Articles Posted in FIRST OFFENDER

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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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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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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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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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1327422100_img0.jpgGetting arrested for the first time probably ranks in the top five most frightening things that can happen to us. But once the initial shock wears off, it is important for people to realize that almost every jurisdiction in the state has, or with the signing of the new Georgia Crime Bill, will soon have programs designed to allow first time offenders an opportunity to prevent their arrest from haunting the rest of their lives. These are called pretrial intervention (PTI) or pretrial diversion programs. These programs literally “intervene” or “divert” away from the prosecution of a person’s case, the end result being, upon successful completion, a dismissal of the charges and an eligibility to expunge your criminal record.

These programs are generally case-specific but most, if not all, jurisdictions with these programs have a list of offenses for which they will offer a first offender PTI. But prosecutors review these instances on a case by case basis, potentially rejecting someone’s participation in a program based on the facts of the case. This can happen, for instance, in simple battery and domestic violence cases. Prosecutors often understand that people in any kind of relationship, from strangers to spouses, can have altercations. If police are called to investigate, they typically make an arrest. If the “victim” is particularly injured or other aspects of the facts are particularly egregious, a prosecutor may not feel that PTI is appropriate and other first offender options will need to be explored, such as resolving the case under Georgia’s First Offender Law.

  • What would I have to do?
  • How long does the program last?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What if I’m really not guilty of what I’m charged with? Why should I have to do anything or participate in any program?

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