Tricks Police Use After You’ve Been Arrested for DUI – License Suspension

If you’ve been arrested for DUI in the State of Georgia, there are several different scenarios you may face with regard to your drivers license. This is so because (contrary to popular belief) cops are human beings. Not only do they make mistakes but, like all other animals, Police often choose the path of least resistance when doing their jobs.

When a police officer arrests someone for DUI in Georgia, he/she may confiscate your license under a couple of different circumstances. The most common are 1) If you refused to give a sample of your blood, breath, urine or other bodily substance and/or 2) If you gave a sample and that sample came back at .08 or higher. After confiscating your license, the officer is supposed to provide you with a DDS Form 1205.

Confusion arises when the officer 1) Takes your license, but doesn’t give you a 1205, 2) Fails to take your license, but gives you a Form 1205, or 3) Takes your license and gives you a 1205 despite the fact that you fail to meet any of the criteria for suspending your license.

In each and every one of the situations above, you MUST contact an experienced DUI Attorney and get a 10-Day letter sent to the Department of Driver Services as soon as possible!

As mentioned above, the police often choose the path of least resistance when doing their jobs (in other words, they’re lazy). Administrative License Suspension (ALS) hearings are always during the day…and sometimes they’re even held in the afternoons. The law enforcement officers who make the most DUI arrests, not surprisingly, work at night. They, like everyone else, value their sleep. Attending an ALS Hearing at 1pm is going to seriously cut into their sleep schedule or time off. They do not want to prepare for these hearings and they do not want to attend if they don’t have to. Hence the “tricks” above they’ll employ to get out of going.

In scenario “1” above, if the officer takes your license, but doesn’t give you a DDS Form 1205, he/she could still initiate license suspension paperwork without your knowledge. If you fail to request your ALS Hearing, your license will be suspended automatically without his/her having to attend a hearing. The officer will get the benefit of suspending your license without having to do any work. If your license has been confiscated, you should call a reputable DUI Law Firm as soon as you’re released from jail.

In scenario “2” above, where the officer doesn’t take your license, but does give you the DDS Form 1205, this could just be sloppy police work. It could also be the officer’s attempt to make you believe no action is being taken to suspend your license. If you walk out of the jail, license in-hand, you could be lulled into a false sense of security thinking, “at least they didn’t take my license.” This is a mistake! If the officer submits the DDS Form 1205 on his end, you have 10 days to respond or you could potentially face a 1 year suspension. Comb through the paperwork you were given when you were released. If a DDS Form 1205 is among those documents you should call a DUI Defense Lawyer immediately.

Finally, in scenario “3”, sometimes the police just don’t know the law and/or sometimes they want to see if they can “sneak in” a suspension. Why? Because they can! This usually happens where a driver is arrested for DUI, consents to blow in the Intoxilyzer machine and yet doesn’t blow a .08 or higher. The driver will still be charged with DUI Less Safe, but these circumstances do not (usually) warrant confiscation of a driver’s license (unless you’re a commercial driver or under age 21). If the officer still takes your license and/or gives you a Form 1205, you will be facing a 1-year suspension if you fail to respond to this within 10 days. You should consult with an experienced DUI lawyer immediately upon your release from jail.

Not only is DUI one of the most serious misdemeanor offenses to be charged with in the State of Georgia, it is also one of the most complicated. You should not trust your case to a general practitioner without extensive DUI experience and training. Furthermore, it’s unwise to try and handle these things yourself.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with DUI in Georgia, contact The Carnell Law Firm, LLC. today. You can reach Jason Carnell via email at jason@carnellfirm.com or by phone at 770-322-4990. Also, there’s a wealth of information on DUI on Jason’s website at http://www.carnellfirm.com.

 

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The One-Leg-Stand Portion of the Field Sobriety Test

The One-Leg-Stand is the third and final portion of the NHTSA Field Sobriety test you can expect to have conducted by Police during a DUI stop. A skilled DUI Lawyer can give you a comprehensive explanation of the entire DUI Field Sobriety Test and how the results of your One-Leg-Stand can be downplayed or used to your advantage,

Like the Walk-and-Turn, the One-Leg-Stand is divided into two stages. First is the “Instruction Stage” followed by the “Balance and Counting Stage”. During the Instruction Stage, you are being evaluated. While nothing the officer observes during this stage is a “clue of impairment”, everything the officer observes is admissible at trial. As such, if you start the test before the officer tells you to begin, the officer will note that and will testify that you did so despite the fact that it has no scientific value as to whether or not you’re impaired. While that alone won’t result in a conviction for DUI, it’s important to follow the officer’s instructions and NOT start the exam until told to do so.

The officer’s instructions will sound something like this:

“Please stand with your feet together and your arms down by your side like this (demonstrates). Do not start to perform the test until I tell you to do so. Do you understand the instructions so far?”

Then the officer will say something like this:

“When I tell you to start, raise one leg, either leg, with the foot approximately six inches off the ground, keeping your raised foot parallel to the ground (demonstrate). Keep both legs straight, arms down by your side.”

“While holding that position, count out loud in the following manner: ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three’, until told to stop (demonstrate). Keep your arms at your sides at all times and keep watching the raised foot. Do you understand? Go ahead and perform the test.”

The officer is supposed to terminate the test after 30 seconds and to make note of the following “clues of impairment”:

1)      Sways while balancing – The DUI officer should be looking for a side-to-side or back-and-forth motion while the DUI suspect is in the one-leg stand position.

2)      Uses arms for balance – The DUI officer should be watching to see if the DUI suspect’s arms rise six or more inches from the body in order to keep balance.

3)      Hopping – The DUI officer is watching to see if the DUI suspect begins hopping on his/her planted foot.

4)      Puts foot down – Putting the foot down one or more times in 30 seconds is considered a clue of impairment.

In their Field Sobriety Training, Police Officers are trained to believe that demonstrating 2 or more of the above clues during the One-Leg-Stand is evidence of a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher on 65% of people tested.

There are many problems with this test and a good DUI Defense Attorney should be skilled at understanding this test and taking it apart.

First is timing. Police Officers are trained on the importance of making sure the suspect’s foot is in the air for 30 seconds. This is because, according to their training, someone with a .10 blood alcohol level may be able to keep their foot in the air for 25 seconds, but not for 30 seconds. Well, if 5 seconds makes that much of a difference on the one end, it certainly makes a difference on the other. As such, if the Officer had you keep your foot up for LONGER than 30 seconds, anything done after the 30 second mark should not be considered a clue of impairment.

Secondly, environmental conditions should be considered when giving the test. Officers are instructed that the test requires reasonably dry, hard, level and non-slippery surfaces in order to administer the test. As such, evidence that the surface you were tested on was not dry, hard, level or non-slippery is evidence that the test’s results are invalid. A good DUI Defense Attorney will suggest that you (or another potential witness) go back to the scene with a small level and take pictures of the carpenter’s level on the surface where your test was given. Any indication of a sloped surface would obviously throw the results of your examination into question.

Third, anyone 65 years of age or older, 50lbs or more overweight or anyone suffering from back, leg or inner ear problems have difficulty performing this test stone sober. These are all questions the officer should pose before administering the test or observations he should make without asking. Failure to do so demonstrates sloppy workmanship and brings the overall administration of the test into question. Furthermore, these figures aren’t just some magical threshold that, once passed, you’re suddenly incapable of taking the test. So, if you’re close to 65 or close to 50lbs overweight, if could affect the outcome of the test. A skilled DUI Lawyer can get the arresting officer to admit this on cross-examination.

Next, the whole test is just silly and a good DUI Attorney can demonstrate that. A jury full of young athletic men might think there’s nothing to it, but a jury full of average people are, justifiably, going to wonder whether or not any of them can keep their foot in the air like that for 30 seconds without trying to use their arms for balance. This is, of course, is why the test is only 65% reliable under optimal conditions with optimal suspects in an optimal and controlled environment.

If you were given the One-Leg-Stand portion of the Field Sobriety Test and were subsequently arrested for DUI, you should consult with an experienced DUI Attorney. Only a law firm specializing in DUI defense can fully ensure you have the best information available to attack the results of your Field Sobriety Test.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with DUI in Georgia, get them the best defense possible. Contact DUI Attorney Jason Carnell by visiting his website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. You can reach him by email at jason@carnellfirm.com or by phone at 770-322-4990.

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The Walk-and-Turn portion of the DUI Field Sobriety Test in Georgia

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created the Walk-and-Turn (and it’s twin sister the One-Leg-Stand) to serve as “divided attention tests” for people suspected of DUI. They equate these demands of these tests to driving because operating a motor vehicle is admittedly also a divided-attention task.

The Walk-and-Turn is divided into two stages: the Instruction Stage and the Walking Stage. During the Instruction Stage, the DUI suspect is asked to “assume the position”. The Officer’s instructions usually go something like this:

“I want you to imagine a line from X to Y. I want you to take your left foot and put it on that line. Then, I want you to take your right foot, put it in front of your left foot with your heel touching your toes. I want you to put your arms down by your side and remain in this position while I give the instructions. Maintain this position until I have completed the instructions. Do not start to walk until told to do so. Do you understand the instructions so far?”

The purpose of this “exercise” is to test the DUI Suspect’s balance and to divide his/her attention while he focuses on remaining in this position AND focuses on the instructions the DUI Officer is about to give. DUI Suspects will make mistakes, during the Instruction Stage, in the following ways:

1)      They’ll lose balance

2)      They’ll begin walking before the DUI Officer is done giving instructions

The DUI Officer will then inform the DUI Suspect of what they must do to complete the Walking Stage of the Walk-and-Turn. The DUI Officer’s instruction’s usually go something like this:

“When I tell you to start, take 9 heel-to-toe steps, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. (They should demonstrate 3 steps). When you turn, keep your front foot on the line, and turn by taking  a series of small steps with the other foot, like this. (They should demonstrate the turn) While you are walking, keep your arms at your sides, watch your feet at all times, and count your steps out loud. Once you start walking, don’t stop until you have completed the test. Do you understand the instructions? Begin, and count your first step from the heel-to-toe position as ‘One’.”

DUI Suspects will make mistakes, during the Walking Stage, in the following ways:

1)      They’ll stop after they’ve started

2)      They will fail to touch heel to toe every time

3)      They’ll step off the line

4)      They’ll use their arms to balance (more than 6” from their sides)

5)      They’ll lose balance during their turn or turn incorrectly

6)      They’ll take the wrong number of steps

If the DUI Officer observes ANY 2 OR MORE of the above “clues”, he’s trained to interpret those results to mean that the DUI Suspect has a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher. Because there are 8 possible “clues” it’s incredibly easy for a DUI Suspect to exhibit 2 or more. In fact, practically every DUI client I’ve ever had failed to perform the turn correctly.

WAYS TO CHALLENGE THE WALK-AND-TURN

First, DUI Officers are trained to ensure a DUI Suspect is allowed to perform this evaluation on a reasonably dry, hard, level and non-slippery surface. They should have sufficient room to complete all 9 heel-to-toe steps.

NHTSA research has shown that anyone over the age of 65, or those with back, leg or inner ear problems have difficulty performing the test stone sober.

Anyone wearing heels 2” or taller should be allowed to remove their shoes to perform the test barefoot.

The Walk-and-Turn, by itself, is only 68% accurate, under controlled conditions, at estimating someone’s blood alcohol level.

Most DUI Officers have had so much practice at spouting the instructions that they zip through them very quickly. Giving a jury the same instructions, at the same speed, and asking them to go accurately perform the test in the deliberation room can be a very powerful tool for any DUI Defense Lawyer.

Often the DUI Officers haven’t had refresher training in YEARS! It’s recommended they receive a refresher every 2 years. As a result, many of these officers have sorta forgotten the exact wording of the “clue” they’re supposed to be observing and marking. For example, there’s really nothing in the instructions on which foot to begin walking with. While it’s most natural for your first step to be with your back foot, some DUI Suspects might take the imaginary line very seriously and start with their front foot. This is not a “clue”. Nonetheless, the arresting officer will probably list it as one and use it as a basis for arresting you.

The video of your Field Sobriety Test can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If your “clues” are easily observable by the jury and highly exaggerated (ie using arms to balance and swaying from side to side) it can be highly detrimental to your case. On the other hand, if the “clues” are difficult or impossible for the jury to observe (such as whether or not you actually touched heal-to-toe on all 18 steps) they tend to disregard such clues. At the end of the day, a good well-executed Walk-and-Turn on video can be very convincing as it is evidence of your ability to perform divided-attention tests. .  .like driving a vehicle.

If you were stopped and arrested for DUI in Georgia, you should consult with an experienced DUI Lawyer. Attorney Jason Carnell has been through the exact same training police officers receive at the academy and is intimately familiar with the NHTSA Field Sobriety Test. Let an experienced DUI Attorney read your police report, watch the video of your Field Sobriety Tests and give you an honest assessment of your chances in front of a jury.

Call The Carnell Law Firm, LLC. today at 770-322-4990, email me at jason@carnellfirm.com or visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com

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Nationwide Increase in Motorcycle Accidents and Injuries

The United States Department of Transportation released some surprising statistics on motorcycle safety through 2011. In that year alone more than 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle accidents. This figure is an increase from 2010. Motorcycle accident Attorney Jason Carnell dives deeper into this report and analyzes the factors behind the surprising increase in motorcycle deaths.

The figures were compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which included a nine year period from 2002 to 2011. NHTSA considered several types of vehicles to be classified as “motorcycles”. This list includes mopeds, scooters, pocket bikes, off-road motorcycles, mini bikes, and two or three-wheeled motorcycles.

NHTSA did report a significant increase in registered motorcycles in the nine years between 2002 and 2011. In other words, more people were buying and riding more “motorcycles”. As one might expect, all else being equal you would expect to see increases in injuries and fatalities throughout the country.

Nonetheless, one terrifying statistic is the fact that, per mile traveled, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in an accident than those in cars.

Overall, motorcyclists account for nearly 15% of all traffic fatalities. This is an incredible figure considering that motorcycles make up only 3% of all vehicles on American roadways.

In crashes involving two vehicles, a large majority occurred when the other vehicle struck the motorcycle from the front, rather than rear-ending it. Among the nearly 2,000 two-vehicle crashes in 2011, nearly 40% of them occurred when the motorcycle was going straight and the other car was turning left.

NHTSA also divided up motorcycle fatality data according to age, year, and day of the week the crash occurred. Somewhat surprisingly, the most fatalities occurred in people aged 40 and up, on the weekdays, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. This is surprising in that young drivers/riders are stereotypically the most dangerous on the road. While this is apparently true for cars and trucks, on motorcycles, middle-aged riders seem to be at significantly more risk.

The study claims that more than 1,300 motorcyclists aged 40 and up died in motorcycle crashes on a weekday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in 2011. This can be compared to just 654 motorcyclists under the age of 30 suffering the same fate, and only 411 motorcyclists between 30 and 39. Of course, these figures may be misleading as the demographic for motorcycle ownership seems to favor older riders. As such, there may just be more of them.

The study confirmed that motorcyclist with larger displacement engines were also at greater risk. Motorcyclists riding a bike with an engine size of 1001cc or higher showed a 60% increase in fatalities between 2002 and 2011, compared to 30% increase for riders using smaller engines. People riding without a valid motorcycle license also experienced a larger increase in their fatality motorcycle crash rate.

Motorcyclists have a tendency to engage in other riskier behavior than their auto-driving counterparts. The study showed that motorcyclists have the highest percentage of previous driving offenses, such as DUI and license revocation, of all vehicle drivers.

The leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents is, by far, traumatic head injury. Studies have shown that helmets are about 37% effective in preventing brain injury in these crashes. NHTSA estimates that helmets save over 1,600 lives every year. As of 2011, only 20 states have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets though.

As a motorcycle accident attorney, I’d like to remind everyone to look out for and share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers of all types. If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed in a vehicle accident caused by the negligence of another, contact me immediately. You can visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. I can also be reached via email at jason@carnellfirm.com and by phone at 770-322-4990.

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DUI Field Sobriety Tests

If you happen to find yourself being subjected to a roadside field sobriety test based on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there are some things about these tests you need to understand. First, the tests generally fall into two categories. There are:

  • Standard field sobriety tests (SFST): These tests have actually been subjected to some degree of scientific testing and have been found to be somewhat valid.
  • Non-standard field sobriety tests (NSFST): These are usually referred to as Field Sobriety Techniques as most have not been subjected to any scientific testing. Nonetheless, their results are generally admissible in Georgia Courts. As such, you should know of/about them.

Standard field sobriety tests
SFSTs consist of three evaluations developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The three tests are:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  • Walk and turn
  • One-leg stand

HGN
Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyes. This involuntary jerking occurs naturally as the eyes move to the side. This test is usually conducted by moving an object (pen or finger) side to side in front of a person’s face, and asking them to follow it with their eyes. The head must remain stationary. The officer looks for three indicators during the evaluation:

  1. Lack of smooth pursuit (jerking of the eye while following the object)
  2. Distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation (when the object is way out to the sides of the person’s face, the eyes continue “bouncing” from the corner of the eye opening)
  3. The angle at which jerking starts is within 45-degrees of center

The officer will score the suspect on a 0-6 scale for the number of clues he/she observes. The officer should always observe an even number of clues. In other words, nystagmus is symmetrical. Should 1 eye show a “clue’ on lack of smooth pursuit, the other eye should as well.

The officer is trained to believe that observing 4 or more clues is an indication that the suspect’s blood alcohol level is .10 or higher.

Walk and turn
The walk-and-turn test is conducted by having a person take nine heel-to-toe steps, along a straight line, followed by a turn on one foot and nine steps back in the same direction toward the suspect’s original starting point. The examiner looks for eight “clues” of impairment. The officer will make note of whether or not the suspect:

  1. Cannot keep balance while listening to instructions
  2. Begins before instructions are finished
  3. Stops while walking to regain balance
  4. Does not touch heel-to-toe
  5. Steps off the line
  6. Uses arms to keep balance (raised more than 6” from the sides)
  7. Makes an improper turn
  8. Takes an incorrect number of steps

The officer will score a suspect on a 0-8 scale based on the number of clues he/she observes. The officer is trained to believe that 2 or more clues suggests that the suspect’s blood alcohol is .10 or higher.

The biggest problem most suspects face, with this test, is that the test involves lengthy instructions. Even a stone sober suspect SHOULD request that the officer repeat, both, the instructions and his/her demonstration of the exam. Most suspects are too nervous to make such a request.

The One-leg stand
The one-leg stand test is conducted by having the suspect stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud to a specific number, or until told to stop. The examiner looks for four indicators of impairment:

  1. Swaying while balancing
  2. Using arms to balance (raised more than 6” from the sides)
  3. Hopping to maintain balance
  4. Putting the foot down.

The officer should allow the suspect to hold the foot off the ground for 30 seconds.

The officer will score a suspect on a 0-4 scale based on the number of clues he/she observes. The officer is trained to believe that 2 or more clues suggests that a suspect’s blood alcohol is .10 or higher. They are told this is true 65% of the time.

Non-standardized field tests
NSFSTs are classified as any other mental or coordination test an officer may give to a subject in an effort to determine impairment. These commonly include:

  • Rhomberg Balance Test: this requires the driver to stand, feet together, and lean the head back to look up at the sky while holding their arms out to the side. The officer is simply looking for a loss of balance. This test is not taught in Georgia as part of Standardized Field Sobriety Training.
  • Finger-To-Nose Test: this requires the driver might to close his or her eyes and bring the finger around to touch the nose. This test is not taught in Georgia as part of Standardized Field Sobriety Training.
  • Finger Count Test: requires driver to touch the tip of the thumb in turn to the tip of each finger on the same hand while simultaneously counting up (1, 2, 3, 4) and then to go backwards counting in reverse order (4, 3, 2, 1).
  • Hand Pat Test: the driver is asked to extend a hand in front, palm upwards. The other hand is then placed on top of the first hand, palm downwards. The driver then ‘pats’ the lower hand with the upper hand by rotating it, so that first the lower hand is patted with the palm of the upper hand and then with the back of the upper hand. This test is not taught in Georgia as part of Standardized Field Sobriety Training.
  • ABCs: the driver is asked to recite part of the alphabet. The officer instructs them to begin at a certain letter (other than “A”) and to stop at some letter (other than “Z”) and to avoid singing.
  • Numbers Backward Test: the driver must count backwards. Self-explanatory. This test is not taught in Georgia as part of Standardized Field Sobriety Training.

For more information on DUI law, visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. I can be reached at jason@carnellfirm.com or by phone at 770-322-4990.

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Online Advertising

Thumbtack seems to be another good way to get your name, business name and website out there for viewing by the public. I recommend you give it a try if you’re trying to launch a small business. Thanks

<a href=”http://www.thumbtack.com/The-Carnell-Law-Firm-LLC-Norcross-GA/service/833351″>The Carnell Law Firm, LLC.</a>

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Horizontal Gaze & Nystagmus (HGN) Field Sobriety Test

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Defenses to Assault and Battery in Georgia

A person charged with simple assault or simple battery in Georgia has several affirmative defenses at his/her disposal should he/she go to trial. An effective assault defense attorney, battery defense lawyer and/or criminal defense attorney will know how to effectively employ these defenses in your favor.

First, and foremost, is the self-defense argument. In Georgia, “a person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force. . .”

In order to effectively utilize this defense, there should be some evidence that you (or someone else) had been attacked or reasonably believed an attack was imminent. While pleading the Fifth Amendment is usually a good idea, when you’ve been attacked you probably want to ensure the police know you were responding to aggression.

Next, is the affirmative defense of defense of one’s habitation. In Georgia, “a person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation . . .”

It’s important to not the element of “reasonableness” in this affirmative defense. It would be unreasonable to pull a gun on the repo man in your driveway. On the other hand, should an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend refuse to leave your foyer, pushing them out the door would probably NOT be unreasonable. Ultimately, the reasonableness of your decision to use force will be judged by your peers.

Finally, there is the affirmative defense of “opprobrious or abusive language”. In Georgia, “A person charged with the offense of simple assault or simple battery may introduce in evidence any opprobrious or abusive language used by the person against whom force was threatened or used; and the trier of facts may, in its discretion, find that the words used were justification for simple assault or simple battery.”

This means that you don’t necessarily have to stand there and take it should someone be “in your face” calling your mother (or someone else dear to you) every name in the book. Again, your decision to act will be judged by your peers. As such, if the language is not something that would incite the ordinary person it may not be sufficient to help you at trial.

It is important to understand that these defenses do not “win” the case for someone charged with simple assault or simple battery. It is merely evidence in your favor. Because you have presented evidence of one (or more) of the affirmative defenses, the trial judge will instruct the jury on the above law. Your attorney will then be able to argue how that law fits the facts presented at trial. The argument will conclude with his/her plea that you should be acquitted because you were defending yourself (or were subjected to opprobrious or abusive language etc.).

 Should you wish to avoid trial, evidence of defense of person, defense of habitation or opprobrious/abusive language may be enough to persuade the prosecution to reduce the charges or even dismiss the case.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with simple assault or simple battery in the Metro Atlanta area, visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. I can be reached with your questions via email at jason@carnellfirm.com and you can always call me at 770-322-4990.

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Georgia Motor Vehicle Accident Reports

Whether you were a driver, passenger, bicyclist, motorcyclist or pedestrian involved in an auto accident in Georgia, what you do immediately following the crash can have a significant impact on your ability to obtain compensation for the injuries you sustain. These accidents are traumatic and unanticipated incidents. People generally do not plan ahead for these events. Those who suffer injuries are not focused on the most efficient way to preserve evidence or their rights. If anything, they’re mostly focused on getting their lives back to normal. This usually involves seeing doctors and attempting to get their automobile looking the way it did prior to the accident.

One important aspect of any auto accident claim is the Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report, completed by the investigating police officer. The benefits of this Accident Report are only realized if the police are notified of the collision so that they can interview those on the scene and examine the vehicles and other physical evidence. Such evidence may include injuries, vehicle damage, skids on the roadway and more. Driver’s often forego calling the police and simply exchange insurance and driver’s license information to save time. Unfortunately, doing so may cost injured parties tremendously. Not only does the absence of an accident report harm their case with regard to fault, but leaving the scene, injured, without immediately seeking treatment can harm their auto accident lawsuit with regard to damages as well.

While the report itself is inadmissible, it is useful as a basic starting point in determining liability for a crash and can help preserve important evidence. Georgia Accident Reports include a description of the accident based on witness statements, the position of the vehicles, body damage to the vehicles and, sometimes even pictures. Most reports include “contributing factors” which, in the officer’s opinion, caused or led to the accident. This opinion, generally, will be based on which driver violated some uniform rule of the roads of Georgia. At trial, the officer may refer to these contributing factors during his testimony.

While the officer’s opinion can be helpful when negotiating with the other driver’s insurance company, a good personal injury lawyer can demonstrate that the officer is mistaken or only partially correct regarding these contributing factors. As such, even if you were cited with a violation of the Georgia traffic code, that does not mean the other driver was not at fault. The facts surrounding your accident are often susceptible to multiple interpretations, and witness accounts often vary and conflict. For example, both parties may claim they had the green light after a collision in the intersection. The officer may cite one driver, over the other, just due to police department policy necessitating the need to cite someone following an accident. These “who ran the red light” cases often end up litigated and can hinge on the slightest conflict in the evidence as to who was ultimately at fault.

It is vitally important that, if you were cited with a ticket for an accident, and you do not feel you were at fault, you should consult with an auto accident attorney immediately and preferably one skilled in handling traffic offenses as well. If you plead guilty to the citation which was issued, it can and will be used against you in any personal injury case against the other driver. Hiring a personal injury lawyer who doubles as a traffic offense attorney may be the most important decision you make toward preserving your rights.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an auto accident of any kind, please visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. Contact me with your questions at jason@carnellfirm.com or you can call me at 770-322-4990.

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Stalking in Georgia

O.C.G.A. §16-5-90 is the Georgia statute prohibiting stalking. The paragraph outlining the prohibited conduct is so convoluted, only an elected representative could possibly derive any sense from it. This blog article will attempt to inform non-lawyers of activity which my constitute stalking in the State of Georgia.

You can be charged with stalking for:

1)     Engaging in surveillance of another person

2)     Any contact with another person

3)     Any computer contact with another person

4)     Any mail contact with another person

5)     Any telephone contact with another person

6)     Any computer network contact with another person

7)     Any broadcast somehow communicating with or targeted at another person

The contact described above must be “harassing or intimidating” to constitute a crime.

The statute specifically defines “harassing or intimidating” as, “. . .a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear for such person’s safety or the safety of a member of his or her immediate family, by establishing a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, and which serves no legitimate purpose.”

Like all poorly-worded, ambiguous statutes, this one cites the term itself as part of the definition of that term.

Furthermore, no overt threat of death or bodily harm is necessary to establish a crime under this statute.

A first offense of stalking is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, plus court costs.

A second, and subsequent, conviction for stalking is a felony punishable by 1-10 years in prison.

A word to the wise, if someone has expressed any desire for you to discontinue communication with them, STOP. The broad, ambiguous, language of this statute can easily be construed to criminalize the most innocuous and harmless persistency.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with (or might be charged with) stalking, you may need a stalking defense attorney. You can contact me via email at jason@carnellfirm.com or call me at 770-322-4990. For more information, visit my website at http://www.carnellfirm.com.

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