Articles Posted in CRIMINAL DEFENSE

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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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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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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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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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cn_image.size.security-lax-gun-in-bagThe terror attacks of 9/11/2001 resulted in a new era of restrictions and laws concerning airport security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to develop new and increasingly invasive technologies and procedures to stop people from sneaking dangerous devises onto planes.

Lately, USA Today reported that according to the TSA more than 1500 guns were discovered at airport checkpoints throughout the United States in 2012. In 2011, more than 1300, many of them loaded. Through the end of November 2012, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport confiscated 80 handguns, the most of any other airport. USA Today quoted David Castelveter, spokesman for the TSA, acknowledging that people who probably “didn’t know they couldn’t carry them or were not aware they were in the bag” bring the majority of weapons that come through airports.
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Law Book.jpgThere is that old saying that we have all heard: “the person who choses to represent themselves has a fool for a client.” I see it all the time, though. Most people don’t know this about lawyers, but one of our primary activities in a courtroom is waiting. We wait for our client’s case to be called and then proceed to manage their case. But in the meantime, we can watch and observe everyone else and how they have chosen to handle their case. I would say that about 2% of the people out there have, at a minimum, spoken to an attorney before they ventured into court. If they have not at least consulted with a lawyer, they are well prepared to defend their position understanding that it’s the State’s representative’s job to prove the case.

The other 98% don’t fair as well. This happens more often in lower municipal courts on traffic citations and other state violation that can be prosecuted there. If a person cannot afford an attorney, the State is required to provide one upon request. Some lower courts, like the City of Atlanta Municipal Court, provide public defenders. This gives people access to at least seek advice before proceeding, but it is surprising how many people do not take advantage of the opportunity. Many lower courts in other smaller counties do not have public defenders present. So many people acquiesce to whatever punishment is handed to them by the prosecutor and judge without asking for time to speak with a lawyer.

It’s sad, really.
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warrant.jpegIt is not an easy concept for many people to grasp. Where I think people get hung up is on the misconception and misperception that we, as defense attorneys, condone, or ignore, or tolerate, or even advocate bad behavior and law breaking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Theoretically, defense attorneys and prosecutors are on the same side. Theoretically, we are both in pursuit of the same goal, making sure the constitution is upheld, making sure justice is served, and society is made better by our efforts. Very idealistic, I know. But the theory is made more practical when we start to interact. What makes the relationship, by definition, adversarial is how we go about reaching that goal.

The fundamental question when someone (anyone) is accused of committing a crime is “if the evidence is presented to a rational fact finder, could the State prove it?” That is their job. Our job is not so much to keep them from doing so, but to make sure that, if they can, they do so in accordance with the Constitution. Violation of one person’s rights is a violation of everyone’s rights. Again, very idealistic. But it is hard to rebut, is it not? If something can happen one person, it can happen to all of us.

Take, for instance, the latest potential example of the State acting outside the boundaries of the Constitution.
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