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Steakley Law Firm

Advance Directive for Healthcare in Georgia

ADVANCE DIRECTIVE FOR HEALTHCARE IN GEORGIA

You have the right to control all aspects of your personal care and medical treatment, including the right to insist upon medical treatment or direct that medical treatment be withheld or withdrawn. If you cannot (or do not want to) communicate your healthcare decisions for yourself, you have the right to choose someone to make healthcare decisions for you. You also have the right to state your treatment preferences if you have a terminal condition or are in a state of permanent unconsciousness.

Read more: Advance Directive for Healthcare in Georgia

Bonding

Hands Bars BWWhen a loved one is arrested and accused of a crime, a local magistrate judge will likely set a bail amount for their release. This is a way for them to regain their freedom and go about their lives while their case is pending. This bail amount can usually be met using either cash, real estate, or through the use of a surety like a bail bonding company.

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Common Myths

The world is full of "street law" which are nothing more than myths about law and the criminal justice process.  Some of these myths are based on old law that no longer applies, while other myths have never been true.  Find out which is which. 

Read more: Common Myths

Expungements and Restriction of Records

criminal-background-check 424Many people wish they could erase all traces of the mistakes of their past. Unfortunately, this is more difficult to do than most people think.

Once we are no longer juveniles, we must live with our choices for the rest of our lives.

There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation and "street law" about criminal records that simply isn't true. As a general rule, criminal convictions are never expunged and do not "fall off" your criminal history after some period of time.   Short of a pardon from a sitting Governor or a reversal of the conviction on appeal to a higher court, convictions are nearly impossible to remove.

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Free Legal Advice

dollar-sign-strike-out-150x150 BWThe best free advice you can ever get is this: Hire a lawyer. People take bad situations and make them much worse by not being proactive and getting an attorney involved early in their case.  If you think or suspect that an arrest is imminent, you should call this office immediately.  If that isn't possible, it is important that you do not make an already bad situation worse. The more of the following things you can do, the better your chances that I can help you later.

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Georgia Terms of Court

     Many of your rights expire or are limited by the "term" of court. A "term of court" is a period of time that the court is in session for business. Terms of court are found in the Georgia Code at O.C.G.A. § 15-6-3.  Around metro Atlanta, Columbus, Augusta, Savannah, and other more populated places, the courts are open for business all year long. Nevertheless, we still follow the term system that started way back when judges rode from county to county on horseback taking care of business for a few months in a certain county and then moving on to the next one. The Official Code of Georgia specifies the terms used by each of Georgia's 159 counties.

Read more: Georgia Terms of Court

How to Choose a Lawyer

There comes a time in nearly everyone's life where the services of a lawyer are required. The need arises unexpectedly and sometimes during other difficult times.  Let us assist you in identifying your needs and finding the right lawyer to meet them.  The best way to determine whether you have a legal problem or need legal assistance is to speak with a lawyer. You should be aware that in the Atlanta metropolitan area, many lawyers' practices may be limited to certain areas of the law. Today, finding a general practitioner is rare unless you are living in a rural county. 

Read more: How to Choose a Lawyer

Most Would Not Trust A Public Defender

Most Would not Trust PDThis is a poll I found in USA Today years ago indicating that ¾ of respondents wouldn’t trust a public defender with their criminal case.  There’s nothing wrong with the attorneys who work in the various public defender systems we have around Georgia.  They are often good attorneys who are horribly overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.  They get paid the same whether you like or hate how they handle your case, and sometimes that starts to show. 

Read more: Most Would Not Trust A Public Defender

Parole Eligibility

For anyone facing even the remote possibility of a prison sentence, the issue of parole always arises.  Parole is nearly as frustrating for lawyers as for clients, because for every "rule" or "guideline" in the parole system, there seems to be an exception.  At the end of the day, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has wide lattitude in who gets parole and when they get it.  We can, however, offer the general provisions governing parole in Georgia, although we can make no promises that this will apply to any specific case.

Read more: Parole Eligibility

Qui Tam Actions

Qui Tam Actions (Whistleblower Lawsuits) Can Be Rewarding For Those Who Blow The Whistle On Government Fraud

Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed.) defines "qui tam" actions as "an action brought under a statute that allows a private person to sue for a penalty, part of which the government ... shall receive." The words are Latin for "who as well."  Qui Tam actions are more commonly referred to as Whistleblower Lawsuits.

In Georgia, the False Information Act is found in O.C.G.A. § 23-3-120 through  O.C.G.A. § 23-3-127.    Additionally, the Georgia False Claims Act, governed by O.C.G.A. § 49-4-168 through O.C.G.A. § 49-4-168.6, is a state law, also known as the State False Medicaid Claims Act, that enables citizens with knowledge of past or present fraud committed against the Georgia Medicaid program to sue on the state government's behalf.  There is also the Federal False Claims Act (FCA), governed by 31 U.S.C. § 3729, that enables private citizens with knowledge of past or present fraud on the federal government to sue on the government's behalf.

Remember:  A Qui Tam action only exists where the action results in recovery of funds for the government. It is not applicable in a consumer fraud action.

Recording Conversations in Georgia

Digital KeyholeIs it a crime to record conversations in Georgia?  It depends on how and where you do it.

Since it seems like everyone has a smartphone nowadays, people frequently ask whether it is legal in Georgia to record their conversations or whether it is the crime of Eavesdropping to do so.

For audio recordings, the answer is easy. Georgia, like most states, is a "one party" state for audio recording conversations.  That means that any party to a conversation can audio record the conversation without the knowledge of any other party to the conversation.  Just make sure all parties are in Georgia, because if even one of them is in an  "all-party" state, you would likely be breaking the law of that state to record the conversation.

Just owning the telephone doesn't make someone a "party" to the conversation, so it is illegal to "tap" the telephone of your own house to record the conversations that other people in the house have with other people.  But few homes are hard-wired for telephones anymore, so nowadays the recording questions deal with having your cell phone in your pocket recording a face-to-face conversation, or using some sort of application to record a conversation you are having on the telephone.  Subject to the limitations I've mentioned above, these recordings are legal and almost always found to be admissible.

For video recordings, it's a bit trickier. The same rule does not apply to video recordings in private places (such as homes).  In a case called State v. Madison (2011), the Georgia Court of Appeals held that for video recordings Georgia is an "all-party" state, meaning that all parties video recorded must consent to the recording.  So if you want to video record what is going on in a private place, all parties must consent.  (Frankly, I think this is a problematic ruling, as it basically makes many common recordings illegal.  Consider, for example, recording your child's Christmas play at church.  The church is a private place, so unless you have the consent of every person in the room and on stage, you're breaking the law.)

So you should be fine to audio-record your conversations with other people in Georgia, but it is criminal eavesdropping to video-record them in a private place without their permission.

Rutter v. Rutter, (2012), shows just how thin the line can be regarding recording in your own home.  In that case, one spouse video recording another was deemed acceptable under the "security purposes" exception to the Eavesdropping law:   

OCGA 16-11-62(C) To use for security purposes, crime prevention, or crime detection any device to observe, photograph, or record the activities of persons who are within the curtilage of the residence of the person using such device. A photograph, videotape, or record made in accordance with this subparagraph, or a copy thereof, may be disclosed by such resident to the district attorney or a law enforcement officer and shall be admissible in a judicial proceeding, without the consent of any person observed, photographed, or recorded.

http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-11/article-3/part-1/16-11-62

I have also written on the right to record the police, even in private, without their knowledge. You can read more here:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2043907

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/analysis-right-to-record-cops-extends-to-private-settings/

 

Should I Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney?

Decision Making"Public defender offices and other indigent defense providers are underfunded and understaffed. Too often, when legal representation is available to the poor, it’s rendered less effective by insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads and inadequate oversight."

                                - United States Attorney General Eric Holder

One of the first questions people face after finding themselves accused of a crime is whether to hire a criminal defense attorney of their choosing or ask the court to appoint them a public defender.  The question of "whether" to hire a private attorney or take your chances with some random public defender is an easy one, because it shouldn't even be a question at all.

Read more: Should I Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney?

Speedy Trials in Criminal Cases

Decision Making BWA demand for a speedy trial does not mean what people usually think it means, and often does not help resolve the case in the client's favor.

Some people hear about a "speedy trial demand" and decide that they want one.  Rarely is it in your best interest to seek a speedy trial, especially if you have posted bail and resumed your normal life. Time favors defendants. Memories fade, evidence gets lost, and witnesses forget (or change) their stories. As a former prosecutor who handled the most serious of cases, I can tell you that I always considered it a benefit to the state to get a case to trial as quickly as possible, before things started falling apart. For that reason, consider carefully whether you want a speedy trial. Unless you are still in jail and not facing serious charges, it is likely not in your best interest to push your case to trial.    

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 17-7-170 provides that any defendant may demand a speedy trial during the term of court at which the indictment is filed or the next term thereafter. If a demand is made, the government shall have the term during which the demand is filed and the next term thereafter to try the case. If the case involves a capital offense, such as Murder, Rape, Armed Robbery and several others, Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 17-7-171 gives the government one additional term of court to try the case. (At least, that's how it reads. Unfortunately, the Georgia Supreme Court has interpreted § 17-7-171 to give the government three full terms following the term in which the demand is made.)

What constitutes a “term of court” varies from circuit to circuit. Even a “speedy” trial may take several months to get to court. Most cases are tried within a year of arrest anyway, so a speedy trial demand often does not cause the case to resolve any faster than it normally would. Moreover, many District Attorneys refuse to negotiate any sort of settlement or make any sort of plea offer while a demand for speedy trial is in place. They will require you to withdraw it before they will continue talking to you.

The decision whether to seek a speedy trial is a strategic one. Many defendants think they want a speedy trial, but often it is to your advantage to let a case age. With time, memories fade, witnesses vanish, and victims change their mind. On the contrary, when a case is fresh is when it is often easiest for the government to assemble what it needs for trial. We will discuss whether your case is one where a speedy trial demand is appropriate.

Steps In The Criminal Justice Process

decision-making-processes1It would be impossible for this website to fully inform you of every step in the cirminal justice process in Georgia.  What you basically need to understand at this point is that it is a process with many steps and some things have to happen before certain steps while other things have to happen after certain steps.  It is that it is a road we have walked a thousand times before and can guide you along the way. 

Read more: Steps In The Criminal Justice Process

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Marietta, GA 30064

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