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keep-calm-holidays-are-here.pngHappy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!! From Black Friday to New Years, the holidays and the biggest shopping days of the year are here again. That means that every retail store from Walmart to Kroger are not only trying to lure you in with sales, but they are also beefing up their security. Stores have developed elaborate systems to combat and prevent offenses ranging from credit card and check fraud, counterfeiting and shoplifting, and even pickpocketing and snatch and grab thefts. Undercover operatives roam the aisles and sophisticated camera networks spy on us from above. And where there are holiday parties there is also alcohol, and maybe even drugs. Police make hundreds of alcohol and drug related arrests during these few weeks.
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police-arrest.jpgRecently, I got a call from a mother whose college freshman son had been arrested for drug possession. I could see the expression on her face through the sound of her voice. It is the same timeless expression my parents had when I got in trouble when I was 17 years old. Growing up, I was the last of four children by nine years, so when an officer cited me for being a minor in possession of alcohol, my parents really weren’t even overly angry. In fact, they knew (or at least had an idea of) what was going to happen to me. That is no indictment of my older siblings, of course (*wink*). It’s just a fact. But even though my parents might have had prior similar experiences, they were still caught off guard by my teenage recklessness. They were still worried, as only parents can be, and desperate to know what steps to take to avoid the worst effects that being charged with a criminal offense could have on my future.
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cops at fest2.jpgAnother weekend, another festival in Atlanta. Music Midtown is over and Tomorrowland, another one of the world’s biggest music festivals, is coming next. Thousands of people flock to Atlanta for concerts, music fests, art shows, and sporting events. It is the perfect opportunity to cut loose and have fun. But it is also the perfect opportunity to get into trouble.

Police swarm these events. Hundreds of officers in uniform and hundreds more undercover are lurking and waiting to turn your fun filled weekend into a nightmare. Thinking you are immune from getting arrested is the easiest way to make it happen. You will get careless and not take the proper precautions. I know what it’s like to get caught up in the revelry. Believe me. I’ve been there. But you have to be aware of your surroundings, and you need to know who to call if something goes wrong.
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couple-arguing.jpgEver get into a spat with your spouse? Have you and your girlfriend or boyfriend, brother or sister, son, daughter, or parent been so angry at each other that one or both of you do something you immediately regret? Has it ever resulted in someone calling the police? If so, I’ll bet you never thought somebody would actually be arrested and hauled off to jail, did you? You just wanted the police to come and calm things down, cool things off, right? Then you found out the hard way that that is not a police officer’s job, and they are not your friends, didn’t you? “BUT I DON’T WANNA PRESS CHARGES,” you scream, only to find out that that’s just “TV talk.” Well, you’re not alone. It happens every single day.

Georgia considers domestic violence to be any acts of unwarranted aggression between married or formerly married couples, boyfriends and girlfriends (if they live together, or if they don’t live together but have children together – baby-mamas and baby-daddys), parents and children (including step or foster parents and step or foster children), and siblings; really, pretty much anyone in a domestic relationship.
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turnerfieldfireworks.jpgWell we are definitely in the heart of festival and concert season in Atlanta. From Braves games, to beer fests, to neighborhood events like the Inman Park festival, Sweetwater 420 Fest, Atlanta Dogwood Festival, the Highlands Summerfest, the 4th of July, and many others, spring and summer in Atlanta means hundreds of opportunities to celebrate good times with family and friends. It also means hundreds of opportunities to get in trouble.

No one ever plans on being in a situation where they face being arrested. But let’s be realistic. Alcohol, drugs, sunshine, loud music, and general vacation revelry put police especially on edge and make them ever vigilant and on the lookout for situations that get out of hand.
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1_lawyer_trial_faster_394255.jpgRemember Billy from Part 1? He was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession two years ago. It was his first offense and he did not hire an attorney. He plead guilty under Georgia’s conditional discharge drug first offender law when he might have been able to take advantage of, and participate in, a pretrial diversion program. He was recently arrested again for the same offense and won’t be able to take advantage of either one. Billy’s situation illustrates the importance of people facing criminal charges to hire or consult with an attorney, especially first time offenders.

Now meet Brenda. Brenda was pulled over in Cobb County and received a ticket for driving with an expired tag and she was given a date to appear in court. Before she was able to renew her tag, she was pulled over again in Dekalb County and received the same citation. Brenda’s Dekalb Recorders Court date was prior to her required appearance in Cobb County, so she appeared in Dekalb Recorders Court and disposed of her case. Brenda made a critical error, however. Without speaking to a lawyer, she thought that since she renewed her tag and her case was closed in dekalb that she did not have to go to court in Cobb. She was very wrong.
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Thumbnail image for keep_calm_and_call_your_lawyer_tshirts-rd344890ffde24af8924834bf42aa6b30_8naxt_512.jpgThe importance of seeking the advice of a lawyer when you are facing a criminal offense, no matter how insignificant you think it is, can not be overstated. Not long ago i spoke with two people whose recent legal difficulties are a direct result of not hiring an attorney when they faced prior criminal offenses.

Meet Billy. Two years ago, Billy was pulled over in in Dekalb County and consented to a search of his car. The police found a small bag containing less than an ounce of marijuana and he was arrested and taken to jail. Although police officers may take it somewhat easier on you if you cooperate, my advice, generally, is that you should not consent to a search. The State is obligated to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty using evidence that its agents (the police) find and collect. You have no obligation to help them collect the evidence. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution protect us against unreasonable search and seizures and self-incrimination. But once you consent to a search, all bets are off. The police can almost do whatever they want. So don’t consent to a search. Make them do their job.
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concert pic.jpgOther than being an international city, Atlanta is certainly one of the United States’ top five intercontinental cities. This past weekend was no exception. Between hosting the NCAA final four basketball tournament championship, the Chicago Cubs in town to play the Atlanta Braves, free concerts by the likes of The Zac Brown Band, Sting, and The Dave Matthews Band, and other fun celebratory events, thousands of Atlanta residents welcomed tens of thousands more people from all over the country to enjoy the festivities and the perfect weather. These times of the year are huge boosts to the local economy. But a lot of the money generated by these kinds of events comes from a source that most people forget. Criminal fines.

Any time Atlanta plays host to so many people doing so many different things, the many police departments within Atlanta and the surrounding Atlanta metropolitan area become especially vigilant. Officers work extra shifts and longer hours, so more officers are in more places. Police will issue hundreds upon hundreds of traffic tickets, and even more citations for other minor offenses. Police will likely make several thousand more arrests for offenses like disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, public drunkenness, minor in possession of alcohol, DUI and other alcohol related crimes; misdemeanor marijuana possession and other drug related offenses; different types of violent crimes like battery, domestic violence, assault, and possession of guns and other weapons; and theft offenses like shoplifting, fraud and identity theft.
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shplftngpic2.jpgWho shoplifts? That is really a rhetorical question. It doesn’t have a specific answer. The shoplifter is profile-proof. There are certainly career criminals out there, those who are simply seeking a cheap thrill (literally), and those that just decide at the last minute that they want to get something for nothing. Women shoplift. Men shoplift. Children and adults alike, rich people, poor people, nobodies and public figures are all guilty of shoplifting.

A common thread of shoplifting, however, is that it rarely has anything to do with whether or not a person can afford to pay for the merchandise. The stereotype is, of course, the daring, adrenaline junkie teenager. But more often than not the shoplifter suffers from underlying psychological stresses that they are trying to mask or alleviate. Almost invariably, if you ask someone why they did it, “i don’t know” will likely be the response you get.

It can become an addiction as strong as any other vice. Shoplifters know right from wrong. But when depression, anxiety, fears, and other stresses become overwhelming, the act of shoplifting takes their mind off of those problems, and the rush achieved from a successful “take” can be like a drug. What they do not acknowledge or admit to themselves, however, is that it only makes those negative and painful feelings worse. According the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, about a third of the people involved in psychological studies conducted on shoplifters suffer from some form of depression.
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tdkrfilesjohndoe.jpgYou might be surprised to learn how easy it is for one person to have a warrant taken out for another person’s arrest. It happens all the time in theft cases; or in fraud cases, if someone passes a bad check; or in assault and battery, and domestic violence cases where police either were not called, or were called but did not discover enough evidence to make an arrest.

The procedure is relatively easy. If a person wants to take out a warrant for your arrest, all they have to do is go to the magistrate court of the county where the alleged wrongdoing took place and fill out a warrant application. The applicant provides as much information as they want to describe why they want a warrant against you. Once the application is filed, the court will send out a notice for you to appear in court before the magistrate judge. Here the applicant will have the opportunity to present whatever evidence they have to support their allegation, and you have the opportunity to defend yourself in an effort to prevent the judge from issuing the warrant.
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