Historic violent crime levels are prompting citizens to go to the polls in 2022. Although everyone agrees there’s a problem, not everyone agrees on a solution.
For the last three years, violent crime across Georgia has been on the rise. In the state’s largest city and capital, the murder rate has continued to increase and is currently up 7 percent from this time last year. Moreover, burglaries in Atlanta are up 18 percent compared to this time last year. Crime has become a focal point in Georgia’s hotly contested Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. The onetime football standout has continually slammed Warnock for being soft on crime, accusing him of demonizing police.
Others were concerned not about rising crime, but about raising incarceration rates. “Jails are packed with young African-Americans — brown and black — and poor whites, every day,” one voter remarked.
Back in the day, if you broke the law, you went to jail, no excuses. Today, many people have re-examined this attitude, especially in light of controversies like Brianna Grier. In July 2022, Hancock County Sheriff’s’ deputies arrested the young woman, who was apparently having a psychotic breakdown. She later died under unusual circumstances while in law enforcement custody.
Due to this attitude shift, defendants now have more jail release options in Cobb County. Like pretty much everything else in the ongoing crime debate, depending on your perspective, liberal jail release policies are either a good thing or a bad thing.
That being said, facts are facts. Mostly because of high-profile incidents like Brianna Grier, county jail inmates now have basically three jail release options:
- OR Release: Officials rarely detain defendants charged with nonviolent crimes for more than a few hours. Own Recognizance release is usually available, as long as defendants abide by some basic program requirements. If a defendant doesn’t meet the narrow qualifications, a Marietta criminal defense attorney often convinces officials to make an exception.
- Cash Bail: This option was available long before the other two. Cash bail is a little like a rental security deposit. If the defendant complies with all release conditions, the sheriff refunds the deposit, or at least most of it, after the case is resolved. In general, prices have shot up since 2021, but cash bail amounts have remained about the same. That’s a sheriff’s way of making this option available to more people.
- Bail Bond: A bail bond is like an insurance policy. If Mike has a fire insurance policy and his house burns down, the insurance company bears the financial risk. Similarly, if Mike has a bail bond and he doesn’t comply with all release conditions, the bonding company assumes the financial risk. These conditions used to be quite harsh, but since the coronavirus lockdowns, they have eased a little.
Prompt jail release jumpstarts a successful defense. Most jurors assume that people in jail did something wrong. Prosecutors know this and adjust their plea bargain offers accordingly.
Many politicians talk about the “spike” in the homicide rate. If there were six murders last year and nine this year, that’s a 50 percent increase, which only sounds really big. Nevertheless, Cobb County prosecutors are more aggressive than usual in the current environment. This aggressiveness applies to all four kinds of homicide crimes in Georgia:
- First-Degree Murder: Generally, these crimes involve malice aforethought, which basically means the defendant planned the crime. Sometimes, the victim is a police officer or someone else in a protected class. Therefore, second-degree charges are elevated to first-degree. Nowadays, in many cases, the plan need not be detailed. A threatening tweet might be enough.
- Second-Degree Murder: This form of homicide is basically a crime of passion. An argument gets too heated, and someone dies. There’s a very fine line between this offense and voluntary manslaughter, which is discussed below. In the before times, prosecutors leaned away from second-degree murder and toward voluntary manslaughter. That’s no longer true in many cases.
- Voluntary Manslaughter: If Tim shoves Frank down a flight of stairs, more than likely, Tim only intended to hurt Frank. However, if Frank dies, prosecutors could upgrade aggravated assault charges to voluntary manslaughter charges. Previously, if Frank had a pre-existing condition which might have contributed to his death, prosecutors often held off on voluntary manslaughter charges. Not anymore.
- Involuntary Manslaughter: If Tim shoves Frank and Tim doesn’t see the staircase, that’s usually an “accidental” killing, or involuntary manslaughter. Today, these charges are quite rare. Prosecutors almost always push things up to voluntary manslaughter, or even something higher.
This attitude also affects the way Marietta criminal defense attorneys resolve homicide charges. Prosecutors are no longer willing to reduce charges, like first-degree to second-degree murder, unless the defendant has a valid legal defense that might hold up in court.
Section 16-7-1, the burglary law in Georgia, applies if the defendant intended to commit a theft for felony. Burglary of a habitation is a first-degree felony and burglary of a building is a second-degree felony.
Prosecutors have expanded the “intent” element. Previously, they only used conduct to prove intent. If Lisa walked out of Jane’s house with a TV set, Lisa obviously intended to steal it. Now, if Jane said something previously about Jane’s nice TV set, perhaps on social media, prosecutors might press burglary charges if the TV set comes up missing.
What’s the bottom line in all this? Jail release options are so plentiful and prosecutors are so aggressive in many criminal cases that only the best Marietta criminal defense lawyer can successfully resolve these charges.
Politics has made routine criminal matters complex. 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.