are also highly addictive, but they are accepted for medical use and treatment under certain circumstances. They include oxycodone, fentanyl, cocaine, methadone, hydromorphone, Adderall, and Ritalin.
  • Schedule III drugs and substances: These are drugs that have an accepted medical use and have a low to moderate potential for dependence. They include drugs containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
  • Schedule IV drugs and substances: These drugs have an accepted medical use and have a lower potential for abuse. They include drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Ambien, and Darvocet.
  • Schedule V drugs and substances: These have an accepted medical use and have the lowest potential for abuse. They include cough medications with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters, like Robitussin AC, as well as Lyrican, Lomotil, and Parapectolin.

What Are the Penalties for Drug Crimes?

Drug crimes are taken seriously in the state of Georgia and the penalties for a drug-related conviction are severe. If you have been wrongly accused of a drug crime, it is imperative that you have a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side who can review the charges that have been brought against you and recommend the best legal course of action. In addition to steep fines, losing your driver’s license and the loss of financial aid, scholarships and other financial holdings, the following are the legal penalties you could face if convicted of a drug crime:

 Penalties for Schedule I and II Substances

  • If you have been charged with purchasing or possessing a Schedule I or II drug, and it is your first offense, penalties include imprisonment for a minimum of two years and a maximum of 15 years. Penalties for subsequent offenses include a prison term ranging from five year to a maximum of 30 years.
  • If you sell, or intend to distribute Schedule I or II substances, the penalties for a first offense include a prison term of five to thirty years. For subsequent offenses, you could face a prison term of ten years to a life sentence.

Penalties for Schedule III, IV, and V Substances

  • If you have been charged with purchasing or possessing a Schedule III, IV or V substance, and it is your first offense, the penalty includes a prison term of one to five years, and one to ten years for any subsequent charges.
  • If you are charged with selling or intent to distribute Schedule III, IV or V substances, the penalties include a prison term of one to ten years. 

What Are the Most Effective Defense Strategies for Drug Crimes?

If you have been charged with a drug crime, there are a number of defense strategies that are available, depending on the circumstances of the case. Your criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly review the charges and recommend the most effective defense strategy. The following are examples of common defense strategies that may result in the charges against you being reduced or dismissed:

  • Unlawful search and seizure: This is one of the most common defenses used in drug possession cases. According to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, law enforcement may only search a person’s body or property under certain circumstances. If the drugs are found through illegal means, including searching your vehicle’s trunk without permission, this may be an effective defense strategy.
  • Entrapment: This occurs when a police officer forces a suspect to commit a crime that he or she would not otherwise have committed. While this can be an effective strategy if a police officer harassed or threatened you into committing a crime, law enforcement officials may set up sting operations to catch drug dealers or go undercover to buy or sell drugs to a suspect. A criminal defense lawyer will determine whether this is the best legal course of action based on the circumstances of your case. 
  • Chain of custody issues: If the drugs that have been seized during an arrest are missing from the evidence room or locker, your criminal defense lawyer may argue that the police officer did not handle the drugs properly during the course of the investigation.
  • Faulty lab analysis: If there are any errors or inconsistencies in the crime lab analysis report, your criminal defense lawyer may require the crime lab analyst to testify at your trial. This line of defense can be used to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
  • Drugs belong to someone else: Defendants who have been charged with a drug crime often claim that the drugs do not belong to them. This may or may not be an effective defense strategy because the prosecution only needs to show that you had control of or access to the drugs. Your criminal defense lawyer will determine whether this is a viable defense strategy.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Represent Clients Facing Drug Charges

If you have been charged with a drug crime, you are strongly urged to contact the Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law at your earliest convenience. Our dedicated legal team will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected and that the charges against you are reduced or dropped. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. With our offices located in Springfield, Georgia, we proudly serve all clients of Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.

How Does Bail Work in Georgia?

If you are charged with a crime in Georgia, you may be eligible for bail. Bail is a financial payment that allows you to stay out of jail while you await trial. By paying bail, you promise that you will show up for your court hearings. The bail and bond process is complex and has several important steps.

It is important for anyone facing criminal charges to understand how bail works, so they can make informed decisions for their case and their future. If you have been released on bail, it is wise to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before your trial.

What Is a Bond Hearing?

After a person is arrested in Georgia, they are detained while awaiting charges. If they are not charged with a crime within a specified period, they must be freed. In Georgia, detained persons are entitled to a bond hearing within 72 hours of the arrest (not including weekends and holidays.)

During the bond hearing, the judge decides if the defendant should be detained or released pending trial. If the judge allows their release, they grant a bond allowing the defendant to leave jail until their court hearing.

What Is the Difference Between Bail and Bond?

The terms bail and bond are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings and functions. Bond is the assurance given to the state of Georgia that the defendant will appear in court as instructed. Bail is the financial deposit that ensures they will appear in court.

A bondsman is a person or company who guarantees a bond. They provide bail bonds for individuals who have been charged with crimes but are unable to pay the entire bail amount to the court. By paying that money, the bondsman essentially guarantees the defendant will go show up to court.

It is not necessary to use a bail bondsman to post bail. However, because bail is typically a significant amount of money, a bondsman may be financially necessary to get a defendant out of jail.

How Is the Bail Determined?

Judges have the authority to set bond amounts, often in accordance with established “bail schedules” based on the severity of the crime. When a bail schedule is used, the defendant may not have to wait to see the judge.

Several factors affect bail. They include but are not limited to:   

  • The seriousness of the crime
  • The defendant’s ability to pay
  • The defendant’s community ties
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • The defendant’s reputation and character
  • How likely the defendant is to reoffend
  • How likely the defendant is to appear in court (based on past cases)
  • Whether the defendant poses a risk to public safety

What Does “No Bond” Mean?

The opportunity for bail is not available to every defendant. More serious crimes are not eligible for bond. These typically include crimes that are punishable by a life sentence or capital punishment like armed robbery, rape, and murder.

Georgia criminal justice code 13 lists all of the “non-bondable” offenses in the state. Offenders cannot post bail for these crimes unless they receive permission from a Superior Court Judge.

4 Kinds of Bail Bonds

There are four types of bonds used to release a defendant from jail:

  • Cash Bond: The defendant pays the entire amount and gets that money back at the completion of their case, regardless of the outcome—provided they do not miss any court dates.
  • “Own Recognizance”: Instead of making a payment, the defendant signs a form promising they will attend all court appearances. This is an option for traffic offenses and other minor misdemeanor offenses.
  • Professional Bondsman: A professional bail bondsman pays the client’s bail and collects a fee in return. This fee ranges anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the bond amount. When the defendant’s case is resolved and the bail returned, the bondsman keeps that fee.
  • Property Bond: With a property bond, the defendant (or family member or friend on their behalf) uses a home as collateral to pay bail. There are certain requirements to do so in most jurisdictions. The mortgage and taxes must be current and the presence of anyone listed on the deed must be present.

What Happens If I Cannot Afford Bail?

If a defendant does not receive bond or if the bond is too high, the defendant’s attorney can petition for another hearing to reconsider that decision.

When a defendant cannot pay bail, they must borrow the money using a home or other property as collateral, ask a friend or family member for assistance, or remain in jail until the judge determines they can leave.

As discussed above, a bail bondsman is another option to pay bail. They typically charge a non-refundable fee in exchange for paying the entire bail amount. If the defendant does not show up in court, the bondsman keeps that fee but loses the rest of the bail amount—unless they can locate the defendant and convince them to turn themselves in. If not, the court keeps the bail money and issues a warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

Bond and Bail Conditions

Once the defendant posts bail, there are certain conditions for their release. The defendant must obey the law and remain in the area. Some additional conditions may apply to the specific offense at hand.

For example, if the case involves allegations of domestic violence, the courts may prohibit all contact between the suspect and the person who filed the complaint. Violating these conditions will likely land the defendant in jail until the case is over.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with the Bail Process?

If you have never been through this situation before, you probably feel overwhelmed and anxious. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer working on your behalf can give you much-needed peace of mind.

Legal guidance is essential if you are charged with a crime. A lawyer can help with the bail process is several ways. Once bail is determined, they explain your payment options and provide the pros and cons of each based on your individual financial situation.

A lawyer will present testimony on your behalf to show you intend to return to court as required and will show you are not a “flight risk”. The act of hiring an attorney alone shows you are committed (and invested) in the judicial process and willing to uphold the conditions of release.

If you decide to use a bondsman, they will contact one for you. Because criminal defense attorneys have dealt with hundreds–if not thousands–of cases, they will recommend a reputable bail bond company. They can handle the details and secure bail as quickly as possible.

Completing the bail bond paperwork can be the most time-consuming part of the process. Errors or omissions on these forms can lead to frustrating delays. Your layer completes the paperwork correctly and returns it to the bail bond company quickly to get things moving. They deal with any issues that come up along the way.

A criminal act causes or represents bodily harm to a person or harm to society. The outcome of a criminal case can be life-changing. Punishment can include incarceration. It is vital to understand your rights and obtain legal advice if you or someone you care about has been arrested in Georgia.

Effingham County Criminal Defense Lawyers With Kicklighter Law Provide Timely and Effective Guidance for Charged With Crimes in Georgia

The Georgia criminal process can be stressful and overwhelming. But you do not have to navigate the system alone. Effingham County criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law represent clients facing a range of criminal charges. We advocate for your every step of the way to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.  In criminal cases, time is of the essence. Call 912-754-6003 or contact the firm online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Springfield, Kicklighter Law serves all of Effingham County, Savanah, and the surrounding areas throughout Georgia.

What Are the Penalties for Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a charge that is meant to penalize behavior that disturbs the peace, threatens to disrupt public life, or behavior that is considered obnoxious and disruptive. In Georgia, disorderly conduct charges can be used by police officers to detain individuals or prevent them from causing more serious problems, resulting in more serious charges. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer at your earliest convenience.

What Is Disorderly Conduct?

Also referred to as “disturbing the peace,” disorderly conduct includes behaviors that create alarm or anger in others, or that have the potential to conduct illegal acts. Disorderly conduct is one of the most common charges filed in Georgia, and other jurisdictions. In the state of Georgia, there are a number of ways that an individual can be charged with disorderly conduct, including the following:

  • When someone acts in a way that is violent or tumultuous towards another person, and causes him or her to fear for the safety of their life or health.
  • When the violent of tumultuous behavior causes another person’s property to be damaged or destroyed.
  • When someone uses abusive or offensive words to incite a disturbance of the peace or provoke violent resentment. These are also known as fighting words.
  • When an unprovoked person uses vulgar or obscene language in the presence of a child who is under the age of 14, which threatens an immediate breach of peace.

What Does Disorderly Conduct Cover?

There are a number of factors that are considered when someone has been charged with disorderly conduct. While the laws vary from state to state, disorderly conduct generally covers the following:

  • Circumstances: Oftentimes, disorderly conduct cases involve actions or behaviors that would not be considered disorderly if it occurred at a different time and in a different location. For example, if someone is standing outside in a residential neighborhood late at night and starts yelling loudly, this would be considered disorderly conduct. However, if the same person was saying the same words at the same volume, but at a construction site in the middle of the day, this is not considered disorderly conduct.
  • Location: While any type of disorderly conduct that occurs in places, including public restrooms, hospital emergency rooms and private buildings available for public rental is prohibited, disorderly behavior that occurs in private will meet the public requirement if the conduct disrupts or disturbs even a single person’s peace of mind.
  • Objectivity: It is not always necessary for the prosecution to demonstrate that the other person was alarmed or threatened by the accused’s behavior. The prosecution must only be able to prove that a reasonable person would not have been threatened by the behavior. The courts apply an objective standard in disorderly conduct cases.

What Are Examples of Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a common charge, and includes a range of actions and behaviors that cause a disturbance of the peace. The following are examples of actions that are considered disorderly conduct:

  • Fighting: Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the argument, fighting or any other type of physical altercation may be considered disorderly conduct. However, the individuals involved could face the more serious charges of assault or battery if the situation becomes more violent.
  • Protests: All citizens have the right to participate in peaceful protests. However, protests that become disruptive are considered disorderly conduct. For example, protesters who participate in a sit-in demonstration that blocks traffic may be charged with disorderly conduct.
  • Disturbing an assembly: If a person or group of people interrupt a city council meeting, religious ceremony or public rally, it may qualify as disorderly conduct.
  • Public misconduct: Public urination, public masturbation, public intoxication or any other behavior that should normally be conducted in private may be considered disorderly conduct.
  • Police encounters: Arguing with a police officer is not necessarily considered disorderly conduct. However, using threatening language or engaging in physical contact with a police officer does count as disorderly conduct.

What Are the Legal Penalties for Disorderly Conduct?

In most cases, disorderly conduct is considered a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by a maximum of twelve months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Depending on the severity of your conduct, you may receive a ticket for your actions, or you may be arrested, which means you will be booked and someone will need to bail you out. Whether you received a citation or you were arrested, once you have been charged with disorderly conduct, you are required to appear in court where you will enter a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ If you entered a ‘not guilty’ plea, the court will decide whether you can be released on recognizance or remain in jail until your court date.

While disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, if it is a second or third offense, repeat offenders are subject to more severe penalties, including higher fines and extended jail time. In addition, if the disorderly conduct occurred when someone was committing another crime, like stealing, he or she may face multiple charges, particularly if the individual was caught fleeing. The exact penalty for disorderly conduct will depend on the specific nature of the crime, however, the following are examples of possible punishments for disorderly conduct:

  • Alcohol education
  • Community service
  • Court ordered counseling
  • Criminal fine
  • Drug testing
  • Jail time of up to one year
  • Probation

What Are Effective Defense Strategies for a Disorderly Conduct Charge?

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, it is imperative that you have a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side. He or she will thoroughly review the charges that have been brought against you and fight to have them dismissed or dropped. The following are examples of possible defense strategies that may be used:

  • Self-defense: This line of defense may be used if a reasonable amount of force was necessary to prevent a threat of violence by another person. If the self-defense strategy is used, it is important to understand that it will only be effective if the defendant only used a comparable amount of force that the aggressor used.
  • Imperfect self-defense: If the defendant sincerely believed that force was necessary to prevent an injury, but the belief was unreasonable, this line of defense may be used. An example would be if the defendant hit another person because he or she believed he or she was about to be struck by the other person.
  • Intoxication: There are two options when it comes to this line of defense. Involuntary intoxication occurs when someone becomes intoxicated against their will. This can occur when someone is drugged or forced to drink an alcoholic beverage, causing them to engage in some type of disorderly conduct. The voluntary intoxication strategy is used as a defense to specific intent crimes if it prevents the defendant from forming the intent necessary to commit the crime.
  • Mistake of fact: This is another defense strategy that may be used to fight a disorderly conduct charge. This argues that the defendant should not be found guilty because they were mistaken about a fact that is essential to the case. For example, if the case involved the destruction of property, but the defendant reasonably and honestly believed that they were destroying their own property, a criminal defense lawyer may pursue the mistake of fact strategy.
  • Duress: This defense strategy may be effective if the defendant faced an immediate threat of violence, and believed that they would have been injured if they did not commit a specific crime. In other words, they would have been unable to avoid the threat unless they committed the crime.
  • Necessity: If the defendant claims that they committed an act of disorderly conduct in order to prevent a greater, more severe crime, this may be a viable defense strategy. This may also be effective if the defendant’s actions were necessary to address an emergency situation.

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, it is very important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. While this is a minor charge, it can have serious consequences on your personal and professional life. A highly skilled criminal defense lawyer has a thorough understanding of the laws related to disorderly conduct and will pursue the defense strategy that will have the best possible outcome, whether that is having the charges dropped or the case dismissed.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Assist Clients Who Have Been Charged with Disorderly Conduct

If you or someone you know has been charged with disorderly conduct, do not hesitate to contact our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Our office is located in Springfield, Georgia where we serve clients from Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.

What Is Aggravated Assault?

Georgia has laws against simple assault and aggravated assault. “Simple assault” means you meant to cause harm to a person. A punch to the face would be a good example of simple assault. You also could commit simple assault by just threatening to harm someone.

Simple assault often is paired with a battery charge. “Battery” means you touched another person without that person’s consent, such as a knee to the groin.

Simple assault is a misdemeanor criminal act that might land you in jail. It certainly would trigger a fine. An aggravated assault is a more serious felony that could put you into prison for many years.

How an Assault Becomes Aggravated?

Assaulting someone never is a harmless crime. The way in which you assault someone is the difference between facing a misdemeanor and a felony criminal charge.

There are four general ways in which a simple assault crosses the line and becomes a felonious aggravated assault. An aggravated assault occurs when you:

  • Intend to rob, rape, or murder the victim.
  • Use a deadly weapon or object that could cause great bodily harm.
  • Attempt to strangle the victim with an object designed for that purpose.
  • Discharge a firearm while inside a vehicle.

A conviction for the felony charge could land you in jail for between one and 20 years. Georgia laws impose additional penalties for extreme cases.

Evidence Requirements to Prove Aggravated Assault

If you are charged with aggravated assault, the prosecutor must show that you acted violently. Punching someone in the face or hitting someone with a blunt object would be two examples of how that might happen.

The violent act must demonstrate that you had the ability to cause the victim to fear that a violent injury would occur. The victim must have a reasonable concern that you were going to inflict an injury through violence and that threat was imminent.

For example, you might be working on your home and had a hammer in your hand to perform that task. Holding the hammer when someone initiates a verbal dispute would not be a threat of great bodily harm. It would be unreasonable to conclude that you intended to use the hammer in a violent and offensive manner.

On the other hand, you might not be working on your home and picked up a hammer to use as a weapon. In such instances, a reasonable person could conclude that you intended to cause great bodily harm. You might use the same item, a hammer, in a threatening manner that triggers aggravated assault. You also might simply have it in your hand by coincidence because it is the right tool for whatever job you were doing at the time.

That would not rise to the level of aggravated assault. What a reasonable person would conclude given the same circumstances can mean the difference between a simple assault that is a misdemeanor and an aggravated assault that is a felony.

Specific Examples of Aggravated Assault in Georgia

The following offenses are specifically listed as specific ways in which aggravated assault could occur in Georgia. An aggravated assault charge could be automatic whenever you assault someone:

  • Performing official duties like a police officer, corrections officer, or officer of the court.
  • Aged 65 or older.
  • While using a public transportation system.
  • With a firearm while on school property.
  • A child under age 14, while attempting to rape that person.

You also could face an aggravated assault charge by assaulting a current or former spouse of any children living in the home.

The penalties for such instances of aggravated assault could result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if you are convicted. The penalty for aggravated assault while raping a child is more severe – between 25 and 50 years imprisonment.

A prior felony conviction would trigger the maximum sentencing for a subsequent conviction for aggravated assault., A court also could impose a fine and require you to pay restitution to one or more victims.

Possible Legal Defenses to Aggravated Assault Charges

Many felony charges are filed for aggravated assault because one person was really mad at the other. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to not make dumb mistakes just because you are mad.

Committing aggravated assault is a good example of losing your cool and committing a felony that might put you behind bars for a couple of decades. Odds are you would not try to defend yourself by claiming the person “had it coming” or uttered “fighting words.”

Such a poor legal defense would land you in prison, and a lack of remorse might convince the judge to sentence you to the maximum time allowed by Georgia law.

More effective legal defenses could lower the charge to a simple assault or possibly get it dismissed. The following are some of the more successful legal defenses that might apply in your case and many others.

No Intent to Cause Harm

Just because you got into a fight that resulted in harm to another person does not mean you intended to do so, and without intent to commit the assault, there is no aggravated assault.

Maybe you were minding your own business and someone decided to pick a fight with you. If that person loses the fight, you are not necessarily the one who committed an assault and especially not an aggravated assault.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer could help you to lay out a sensible defense based on the lack of intent.

Defense of Self, Another Person, or Your Property

The right to self-defense is a very strong one. If another person threatens you with bodily harm, you have the right to defend yourself. A simple self-defense argument against an aggravated assault charge might result in a dismissal of the charge or an acquittal.

You also might have acted to prevent harm to another person. For example, if you are walking with your wife and someone assaults her, you could protect your wife against that assault.

If someone is trying to damage your home or maybe tries to break into it, you have the right to defend your property. That does not mean you can just shoot someone.

Shooting someone only is legal if you are under a threat of great bodily harm or otherwise face an imminent danger of harm occurring. You cannot use your firearm to protect property.

If an intruder shows up inside your home, it would be more reasonable to conclude that person is an imminent threat of great bodily harm. The same person trying to break into your car is not necessarily an imminent threat.

You cannot use a firearm to defend your car or similar property. You also could not use a deadly object. Those only are allowed when you face an imminent threat of great bodily harm.

Did Not Use a Deadly Weapon

You might get into a fight and prevail. If that person claims that you possessed a deadly weapon, it might trigger an aggravated assault charge.

You could argue that you did not possess a deadly weapon or use one to assault the individual. The prior hammer example is a good illustrator of how you might have an object that has an intended use, like driving nails into wood.

A fight might occur while you possess that hammer with the intention of using it to get work done. If your intent was not to use the hammer to inflict great bodily harm upon another person, you would not have committed an aggravated assault.

A prosecutor might overlook the circumstances and charge you with aggravated assault anyway. An experienced criminal defense attorney could help you to present a strong defense that shows the hammer or another object was not used as a deadly weapon. That could get an aggravated assault charge lowered or dismissed.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Uphold the Rights of the Accused

If you were charged with aggravated or simple assault, we can help. Arrange a meeting with one of our experienced Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Call us at 912-754-6003 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our law office in Springfield, Georgia. Our clients are located in Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.

What is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Aggravated Assault?

Assault is a common criminal charge, often occurring alongside domestic violence, bar fights, and other similar events. While assault is a general legal term, it can be combined with other types of crimes, some are extremely serious.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is an attack on another person, which causes serious bodily harm. Regular assault does not have to result in bodily harm. Instead, someone could be fearful of immediate harm but not actually harmed. Aggravated assault is a more serious crime which requires bodily harm to have occurred.

So, what does “bodily harm” mean here? It means that you have injured another person in a way that causes them pain, at a minimum. It could be as little as a cut and be more severe, like a bruised cheek or broken bones.

Charges could get worse if you were carrying a gun. Even if you did not use the gun, carrying a deadly weapon could increase a simple assault charge to aggravated assault. In some cases, assault with a deadly weapon could be a separate and distinct charge, above and beyond the aggravated assault charge you may also face.

You could also face these increased charges if you were carrying what could be considered a deadly weapon, even if it is not a gun. A deadly weapon could be a baseball bat, knife, or other inherently dangerous item.

Examples of aggravated assault:

  • Assaulting someone of a protected class, like a police officer, elderly person, disabled person, or social worker
  • Assault while committing another felony
  • Brandishing a gun or other deadly weapon during an argument
  • Breaking another person’s bones
  • Hitting someone
  • Shooting someone
  • Striking someone with a deadly or dangerous weapon

Proving and Defending Aggravated Assault

To prove you committed aggravated assault, the prosecutor must prove:

  • That you intentionally threatened an attack, or you actually attacked another person
  • That you used a deadly weapon, inflicted serious bodily injury, assaulted someone in furtherance of a felony, or targeted a protected class

You can always claim that the police arrested the wrong person, that you were not there and that it was actually someone else who committed the crime. You will need sufficient evidence to prove this, however, and it is not always easy.

You may be able to claim that you were acting in self-defense. If the other person attacked you first, you can argue that you were simply defending yourself. You will also need evidence to prove this assertion, which could be a witness who could testify that the other person attacked you first, or it could be video footage showing exactly what happened.

Finally, you could also argue that your actions were entirely accidental and that you intended no harm. This could be more challenging to prove, but you again could use witnesses to prove the assault was entirely accidental.

Aggravated Assault Penalties

Aggravated assault is a felony, which means that it is punishable by at least one year in prison and up to 20 years. The judge or jury will have discretion on how serious of a penalty to impose, and if it is your first offense, a judge may go easy on you, but that is not a guarantee. If you have been charged with other crimes along with aggravated assault, you may face many years in prison.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is different from aggravated assault in that there is some sexual activity which occurs. Sexual assault can also be aggravated, which usually means the aggressor used a weapon or threatened additional harm to the victim.

Here is what usually takes sexual assault to the level of aggravated:

  • You used a deadly weapon or threatened additional violence during the sexual assault.
  • You actually caused serious bodily harm to the victim.
  • You acted with extreme indifference to human life.
  • You intended to or attempted to kill the victim or another person.
  • You committed sexual assault with at least one other person.
  • A rape drug was used.

Penalties and Defenses to Sexual Assault

Sexual assault of a child is an additional crime, leading to harsher penalties. Even if the victim is not a minor, you could still face at least one year in prison, as sexual assault is a felony. Depending on the severity of the assault and if you have been convicted of previous crimes, you could face upwards of 25 years in prison.

The judge or jury has some discretion of the level of penalty to impose on you. So even if you are found guilty, you can express remorse for your crime, which could potentially help to reduce the penalties you face.

Most likely, you will also need to register as a sex offender. This is a penalty which could follow you for the rest of your life, limiting where you can live and work. This is one area where a judge and jury have almost no discretion to remove this penalty. If you are convicted of sexual assault, you may be required to register as a sex offender.

In extreme cases, you may face a mandatory life sentence. Except for these most extreme cases, if you are convicted and sentenced to prison, you may have to be on probation after your release from prison. While on probation, you will be supervised by your probation officer and required to adhere to certain rules, some extremely strict. You may not be able to drink alcohol or even visit a bar. You cannot be seen with other convicted felons. And there will be restrictions on where you can live and work.

You may also be subject to regular and random drug testing, community service hours, and be ineligible to purchase a gun or other weapon. A violation of probation could result in you going back to prison or spending some time in jail. Be aware that even seemingly minor violations could result in serious consequences.

If you are convicted of sexual assault, you will also face mandatory treatment. Whether in prison or during your probation after release, you will be required to attend group or individual counseling, sex offender programs, and may even be required to take certain medication. While on probation, your probation officer will also test you to ensure you have these medications in your system. If your drug test results do not show evidence of these meds, you could be sent back to prison.

Your best defense to a sexual assault charge is to obtain consent from any sexual partners. Be aware, however, that either party can revoke consent at any point during sexual activity. However, they cannot revoke consent after the act is completed if they gave it before. Minors cannot give consent.

Proving consent could be difficult, however, because the victim may claim they never gave consent or revoked it at some point. It is truly their word against yours, so this can be a serious uphill battle. But this is exactly what a criminal defense attorney can help you with, aggressively fighting to protect your rights and freedoms.

The Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Make Sure Your Rights are Protected

If you have been arrested and charged with assault, sexual or aggravated, you face serious criminal consequences. You need skilled and aggressive legal advocacy to help protect your rights. Do not take this charge lightly or think it will just go away. To find out your next steps, speak with our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation by calling 912-754-6003 orfilling out our online form. We proudly serve our Georgia neighbors in Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.

What Charges Can Be Expunged in Georgia?

A criminal charge can interfere with a person’s employment, housing, and education prospects. Even if you are arrested but not convicted of a charge, you technically still have a criminal history. Anyone can do a background check and see that you were arrested. However, some charges for minor crimes or those that are not prosecuted can often be expunged, or restricted, from public view.

Expungement is a process where criminal history records are sealed from the public. In Georgia, expungement is also referred to as record restriction. In August 2020, SB 288 was signed into law. Bill SB 288 enables more residents to seal and restrict certain convictions from their criminal history.

Convictions which are successfully expunged are hidden from public and private background checks, so a landlord or employer will not know you have been convicted of that criminal offense. However, it is important to note that expunged offenses do not disappear entirely. They are still accessible to law enforcement agencies for criminal justice purposes.

Limited crimes can potentially be restricted and sealed under Georgia law. They include:

  • Nearly any misdemeanor or felony that has been pardoned.
  • Up to two misdemeanor convictions.

Most criminal acts that are not considered a felony in Georgia are misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are typically punishable by fines up to $1,000, jail time up to 12 months, or both. Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor serve time in a county or city jail. Public intoxications, theft, or property valued at less than $500, and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce are common misdemeanors.

Felonies are more serious crimes and typically result in at least one year in prison. They are classified by degree of severity. Burglary, armed robbery, and murder are felonies in Georgia. Because they are violent in nature, these crimes are not eligible for expungement unless they are pardoned.

There are three specific situations where expungement is possible in Georgia.

Non-Convictions

It is important to note that even if your criminal charge is dismissed or you are adjudicated not-guilty by the court, you still have a criminal record. A record of that charge will be picked up in a background check. To have that charge removed from public view, it must be expunged.

Cases that are closed without a conviction generally qualify for expungement. These include charges which are closed by the charging agency, dismissed entirely, as well as non-guilty, vacated, and reversed verdicts.

Youthful Offenders

If you were under 21 years old at the time of your conviction, your charge may be expunged. You must have completed your sentence and avoided an addition charge in the five years prior to your request for restriction with the exception of minor traffic offenses.

Felony Charge Closed Without Conviction, but a Final Conviction of an Unrelated Misdemeanor  

If your felony charge was closed without conviction and you only convicted of a minor misdemeanor offense for that case, the court may consider how the conviction is impacting your life. If it is a roadblock to housing or employment, the conviction may be restricted.

As you may have determined, expungement guidelines vary from case to case. Your lawyer will speak to your chances of restriction based on the circumstances surrounding your conviction.

Crimes That Are Excluded From Expungement

Many crimes will never qualify for expungement in Georgia, even under SB 288. Misdemeanors that cannot be expunged include: 

  • Certain DUI charges.
  • Certain theft offenses.
  • Crimes against minors.
  • Public indecency.
  • Sexual battery.

Felonies that cannot be expunged include: 

  • Armed robbery.
  • Child molestation.
  • False imprisonment.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Murder.
  • Rape.

Keep in mind, this list does not include all of the crimes that cannot be expunged under Georgia law. The best way to find out about your specific situation is to speak with a trusted lawyer who knows the ins and outs of criminal law.

The Expungement Process

Before you begin the process, you or your lawyer should request a copy of your criminal history which includes the date of your arrest and the arresting agency involved. From there, the process depends on the date of your arrest. If you were arrested before July 1, 2013, the arresting agency oversees your request for record restriction. If the arrest occurred on or after July 1, 2013, your lawyer should contact the prosecuting attorney’s office directly. That may be an attorney general, district attorney, or solicitor-general.

Arrests Before July 1, 2013

First, you need to complete Section 1 on the Request to Restrict Arrest Record form and submit it to the arresting agency. They fill out Section 2 and pass it on to the prosecuting attorney’s office.

The prosecuting attorney’s office fills out Section 3 and makes a decision to approve or deny your request within 90 days. The prosecuting attorney’s office then notifies you and the arresting agency of the decision.

Arrests On or After July 1, 2013

You do not have to contact the arresting agency for arrests on or after July 1, 2013. Instead, contact the prosecuting attorney’s office in the county where the arrest occurred. From there, the process is the same.

What Happens if My Request Is Approved?

If your request to restrict your arrest record is approved, the prosecuting attorney submits the completed application to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) database. In some cases, the prosecuting attorney may not have access to the database. You would need to send the approved application along with a processing fee to the GCIC on your own.

It usually takes two to three weeks for the GCIC to complete record restriction. Once the arrest is restricted in the law enforcement database, you should receive a letter of confirmation in the mail. Always save all documents related to your arrest, request for restriction, and response from the prosecuting attorney and GCIC for your records.

What Happens if My Request Is Denied?

When an applicant’s request for record restriction is denied, they have 30 days to appeal the decision to Superior Court in that country.

Is Restriction Ever Automatic in Georgia?

In Georgia, if you are arrested but your crime is not referred for prosecution, it is automatically restricted from the GCIC after a period of two years for misdemeanors and four years for most felonies. More serious crimes which are not referred for prosecution, including violent and sex-related felonies, are expunged automatically after seven years.

According to Georgia law, some less serious crimes may qualify for expungement. Because there is so much at stake, it makes sense to hire a lawyer to review your situation and handle your request for record restriction in Georgia.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Help Clients Determine if Their Charges Are Eligible for Expungement

Georgia law provides an avenue for some people with minor convictions to have their arrest records sealed from public view. Record restriction is invaluable for anyone who finds a past arrest is making it challenging to land a job or rent a home. Our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law have successfully obtained expungement for clients who have been arrested across the state. Call us at 912-754-6003 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.

What Are My Miranda Rights?

You may have seen a television show or movie where police read Miranda warnings to someone they are arresting. However, these rights are not usually read to you during your arrest, despite what you have seen on television. Regardless of what you have been arrested for, you may tell your lawyer that you did not receive your Miranda warning and are hopeful that your case will be thrown out. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. While not providing you with your Miranda rights can lead to some evidence being excluded, it rarely results in a full case dismissal.

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case called Miranda v. Arizona. In its decision, the Court held that an individual’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is in effect when someone is in custody, not just in a courtroom. Prosecutors are not allowed to use any statement made by someone in custody if they have not been read their Miranda rights.

Your Miranda rights include:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to an attorney.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.

To use your Miranda rights, you can either remain silent or ask for legal representation.

Once you do that, police are not allowed to ask you any further questions. This is important because you can assert your Miranda rights at any point, even after the police have asked you questions and you have answered them.

Deciding Whether to Talk

Many people who have been arrested either believe or are told by police that if they talk and tell them what they want to know, they will speak highly of them to the prosecutor. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Anything you say and any information they get from you, they can and will use against you.

However, they are required to read the Miranda warning. They may do this while they are arresting you, but more likely, they will do this at the police station. If they start asking you questions while you are still in the police car and they have not read the Miranda warning, any information they get could be inadmissible in court.

Be aware that some police officers will try to get you to say something incriminating, especially while transporting you to the police station. When police are in the front of the car, they may be talking to each other, discussing your arrest, your crime, or even discuss what may happen to you and how long you will spend in jail. They are doing this because they are trying to get you to respond to them and say something incriminating. They are not interrogating you, the prosecutor may argue that anything you said would still be admissible because the police were not required to give you a Miranda warning at that point.

What Is Implied Consent?

One of the most common arrests made in Georgia is for driving under the influence (DUI). Under Georgia’s implied consent law, by driving on any Georgia road, you give consent to police to test you for alcohol or drugs in your system. If you refuse a test, your driving privileges can be revoked. A simple refusal of a test may result in a loss of driving privileges for up to one year. Before any test or any refusal, a police officer is required to read you Georgia’s implied consent statement. They are only required to read you a Miranda warning if you are in custody and being interrogated.

Police can ask you basic questions when they pull you over, such as your name, age, and where you live. During this questioning, the police are not required to read you Miranda rights.

You are not required to answer questions about where you are going, where you are coming from, or even how much alcohol you have had or whether you have had any at all. Regardless of whether you answer the police officer’s additional questions, they may have already decided to arrest you. They may smell alcohol, they may have seen you swerving in your lane, or they may have seen you roll through a stop sign.

Once the police officer places you under arrest, you have the right to speak with a lawyer. Remember, however, that if you refuse a field sobriety test, you may lose your license for up to one year. If there is any chance you have alcohol or drugs in your system, it is probably a good idea to assert your right to a lawyer and speak with them before you answer any further questions.

When Should I Speak to a Lawyer?

No matter what you have been arrested for, having a lawyer on your side, even if you are willing to speak with police, is almost always a good idea. The police have to follow certain laws and regulations, but they are not looking out for your best interests. Your lawyer will have your best interests in mind and will be able to give you the guidance you need to help avoid the worst possible outcome.

While a lawyer may not be able to get your case completely thrown out after your arrest, not receiving your Miranda warning at the right time could mean that some evidence, including some information you gave to police, could be thrown out.

No case is easy, but your chance of getting a sentence reduced is much greater with a lawyer than without one. This is your freedom, and you should take it seriously and give yourself a fighting chance. Whether you have been arrested for a DUI or any other crime, having an experienced lawyer on your side will help you protect your rights.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Will Make Sure All of Your Rights Are Protected

Getting arrested is stressful, and you may not fully understand your rights. If the Miranda warning was not read to you, there might be legal action you can take that could benefit your case. To find out your next steps, speak with one of our experienced Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. To learn more about how we can help you and to schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 912-754-6003. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.

What Happens if You Violate Probation?

In the criminal justice system, being put on probation means that you are being sentenced for disobeying the law but are able to avoid prison time. Essentially, a judge is giving you the opportunity to stay out of trouble and obey the terms of your probation in exchange for avoiding incarceration.

You could be placed on probation for a number of reasons, from shoplifting to a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). However, if you violate the terms of your probation, you could serve the remainder of your sentence behind bars. In order to ensure that your rights are protected and that you do not face jail time, including an extended sentence, you are urged to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at your earliest convenience.

What Are the Basic Conditions of Probation?

If you have been placed on probation, there are a wide range of conditions that you will be expected to follow, including the following:

  • Obey the laws of all governmental units.
  • Avoid bad habits, like alcohol intoxication, illegal narcotics, or other dangerous drugs unless they are prescribed lawfully by a health care provider.
  • Avoid people or places that could cause you to get into trouble.
  • Get suitable employment and avoid taking time off other behavior that could jeopardize your job.
  • Do not move or relocate to an address that is outside the jurisdiction of the court. Do not leave the state without getting permission from your probation officer.
  • If you have legal dependents, make sure that you provide the financial support that is expected of you to the best of your ability.

There may be additional conditions that you will need to follow, depending on the circumstances of your probation, including the following:

  • Attend a DUI program or other risk reduction course.
  • Attend a defensive driving school.
  • Follow a substance abuse treatment program and submit to regular testing.
  • Participate in counseling or treatment programs for anger management, violence, sexual deviancy, and other behaviors that would warrant treatment.
  • Pay all fines directed by the court or your probation officer.
  • If required, complete a certain number of community service hours.
  • Submit to random drug and alcohol testing.

What Is Considered a Probation Violation?

There are three categories of a probation violation in Georgia, including technical condition violations, which occur when you violated the technical conditions of your probation, special condition violations, which occur when you violate the special conditions of your probation, and substantive violations, which occur when you commit a new crime while you are on probation.

The following are examples of probation violations:

  • Failure to attend court appearance: One of the requirements of probation is to appear in court on the assigned dates. If you miss a scheduled court date, this is a probation violation.
  • Failure to meet with your probation officer: This is another requirement of your probation. Unless the terms of your probation specifically allow you to be on unsupervised probation, you must report to your probation officer for scheduled meetings. If you fail to report to your probation officer because you violated other terms of the probation, this will only cause problems with your probation officer.
  • Failure to pay fines: As part of the terms of your probation, you may be required to pay fines. If you forget or decide not to pay them, this is a violation of your probation. If you are unable to pay the fine due to a financial hardship, a medical issue, or another valid reason, you are urged to request a modification of probation from the sentencing court. Do not avoid reporting to court because you are unable to pay the fine, as this is a much more serious probation violation than an inability to pay fines.
  • Not having a job: You are required to remain employed while you are on probation. If you fail to get a job or lose your job, it is a violation of your probation.
  • Visiting people or places that are prohibited: There may be certain people or places that you are not allowed to visit during your probation. If you ignore these rules, it is a violation of your probation.
  • New arrests: The consequences for being arrested for a new offense will depend on the nature of the new crime that you committed. For example,  if you were arrested for a misdemeanor, the consequences will be less serious than if you are arrested for a felony. However, this probation violation has the most serious consequences and almost always results in an arrest for probation violation. While you may be hesitant to report the new arrest to your probation officer, it is highly recommended that you do so because they will find out about it either way.

What Are the Penalties for a Probation Violation?

It is of the utmost importance that you comply with the terms and conditions of your probation. A failure to do so can result in a more serious punishment, including prison time. If you violate the terms of your probation, your probation officer may request that you appear in court for a probation violation hearing. The judge will consider the details of the probation violation, including the type, seriousness and nature of the violation, as well as the penalty proposed by the probation officer, which may include a prison sentence. If you are found guilty of violating your probation, your original probation period may be extended, additional probation terms may be imposed, or the probation may be revoked and you will be ordered to serve time in jail.

In some cases, circumstances that are beyond your control can result in an accidental probation violation. For example, if you are unexpectedly laid off from your job and are unable to make the required restitution payments, your parole could be revoked. Even if your failure to meet the requirement of your parole was accidental, your parole officer has the power to revoke part of your probation. A skilled lawyer can protect your rights and help negotiate the terms of your probation.

The following are possible types of sentences for probation violations:

  • County jail: You may be required to serve up to 12 months in a county jail.
  • Probation detention center: The court may sentence you to up to six months in a probation detention center. If there is a waiting period for bed space, you may be given credit from the date of the order.
  • Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT): This is a probation center that focuses on drug rehabilitation. You will likely be held at the county jail until bed space becomes available.
  • Prison: The court may revoke your probation and send you to prison. You will likely be eligible for parole.
  • Special conditions: You may be required to comply with other conditions, including a drug treatment program, counseling, and anger management.

What Happens at a Probation Revocation Hearing?

According to due process, you must be given the opportunity to be heard. At the hearing, you have the option of either representing yourself or hiring a lawyer. It is highly recommended that you hire a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer.

The revocation hearing will be presided over by a judge and a court reporter. The district attorney will present the case, with the help of the probation officer and other witnesses, and argue that there has been a violation of probation. Your defense lawyer will cross examine and may also present witnesses. After both sides have argued their case and closing arguments are made, the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to prove that there has been a violation of probation.

If the judge rules that there has been a violation of probation, you will be sentenced. Prior to the sentencing, you may ask to speak, or members of your family or friends may ask to speak on your behalf. Depending on the circumstances, you may waive your right to a hearing and admit that you violated your probation. In probation revocation hearings, you do not have a right to a jury trial, although the state still has the burden of proving that you violated your probation.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Assist Clients With Probation Violation Issues

If you have been accused of violating your probation, do not hesitate to contact our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Our skilled legal team will fight to get you the best possible outcome. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.

What Are Common Defenses for Drunk Driving Charges?

While being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol in Georgia is a serious offense, cases are not all clear-cut. A DUI charge can dramatically affect a person’s life and reputation, even their employment. That is why anyone arrested for a DUI in Georgia should know that there are ways to beat the charge or get it reduced. A lawyer is the first line of defense after a DUI charge.

A skilled lawyer understands both the nuances of criminal law and the strict processes and procedures that must be followed for a DUI charge to stick. Many different things can happen in a DUI case, beginning with the minute a law enforcement officer stops a suspected drunk driver.

A person who has been charged with DUI has only 30 days from the time of their arrest to request an administrative license hearing or ignition interlock device. Otherwise, their license or privilege to drive in Georgia will be suspended without question. You should contact a lawyer immediately after a DUI arrest. They can begin preparing a case that could include challenging one or more of the following arguments.

Traffic Stop

DUI cases generally begin with a traffic stop. There are many ways an experienced lawyer can challenge the violation itself and the probable cause for stopping a vehicle. Without probable cause, there is no case.

Improper Lane Change

This is a common citation and is issued when a driver does not use a turn signal. However, in Georgia, a turn signal is required only when another car is approaching from the front or rear or whenever turning left or right. A turn signal may not have been required under the law.

Failure to Maintain Lane

A common offense in DUI situations, failure to maintain lane can be cited even if a driver barely touches a lane marker. This does not mean a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol. They could have been distracted by a passenger or some other reason.

Scope of the Traffic Stop

An officer cannot detain a person after a traffic stop or interrogate them or seek consent to search their vehicle without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. If they do, they have legally exceeded the scope of the traffic stop, and this is unlawful. Anything they might have found while illegally expanding the scope cannot be used as evidence.

Reasonable Suspicion to Stop

Law enforcement can only stop a vehicle when there is reasonable suspicion to stop them, and the officer must articulate the exact reason. A hunch or other unreasonable suspicions can easily be challenged in the courtroom.

Anonymous Tips

Sometimes, a driver will call 911 to report someone whom they feel is driving while impaired. An officer cannot stop a vehicle based only on a tip. They must substantiate the information before stopping the car. The same holds true for a concerned citizen’s report.

High Crime Area

Police will sometimes stop people in an area known for crimes, such as drug dealing. However, they cannot stop someone on this basis alone; they must have evidence of criminal activity before they can stop someone.

Road Blocks

There are strict protocols and procedures law enforcement officers must follow when running a roadblock. All vehicles must be stopped without discretion, and prolonged detention of a vehicle must be based on specific, articulable reasons. In addition, some officers may pull over a driver whom they believe is trying to avoid a roadblock. The stop may or may not be valid, depending on the suspicion causing the stop.

Probable Cause to Arrest

In Georgia, there must be reasonable belief that a driver is less safe due to alcohol or drug impairment to be a probable cause for arrest. Probable cause must be supported by observations and interaction, not by an officer’s hunch or belief.

Nonmoving Violation

Officers will sometimes pull drivers over for expired registration, a broken taillight, or other reasons that do not involve vehicle operation. In these cases, an officer must have credible evidence that the person is under the influence of drugs and alcohol to arrest the person without seeing how they are driving. This type of arrest can be challenged in court.

Who Was Driving

In a Georgia DUI case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant was in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while under the influence. This might be difficult if the first encounter was not a direct traffic stop observable by the officer.

Physical Issues After an Accident

An officer may use slurred speech, confusion, bloodshot eyes, or other physical manifestations after a vehicle accident as a basis for a DUI arrest. However, these same symptoms can often be caused by the accident itself. A good lawyer can challenge this evidence.

Field Sobriety Tests

Substantial evidence can come from the results of field sobriety tests. However, sometimes, these tests are not administered correctly, rendering the results inadmissible as evidence. A lawyer can thoroughly investigate how these tests were conducted and whether the officer was fully trained.

Other challenges to field sobriety tests could include unreliable or unreasonable testing conditions, pressure by the officer to perform these voluntary tests, failure to read the Miranda warning, and medical conditions, age, or weight issues that could negatively influence test results.

Breathalyzer Tests

Georgia officers use an alco-sensor device to determine the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the traffic stop. The numerical results cannot be used as evidence. The officer can only say whether the result was positive or negative. Challenges to the alco-sensor test include the design and use of an approved device.

Illegal Pat-Down

An officer can only pat down a driver if they have a reasonable belief that the person is armed and presents a danger to themselves or other people. Pat-downs cannot be conducted as routine or as part of a policy. An illegal substance found after an unlawful pat-down may be exempt as evidence with the help of a skilled lawyer.

Vehicle Search

Federal and Georgia state governments both prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. Officers must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to search or seize a vehicle. Evidence obtained illegally cannot be used in court. People should know that consent for any search is voluntary, despite an officer’s pressure or intimidation. It is always advisable for a person not to consent to a vehicle search.

Implied Consent Notice

Anyone arrested for DUI in Georgia must submit to chemical testing of their urine, blood, and breath. The arresting officer must read Georgia’s implied consent notice at the time of the arrest to request the test. If an officer misleads a person, reads the wrong consent notice, does not read the notice at the time of arrest, or does not follow strict protocols, test results may be inadmissible in court.

Chemical Testing

There are many challenges to chemical testing a skilled lawyer can present. From medical conditions to the actual testing room or equipment, results of urine, blood, and breath tests can be challenged by a skilled lawyer on many levels.

The above is not an exhaustive list of defenses to a DUI charge in Georgia. Every traffic stop is different.

What Is Considered Driving While Impaired in Georgia?

Under Georgia DUI laws, a person cannot drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • With a BAC level of 0.08 percent or greater. For those driving a commercial vehicle, the BAC limit is 0.04 percent or greater. Drivers under 21 years old have a BAC limit of 0.02 percent or greater.
  • While under the influence of any alcohol, drug, or controlled substance. Under the influence means that a person is considered less safe to drive.
  • With any amount of marijuana or illegal drugs in their blood or urine.

Effingham County DUI Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Defend Unlawful DUI Arrests in Georgia

Not every DUI case is clear-cut. There are extenuating circumstances that our Effingham County DUI lawyers at Kicklighter Law can scrutinize to get charges thrown out or reduced. If you need help after a DUI arrest, call us at 912-754-6003 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.

Why Are Crimes Common on Black Friday?

For many holiday shoppers, Back Friday officially kicks off the Christmas gift buying season. In fact, some stores even open on the evening of Thanksgiving, giving eager shoppers the opportunity to take advantage of major sales. Throughout the entire month of November, many stores will have sales. However, crowds, long lines and the fierce competition over who is going to snag the last coveted toy or electronic device can cause tempers to flare. When this happens, the situation can escalate quickly, and angry shoppers can resort to verbal insults and even physical violence.

If you engage in threatening or violent behavior while shopping on Black Friday and you have been charged with a crime, you are urged to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer who knows the ins and outs of criminal law can help protect your rights.

In 2019, approximately 115 million Americans participated in Black Friday shopping, which is more than 50 percent of this country’s adult population. Despite the growing number of people who prefer to do their holiday shopping online, millions continue to brave the crowds and the long lines to shop in person at brick-and-mortar stores.

There are many websites that collect data about Black Friday-related injuries and deaths reported in the news around the world. The actual figures are likely to be higher since many incidents go unreported, but these websites give a general idea of the nature of the problem and how quickly the shopping experience can become chaotic and even violent on Black Friday.

What Are the Most Common Types of Black Friday Crimes?

Black Friday does not always bring out the best in people. In fact, the promise of a great deal on a television or computer causes some shoppers to become greedy, aggressive, and even physically violent. Oftentimes, shoppers have no regard for the person who was waiting outside in the freezing cold to get a particular item if they can push past that person and grab the item first.

The following are examples of common crimes that are seen on Black Friday:

  • Assault: If you threaten to injure another shopper by using violence or force, you may be charged with assault. Assault is often considered attempted battery.
  • Battery: If you touch another shopper without their consent and the physical contact causes injuries or harm, you may be charged with battery.
  • Theft: Oftentimes, people think that a crowded store full of frenzied shoppers is an easy place to steal items off the shelves without being spotted by security cameras or guards. However, if you steal merchandise worth less than $950, you could face misdemeanor charges that are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the stolen items are worth more than $950, you could face felony charges that carry a prison sentence of up to three years and fines of up to $10,000.
  • Brandishing a weapon: If you aim a gun or any other weapon at another person in a threatening manner while shopping in a store on Black Friday, you could be charged with felony aggravated assault.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Black Friday Shopping Incidents?

Overeager shoppers who have been anxiously waiting for the doors to open so that they can push their way past you and grab as many items as they can often cause in-store fights and arguments. The following are the top causes of injuries and fatalities associated with Black Friday shopping:

  • Stampede of shoppers: One example of a crowd-related incident that became dangerous occurred at a shopping mall in Southern California where 500 gift cards were dropped from the ceiling into a crowd of roughly 2,000 shoppers. Ten shoppers, including an elderly woman, suffered injuries after being trampled by shoppers.
  • Pepper spray: A shopper at a Walmart in Garfield, New Jersey was pepper sprayed and arrested after he allegedly attacked a police officer who was responding to an argument over a television.
  • Shooting: A shopper was shot in the leg after he tried to grab a large screen television from a man who stole it from him at gunpoint.
  • Car accidents: After shopping all night at an outlet mall, a motorist from California caused a drowsy driving car accident that caused two fatalities.
  • Fights: Two female shoppers got into a fist fight at a Toys “R” Us store in California. The situation became deadly when their male companions got involved and shot each other.
  • Stabbing: A dispute over a parking spot at a Walmart in Virginia led to a stabbing. 

How Can I Avoid Criminal Charges on Black Friday?

In some cases, a momentary lapse in judgment can cause you to act irrationally. Other times, you may get caught up in a situation that escalates to some type of violent behavior, but you did not participate in a crime.

To avoid situations like this and potential criminal charges, keep the following tips in mind when shopping on Black Friday:

  • Do not cover items with your coat. Simply draping your coat over a pile of merchandise may not seem problematic, but a security officer may see that and assume that you are trying to shoplift items. Either leave your coat in the car or make sure that it is at the bottom of the pile of merchandise that you are buying.
  • Do not consolidate bags of merchandise while inside the store. If you have done a fair amount of shopping and accumulated numerous bags, you may want to consolidate your merchandise into fewer bags. However, it is highly recommended that you find a bench outside the store, or you can find another area in the mall where you can consolidate your bags. Doing this inside the store may cause security guards to become suspicious.
  • Keep your receipts. If you are charged with shoplifting, providing a copy of the receipt will prove that you did not steal the item.
  • Avoid altercations in stores. If another shopper acts in a way that is rude or aggressive, do not engage with that person or stoop to their level. It can be difficult to walk away or take the high road in these types of situations, particularly after a stressful shopping experience. However, if you engage with another shopper who is causing a scene, you could end up facing criminal charges, particularly if the situation becomes aggressive or violent.
  • Avoid aggressive behavior behind the wheel. After the shopping is done, people get in their cars feeling exhausted, frustrated, and stressed out after the chaotic Black Friday shopping experience. This can increase the risk of drowsy driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving car accidents.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Represent Clients Facing Criminal Charges Related to Black Friday Shopping

If you have been charged with assault and battery, shoplifting, or any other crime while shopping on Black Friday, you are urged to contact our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Our dedicated legal team will thoroughly examine the details of your case and the charges that you are facing. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.

Call Us: 912-754-6003

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Springfield, GA 31329

Telephone: 912-754-6003
Fax: 912-754-6336

Email: [email protected]

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