According to a recent study, the five offense areas mentioned below, which are listed in descending order, account for all the matters in Georgia criminal courts.
“It is interesting to see which categories of crime receive the most federal sentences in each state, and it is even more fascinating to see some states having the highest rates in multiple categories,” the study authors remarked. “At a state level, it is vital that the right resources are utilized to discover how each state can be supported in improving how frequently they have to hand out these sentences.”
This study also determined that Georgia is a middle-of-the-road state in terms of overall criminal activity. The Peach State’s violent crime rate is slightly below the national average, but the property crime rate is well above the national average.
Drug possession accounts for over 80 percent of the drug crime cases in state court. But in federal court, these matters are in the “other” section.
State and local law enforcement and judicial authorities have limited jurisdictions and, in most cases, limited financial resources. Drug trafficking investigations usually cross county lines and, in most cases, state lines as well. Furthermore, these intense investigations often require financial resources that state and local authorities don’t have.
So, these authorities typically use a bottom-up approach to drug crimes. Aggressively prosecuting possession cases reduces demand, forcing the drug lords out of business. Many illegal substances, like fentanyl, are so addictive that a demand is always there, but that’s beside the point, as far as law enforcement agencies are concerned. They make arrests, and that’s what matters.
In contrast, U.S. Attorneys and FBI agents have nationwide jurisdiction and almost unlimited resources. Furthermore, these law enforcement agencies have entire divisions which focus exclusively on large drug trafficking offenses.
Since neither money nor jurisdiction is an issue in federal cases, these authorities take a top-down approach to drug crimes. If Mr. Big goes to jail, his entire network crumbles. Another Mr. Big is usually ready, willing, and able to assume control of the network, but once again, as far as these agencies are considered, that’s beside the point. They make arrests, and that’s what matters.
Federal investigations often over-rely on paid informants. An unreliable informant’s uncorroborated statement usually doesn’t establish probable cause and almost never constitutes proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Note that there’s a difference between reliability and accuracy.
Illegal possession, possessing a prohibited weapon, and illegally discharging a firearm are the three most common firearms violations in federal court.
State illegal firearm possession matters involve complex licensing, usage, and other such issues. But under 18 USC § 922, these cases are quite straightforward. The defendant must possess any gun or ammunition, transport that item across state lines, and fall into one of the following categories:
- Convicted felon,
- Drug addict or drug user (prior drug conviction or drug seized with the weapon),
- Non-citizen, except a lawful permanent resident (green card),
- Restraining order in effect,
- Prior domestic violence conviction,
- Fugitive from justice, as a defendant or witness, or
- Dishonorable military discharge.
Prosecutors must also prove all three elements of possession. In addition to proximity, they must prove knowledge and control.
A Marietta criminal defense lawyer often uses the knowledge element in accidental possession cases (e.g. Sally didn’t know her husband’s Glock was under the seat). A gun trust is an even more effective defense. If Sally is a co-trustee, she’s legally entitled to possess the weapon.
Gun trusts are also excellent defense to possession of an illegal weapon, such as a machine gun or sawed-off shotgun. The trust, not the individual, legally owns the weapon.
18 USC § 922 (discharging or possessing any firearm in a school zone) is the most common illegal discharge law. Others may apply as well. Exceptions, such as protection, hunting dangerous or delicious animals, and keeping the King of England out of your face, could apply in these other cases as well.
White Collar Crimes
Simple theft is taking property and depriving the owner of the use of that property. Embezzlement, fraud, and related offenses usually combine theft with an abuse of authority or power.
Some white-collar criminal investigations are huge Bernie Madoff-like frauds. One person pulls all the strings, victimizing many people in the process. Or the federal government, as opposed ot an individual, is the victim. The Civil War-era False Claims Act often applies in these situations. In any event, federal authorities often focus on these one hook, big fish offenses.
Paycheck Protection Program loan fraud is an even better example. Tales of PPP fraudsters who took the government’s aid money and selfishly spent it on luxury items usually get lots of likes on social media.
Federal authorities are less interested in fishing net investigations, especially if the fish in the net aren’t very big. As mentioned, federal authorities routinely invest massive amounts of time and money into large drug trafficking investigations. But fraud doesn’t get the same attention, and therefore doesn’t get the same level of commitment.
Overstaying a visa, illegal entry, and violating the terms or conditions of a visa are the most common immigration offenses in Georgia federal courts.
All these offenses are very easy to prove, especially the first two. At most, prosecutors only need to produce the defendant in court and point to a date on a calendar. The judge might consider mitigating circumstances, such as the extreme disruption of leaving everything behind and exiting the country, in some cases.
Term and conditions violations usually include committing a crime of moral turpitude or a violent felony. Complex rules. Which are subject to change at almost any time, control these cases.
Like the offenses in the first four categories, defendants charged with an “other” offense often have a choice between a federal public defender and a private Marietta criminal defense lawyer.
Assistant public defenders are often top-flight criminal defense attorneys with excellent client handling skills and years of experience. Others are novice lawyers who used political connections to get their jobs and have terrible bedside manners. Defendants don’t know if their lawyers belong in Column A or Column B until the judge assigns them. At that point, you’re stuck with your court-appointed lawyer.
A private Marietta criminal defense lawyer, on the other hand, is a known quality. Defendants research the lawyer and meet with the lawyer before any money changes hands. So, these defendants are confident that their lawyers are experienced professionals who have solid plans and don’t leave their clients in the dark.
Federal court is different from state court in many ways. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Convenient payment plans are available.