Savannah Criminal Defense Lawyers

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What Are Criminal Charges?

A crime is a wrongful act that the law prohibits that could result in the perpetrator receiving a punishment. That punishment can include their loss of liberty or incarceration.

A crime can cause public harm and goes beyond injuring a private party. A civil crime impacts only a select group of people, whereas a criminal act can cause bodily harm to an individual or can represent harm to society.

In a criminal prosecution, a prosecutor, who is a representative of the state, will file criminal charges against an individual or an entity. They become the prosecution in a criminal case, while the accused becomes the defendant. Unlike a civil case in which any lawyer can file a suit, only a prosecutor can file criminal charges because they represent a violation of the laws that the state is there to enforce. Our team of seasoned Savannah criminal defense lawyers are ready to stand by your side if you have been wrongfully accused of a criminal act.

There are two main types of criminal case:

  • Violent: For a criminal offense to be considered a violent crime, it must include either the use or threat of violence or force against another person. An act of violence does not need to involve the use of a physical weapon to be considered a violent crime. Additionally, the mere threat of violence, such as intimidation, can be considered a violent crime.
  • Non-violent: Unlike violent crimes, a non-violent crime does not involve violence or force against another person. Instead, severity of these types of crimes is determined by the amount of monetary loss or property damage.

Violent crimes are classified as felonies and are considered serious. Although no one is usually injured in non-violent crimes, they can still carry serious legal ramifications. Minor non-violent crimes, such as drug possession or disorderly conduct, are considered misdemeanors. However, others are more serious and will be considered felonies, such as white collar crime or a property crime. These types of cases can be very complex and require a skilled defense lawyer.

What Are Examples of Violent and Non-Violent Crimes?

Violent crimes are the most serious of crimes and carry the most severe penalties. The most common violent crimes include:

  • Murder
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Simple assault
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping

As for non-violent crimes, although they cannot result in the physical harm of a person, they can be harmful in other ways, such as placing the victim in a dire financial predicament or making it difficult for them to make large purchases in their future. Examples of non-violent crimes include:

  • Burglary
  • Cyber crime
  • Racketeering
  • Forgery
  • Criminal property damage
  • Gambling while using or selling cheating devices
  • Driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated

Although these crimes are not as major as violent crimes, police and the state take these crimes very seriously given their potential to harm other individuals.

What Are Punishments for Crimes?

All felonies in Georgia are punishable by at least one year in prison. The state separates each category of crime by degrees, with the most severe being first degree. Georgia employs the death penalty; however, that punishment is reserved for aircraft hijacking, treason, and murder with an aggravated circumstance. The latter includes the death of a person during the commitment of another crime.

When a person is accused of a violent crime in Georgia, they must understand the gravity of their situation and the consequences of their actions. Although those convicted of lower offenses or first-time offenders might have to deal with sanctions they can overcome, the more severe the crime, the more overwhelming the punishment.

There are no definitive sentences for certain crimes, as judges have discretion as to how long to sentence a person. Certain factors will weigh on that decision, including the circumstances of the crime, the age of the accused, the age of the victim, and the number of times the defendant has been convicted of a crime.

A few of the ranges for certain violent crimes include the following:

  • Murder: Depending on the circumstances of the crime, a person can receive the death penalty, lifetime in prison without parole, life in prison, or 10 to 30 years in prison.
  • Kidnapping: Penalties can range from 10 to 20 years in prison for victims 14 years old and over to life imprisonment for victims 14 years old.
  • Kidnapping with bodily harm: If a victim is killed during the kidnapping, it could trigger the death penalty or life sentence without parole, or life with parole possible after 30 years.
  • Aggravated sexual battery: The punishments for this can range from 25 years in prison followed a lifetime of probation.
  • Armed robbery: Triggers a mandatory 10-year prison sentence with no eligibility for parole, 20 years in prison, life imprisonment, or the death penalty, depending on the circumstances around the crime.

Although these sentences can appear daunting, it is the job of our Savannah criminal defense lawyers to help bring arguments before the judge that can help prove a person’s innocence or provide a more reasonable sentence under the circumstances.

What Constitutes Driving Under the Influence in Georgia?

When a person decides to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they are in violation of Georgia law. In addition, given the impairment of a person’s senses when they drink, they become a danger on the road. That could lead them to cause a car accident that could wind up severely injuring someone.

To prevent such a catastrophe from taking place, Georgia has strong driving while under the influence (DUI) laws in place. A DUI charge is an arrestable offense in Georgia, and it is considered a non-violent crime and a misdemeanor.

There are two ways that a driver can be in violation of DUI laws in Georgia. The first is through a DUI per se interpretation. Under this version, a driver must be administered a breathalyzer or blood test to determine the level of alcohol in their system. If their blood-alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08 percent or greater, they are considered illegally intoxicated. The level is different for those driving a commercial vehicle. Their BAC level is 0.04 percent or more, and it is 0.02 percent or more for drivers under 21 years old.

The second standard is under the influence. Using this standard, a prosecutor must prove that the driver was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two while they were operating the vehicle. The person does not need to have a BAC level around the 0.08 percent legal threshold to be convicted. The prosecutor can point to a failed field sobriety test as evidence that the driver was in no condition to be driving.

What Are the Consequences of a DUI Conviction in Georgia?

Drunk driving in Georgia is a criminal offense, and a person will be arrested and charged with a crime. It is considered a non-violent misdemeanor, but given the danger a person poses to others when they get behind the wheel, the state is interested in making sure that the person remembers not to do it again.

Although drunk driving is a crime and is tried in criminal court, it is also an administrative proceeding. The criminal portion of the case is handled by the prosecutor’s office and could result in heavy fines and possible jailtime. The administrative portion of the case is handled by the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) and could result in a suspension of a driver’s license. The two cases operate independently of each other and have no bearing on either’s outcome. A person can receive a license suspension before they are convicted of a DUI charge.

What Happens During an Administrative License Suspension?

When a driver records a BAC level over 0.08 percent or refuses to take the test, they could be subject to a 12-month suspension of their license effective 30 days after their arrest. The more cooperative a driver, the more flexibility with the suspension.

Those that were willing to take the test will receive a restricted license during their suspension. That license allows them to drive to work, school, and regularly scheduled meetings for alcohol or substance abuse, but also for the purposes of attending court, probation appointments, community service, receiving medical care or treatments, or obtaining prescription drugs. They can also receive an early reinstatement of their license after 30 days if they attend a risk reduction course, DUI School, and pay a reinstatement fee.

Prior to the suspension taking effect, a person has 30 days to file an appeal. This period is referred to as the 30-day letter. The appeal must contain certain information and specific reasons for the appeal. If granted, the appeal is presided over by an administrative law judge (ALJ). These appeals are limited and can only discuss the following:

  • If the officer on the scene had reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and was lawfully placed under arrest for intoxicated driving.
  • If the person arrested was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death or physical harm of another person.
  • Determining if the officer informed the driver of their implied consent rights prior to being administered the test.
  • If the person refused the test.
  • The results of the test.
  • Whether the test was properly administered.

After the hearing, the final decision will be rendered and any suspension levied will be credited toward any criminal suspensions that are handed down. Those who have an out-of-state license cannot have their license suspended. However, the state will not be able to issue a restricted driving permit.

What Happens on the Criminal Side of a DUI Arrest?

The state of Georgia takes DUI charges very seriously, and as a result, it has harsh consequences, even if the person is a first-time offender. The punishments for those convicted are as follows:

  • First offense: A fine of $1,000 to $3,000 with a jail sentence of 24 hours to 12 months. A person may also have to serve 40 hours of community service at a non-profit organization.
  • Second offense: This must take place within 10 years of the first offense and includes a fine of $600 to $1,000 and a jail term of 72 hours to 12 months, with credit provided for any time served after the arrest, and 240 hours of community service. If this offense took place within five years of the first, the person will have to pay an additional $25 fee to have their picture and conviction posted in the county newspaper, and they must surrender the license plates to any vehicle registered in their name.
  • Third offense: If a person is convicted of this offense within 10 years of the last conviction, it is considered a high and aggravated misdemeanor. This type of crime carries with it a punishment of $1,000 to $5,000 fine along with a jail sentence of 15 days to 12 months with time served, and 240 months of community service. If the conviction occurs within five years from the previous conviction, they not only have to pay the $25 fee for the publications of the conviction in the county paper, but they also must surrender their vehicle to the state. However, they can petition a judge to transfer the title to someone else.

Along with these consequences, those convicted must also complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program, and they will also receive 12 months of probation. The probation period may include random drug and alcohol screenings and could be supervised or unsupervised. Finally, all those convicted must submit to a substance abuse evaluation to determine if they have an addiction problem and require further treatment.

How Can Savannah Criminal Defense Lawyers Help Me?

To convict a person of a criminal act, the prosecutor must prove a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the highest standard of conviction in the United States. A defendant needs an experienced lawyer on their side who can analyze a prosecutor’s case and determine any weaknesses that may exist.

There could have been procedural problems with a case, such as evidence was obtained illegally, or a statement was obtained under the wrong circumstances. A lawyer will help cast reasonable doubt on a case. If they are unable to do that, they will work with prosecutors to attempt to get their clients a reduced sentence.

Contact the Kicklighter Law team at 912-754-6003 
to schedule a consultation!

Savannah Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Stand Up for their Clients’ Rights in Criminal Proceedings

Facing a criminal charge is a traumatic and stressful time. If you are being accused of a crime, you want someone who will defend your rights. Our Savannah criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law will stand by your side. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. We are located in Springfield, Georgia, and we proudly serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.