Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Rome) claims that, once again, a fraudster reported a false crime and summoned the police to her Floyd County home.
Swatting is the act of making a hoax 911 call to draw an unnecessary law enforcement response. Using technology that makes it appear that the emergency call is coming from a victim’s home, suspects try to lure law enforcement to the residence by telling them a crime has either happened or is in progress. That prompts a response from police or a SWAT team. The swatting attacks on Greene began in August, when the congresswoman was swatted two nights in a row. In the second incident, police say someone place a false suicide crisis call. In the report, an allegedly transgender claimed to have shot several people and planned suicide via a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Rome police have referred all questions regarding the incidents to the FBI, which is investigating. So far, no one has been arrested.
Types of Nonviolent Crimes
Swatting is a lot like filing a false police report, the offense that caused such a stir in Chicago during the Jussie Smollett saga.
Briefly, the actor initially told police he was the victim of a hate crime. After an uproar, an investigation revealed that the report was a hoax. Initially, the Cook County District Attorney dropped all charges. After a subsequent uproar, a special prosecutor reinstated some of the charges. A jury convicted Smollett on five felony counts. He’s currently free pending the outcome of an appeal.
Generally, prosecutors don’t aggressively pursue nonviolent criminal charges. However, there are always exceptions, something that Smollett found out the hard way. Other common nonviolent criminal matters include:
- Property Crimes: Offenses such as embezzlement, receipt of stolen goods, bribery, theft, larceny, and arson are clearly nonviolent crimes. However, they aren’t “victimless” crimes. In every instance, someone loses something of value.
- Fraud: The same thing applies to check fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and tax fraud. These offenses are a step up from property crimes. Fraud involves an intentional misstatement of a material fact, so there’s an element of deception and intrigue that other property crimes don’t have.
- DUI: Unlike the aforementioned offenses, this property crime has no mens rea, or mental element. Prosecutors need not prove that the defendant intentionally drove drunk. They only have to prove the actus rea, or criminal act, of driving while intoxicated. Since it’s such a danger to society, many people don’t consider DUI to be a nonviolent crime.
- Stalking/Terroristic Threat: These are “tweener” offenses as well. As far as stalking victims are concerned, this offense is a violent offense. A terroristic threat is essentially large-scale stalking. The defendant threatens a large number of people at the same time. In the old days, a terroristic threat was usually a bomb scare. Today, it’s normally a tweet or other social media posts that threatens mass violence.
- Drug Possession: Over 80 percent of all drug arrests are for simple possession. Georgia’s laws are unusually strict in this area. Possession of even a small quantity of a not-so-dangerous drug, like marijuana or a mild prescription pain pill, could mean a long jail sentence. Many people don’t even believe drug possession is a criminal matter. Instead, they consider it a health and safety issue.
- Prostitution: This offense isn’t much of an offense either. Instead, prostitution laws protect public health and welfare, mostly the suppression of sexually transmitted diseases, protect minors who might otherwise become involved in the sex industry, thwart other associated forms of crime, and curb the incentive to exploit women.
Traffic tickets are nonviolent offenses as well. Like DUI, traffic violations are regulatory offenses that don’t have men’s plea requirements.
Significantly, nonviolent does not mean non-serious. A felony is a felony, whether it’s violent or not. Additionally, unlike many violent offenses, most nonviolent offenses are crimes of moral turpitude. CMTs often have significant collateral consequences, especially for undocumented residents.
Issues in Nonviolent Crimes
Almost all criminal offenses have procedural and substantive defenses. Nonviolent crimes are no different.
Many nonviolent infractions involve lengthy investigations. Swatting is a good example. Normally, investigators identify a person of interest and bring that person in for questioning. If they don’t like what they hear, they make an arrest.
These investigations often involve Fifth Amendment violations. The right to remain silent, which includes the right to physical silence, like posing for photographs, kicks in when custodial interrogation begins. Usually, custodial interrogation begins the moment officers appear at a suspect’s door.
Additionally, these investigations sometimes involve false momentum. If the defendant lies to investigators, even on a seemingly minor point, investigators often take that personally and become determined to arrest the suspect.
Casey Anthony, another high-profile criminal matter, is a good example. Anthony was a person of interest in the mysterious death of her 3-year-old daughter. She lied to investigators about several matters, including her employment status. The cops insisted on an indictment, despite a lack of compelling evidence and a very tenuous theory of the case. The Florida resident was ultimately acquitted of the most serious charges.
Substantive defenses in nonviolent crimes often hinge on the complaining witness. Except in DUI and drug possession cases, the complaining witness is usually a non-officer. Such lay witnesses usually haven’t testified in court before. Therefore, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer has a chance to rattle them on the stand and undermine their credibility.
That’s assuming the complaining witness is available. Frequently, by the time the trial date arrives, the complaining witness sis long gone. Usually, no witness means no case. These witness issues usually prompt Marietta criminal defense attorneys to delay these cases as long as possible.
Resolving Nonviolent Criminal Charges
As mentioned, prosecutors normally aren’t very aggressive in these matters. Therefore, pretrial diversion is almost always an option, even in some DUI and drug possession cases.
Pretrial diversion is essentially what Cook County prosecutors initially gave Smollett. They didn’t unconditionally drop the charges. Instead, they agreed to drop them if Smollett forfeited his $10,000 cash bail and performed a few community service hours.
Most Cobb County pretrial diversion programs are similar. If defendants pay a small program fee, complete some program requirements, like a self-improvement class and/or community service requirement, and promise to go forth and sin no more, prosecutors drop the charges. If a defense might apply, prosecutors are even more anxious to offer pretrial diversion. Diversion programs generally require restitution as well.
Nonviolent offenses stain a permanent record as badly as violent offenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.