Never mind what the statistics say or don’t say. According to a new poll, almost two-thirds of Georgia residents believe violent crime has increased over the past two years.
42 percent of respondents blamed weak gun laws for the uptick. Other commonly cited causes included poor mental health services, liberal jail release laws, and an overall weak economy.
On the flip side, 42 percent of respondents said a stronger economy would reduce the number of violent crimes. Other suggestions included stronger gun laws, better mental health services, and limited pretrial release.
Types of Violent Crime in Georgia
Ordinary assault, aggravated assault, and homicide are the three leading violent crimes in Georgia, at least according to court dockets in Cobb County and elsewhere.
Simple assault, which is usually a misdemeanor in the Peachtree State, is basically a harmful or offensive touch. A slight physical injury, such as an abrasion, red mark, or other wound that may require first aid, simply makes the intent element easier to prove. Usually, prosecutors must establish that the harmful or offensive touch was intentional, as opposed to accidental.
Domestic battery is a special brand of assault in Georgia. Designated domestic violence courts usually handle these matters. Additionally, domestic battery cases often involve ancillary proceedings, like protective orders. The Legislature recently extended the protective order possibility to dating violence.
On a related note, domestic violence matters also include stalking matters. Technically, stalking isn’t a violent crime, but try telling that to stalking victims. Additionally, many burglary cases involve unlawful entry in violation of a standalone protective order or a keep-away bail condition.
Aggravated assault is, wait for it, a more serious kind of assault. Section 16-5-21 is a bit different than the aggravated assault laws in other states.
- Intent: In Georgia, the defendant must have the intent to rob, rape, or murder the alleged victim. Most states don’t have this additional specific intent requirement.
- Deadly Weapon: Most states have a serious injury threshold. If Ben beats up Jerry so badly that Jerry requires hospitalization, Ben could be charged with aggravated assault. But Georgia has a deadly weapon requirement. Additionally, this object must “likely to or actually” cause “serious bodily injury.” That’s a pretty narrow definition.
- Drive-By Shooting: In some states, “discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle toward a person or persons” is a rather minor offense. But in Georgia, it’s felony assault.
Various enhancements could apply. These enhancements include assaulting a police officer, a “corrections officer,” a person over 65, and any person in a bus or other public transportation conveyance.
Georgia’s homicide laws, in contrast, are pretty much in line with the law in other states. There are basically four levels of homicide in the Peachtree State:
- First Degree Murder: The most serious homicide offense usually requires malice aforethought, which basically means the defendant either planned the murder or lied in wait for the victim. These charges could also apply if the alleged victim was a police officer or another member of a protected class.
- Second Degree Murder: Almost all murder charges are second degree murder. Basically, this form of murder is usually a crime of passion. Frequently, an argument escalates into a physical confrontation, and then things really go off the rails.
- First Degree Manslaughter: Manslaughter is usually a non-malicious killing. If Ralph pushes Midge down the stairs, that’s probably first degree manslaughter. Given the aforementioned murder requirement in aggravated assault cases, Ralph’s misdeed could be aggravated assault as well.
- Second Degree Manslaughter: This offense is a pseudo-accidental killing. We say that because the defendant intends the conduct but not the result. If Ralph pushes Midge in the dark and Ralph doesn’t realize Midge is at the top of a staircase, he’s probably guilty of second degree manslaughter.
Georgia’s broad RICO (Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization) law sometimes comes into play as well. Originally, RICO laws were anti-mafia laws. If one person in an organization commits a felony, like a low-level flunky, everyone in the organization, including Don Homer, can be charged with a felony.
Prosecutors often use this same law in street gang homicide cases. Additionally, in 2011, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis used the RICO law to convict eleven Atlanta teachers in a cheating scandal. There’s some talk that she might use the same law to convict Donald Trump of tampering with the 2020 election results, but most people agree that’s unlikely.
Most criminal cases are single-witness cases. The single witness, who is usually a police officer, is basically an expert witness. Most officers receive special training in this area, and they testify in court hundreds of times.
Usually, violent crime cases are multiple witness cases. Police officers very rarely witness assaults and murders. Instead, the alleged victim or an eyewitness must provide testimony. Since these individuals aren’t professional witnesses, it’s often easier for a Marietta criminal defense attorney to discredit them. Attorneys don’t have to prove witnesses were lying or otherwise completely unbelievable. Instead, attorneys must only create reasonable doubt.
Lineups often have similar issues. The most reliable lineups are double-blind lineups. Neither the witness nor the administering officer knows the suspect’s identity. Most lineups are blind. The witness doesn’t know the suspect’s identity, but the administering officer knows which clown allegedly robbed the Kwik-E-Mart. Loyal Simpsons viewers will remember that Sideshow Bob framed Krusty for the nefarious robbery. So, if his attorney had put up more of a fight, Krusty would have had an effective affirmative defense.
Framed suspects, planted evidence, and other schemes are common plot points in movies and TV shows. However, they very rarely come up in the real world. Insanity and self-defense are a different matter.
Recall that many people believe violent criminal defendants are mentally ill. If the mental disease or defect was so severe that the defendant didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, the insanity defense could hold up in court. In less severe cases, jurors often see a mental disease or defect as a mitigating circumstance regarding punishment.
Basically, self-defense is a proportional response to an imminent physical threat to the defendant, someone close to the defendant, or the defendant’s property.
Proportionality is usually the key concept. If a guy about my size attacked me, I couldn’t reasonably use a gun to stop him. If a heavyweight boxer attacked me, or even a middleweight for that matter, I might reasonably believe I need a gun to stop him.
There’s a difference between a criminal charge and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense lawyer, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.