Monday, July 9, 2018

Council of Municipal Court Judges Elects New Officers, District Representatives, Training Council Members & Gives Awards

Savannah, GA — The Council of Municipal Court Judges met on June 20-22, 2018, at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront where it conducted its annual summer Law and Practice Update and business meeting. Topics of the Law and Practice Update included Indigent Defense Qualifications & Examples and Judges’ Role in Protecting the Indigent; Social Media in the Judiciary; Misdemeanor Bail Reform; Overview of Implicit Bias; and Fundamentals of Courtroom Management. Presiding Justice Harold D. Melton attended the Business Meeting as the Council’s guest speaker and administered the oath of office to the new Council officers.

The Council elected new officers and District Representatives for 2018-2019: President Chief Judge Matthew McCord, Municipal Court of Stockbridge; President-Elect Judge Dale “Bubba” Samuels, Municipal Courts of Franklin Springs and Monroe; Vice President Chief Judge Willie Weaver Sr., Municipal Court of Albany;Secretary Judge JaDawnya Butler, Municipal Court of Atlanta; Treasurer Judge Keith Barber, Municipal Court of Statesboro; Immediate Past President Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson, Municipal Court of Stone Mountain.  District One: Judge Chris Middleton and Judge Billy Tomlinson; District Two: Judge Vernita Bender and Judge Gregory T. Williams; District Three: Judge Fred Graham and Judge Bill NeSmith; District Five: Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers and Judge Parag Shah; District Seven: Judge Robert Cowan and Judge Nathan Wade; District Nine: Judge Pamela Boles and Judge Claude Mason. Judge William "Bill" Brogdon, Judge Claude Mason, and Judge Dale "Bubba" Samuels were elected to the Municipal Court Judges Training Council.

The Council recognized a number of municipal court judges with awards. Chief Judge Roger Rozen, Municipal Court of Marietta, received the Frost Ward Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes a municipal court judge who has made significant contributions to the Council of Municipal Court Judges over a long period of time. 

The Council’s President’s Award was awarded to Judge Dale “Bubba” Samuels, Municipal Courts of Franklin Springs and Monroe, for his commitment to preserve the integrity of the judiciary; Judge E. Ray Lanier, Municipal Court of Monticello, for his commitment to preserve the integrity of the judiciary; Judge Matthew McCord, Municipal Court of Stockbridge, and Judge Berryl Anderson, Municipal Court of Decatur, for their unwavering support to the betterment of the justice system, specifically bail reform, on behalf of the Council.  Chief Judge Margaret Gettle Washburn, Municipal Court of Sugar Hill and Duluth, was recognized with the Outstanding Service Award for her selfless commitment as an appointee to the Judicial Council’s Education and Technology Committees, the Criminal Justice Reform Council’s probation subcommittee, and Chair of the Training Council.

Chief Judge Willie Weaver, Sr., Municipal Court of Albany, was awarded the Special Recognition Award for the Albany Works Program, a collaborative pilot program between the City of Albany and its Municipal Court designed to provide alternative sentencing for individuals with misdemeanor charges, to reduce court recidivism, and to help citizens gain job readiness skills.

Judge David Hobby, Municipal Court of Fitzgerald, and former Judge John Cicala were recognized with the Glen Ashman Education Achievement Award which honors judges that exemplify judicial education through extensive time and efforts towards educating municipal court judges and clerks.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Refusing a Chemical Test: What You Should Know

Refusing a Chemical Test: What You Should Know

After a law enforcement officer has determined that you may have been drinking and driving, they are going to put you in handcuffs and bring you back to the station. If this isn’t worrying you enough as it is, one of the first things they are going to do when you arrive is ask you to take a chemical test. It might sound like something out of a mad scientist’s lair, and it isn’t too far off in reality.
There are three forms of chemical tests used by law enforcement in Georgia: the blood test, the breath test, and the urine test. As the names suggest, each one works by taking a small sample of one of the three sources from you and testing it for alcohol concentration. Using whatever results they find in comparing it to your body size, weight, and type, they extrapolate and determine if you are under the influence or not. If worse comes to worse, you are found to be unlawfully intoxicated and you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI).
But don’t you have the right to refuse a chemical test? It is fairly intrusive, after all, and it is technically collecting evidence against you through a search and seizure, albeit from your own body. And, it is true, you can refuse to take a chemical test. But, basically any DUI attorney will tell you, refusing a chemical test is not a good idea except in limited circumstances.

Implied Consent & Immediate Penalties

Stopping the police from getting evidence to use against you sounds like a good idea on the surface. When it comes to preventing a chemical test, though, it can spell your own undoing. Due to Georgia’s implied consent law, which states you agree to chemical testing so long as you are driving a motor vehicle, refusing to take a test can trigger an automatic 1-year suspension of your driver’s license. Do it again, and the suspension could be 3 or 5 years long. Intoxicated or not, refusing to take a chemical test could cause this suspension.
On the other hand, if you take a chemical test and the result is 0.08% BAC or above, don’t panic and lose hope just yet. An experienced DUI attorney can challenge any chemical test. Problems with the machine, how the test was conducted, and how the samples were extracted and stored can all make the results inaccurate and unusable.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Georgia and need legal help, call 912-764-2623 to connect with W. Keith Barber, P.C. You can also request an initial consultation to get a rundown of your legal options.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dealing with an Underage DUI



Georgia is one of the few states in the country that permit teenagers to consume alcohol legally under certain circumstances. As a parent, you can give them permission to drink alcohol at a party, for example, as long as they do not endanger themselves or others. While this leniency may promote as sense of maturity in teenagers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that it could contribute to drinking and driving behaviors. According to their gathered statistics, about 10% of all teens in high school will drink and drive at least once. As a parent, what can you do to prevent your teen from driving intoxicated, and what do you do if they are arrested for it?

Talk about the Consequences of Drinking & Driving

If you want to help stop your teenage son or daughter from drinking and driving, it is crucial that you inform them of the consequences of such behavior while also living up to your own standard, i.e. don’t drink and drive drunk yourself. Clearly, there are health dangers to drunk driving, and you could talk about broken bones, brain damage, paralysis, and other injuries caused by a car accident to no end. But what often influences a teen more than physical danger is legal danger.

Anyone under the age of 21 in Georgia is considered a minor, and any minor driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.2% or greater can be arrested and charged with underage DUI. For many teens, a single beer can push their BAC level above this legal limit if they do not wait a few hours after imbibing it before driving. If the police make them take a field sobriety test – they might not know they can refuse – and they fail it, an underage DUI charge is nearly a guarantee.

Standard penalties for an underage DUI conviction include:
  •        $300 to $1,000 fine
  •       6-month license suspension
  •       20 hours of community service


An underage DUI conviction that involves a BAC level over 0.08% may include:
  •       $1,000+ fine
  •       1 day in jail
  •       1-year license suspension
  •        40 hours of community service


In addition to driving under the influence charges, the police like to tack on other charges that carry their own legal penalties. Your teen may also be charged with soliciting alcohol, distributing alcohol to minors if other teens were present, minor in possession of an illegal substance, and so forth. And do not forget about the hike in their insurance premium that is sure to follow a conviction, as well as the damage to their reputation that could keep them from landing jobs or going to certain colleges.

Showing Support for Your Teenage Son or Daughter


One of the most important things you can do after your teenage child gets arrested for underage DUI is show your support. Let them know that you still care for them and that you will do what you can to help them through this mess. A great way to help them keep their chin up is retain the legal services of W. Keith Barber, P.C. Keith Barber has been practicing for more than 24 years and has maintained a flawless 10.0 “Superb” Avvo Rating for his work on DUI and criminal defense cases. Call 912-764-2623 to make your appointment today.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dress Appropriately for Court

        In 2014, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (USDCSDG) signed into effect a "Statement of Court Policy Regarding Dress and Attire and Guidelines Therefor".  In it's opening statement, it reads as follows:

        "The Courthouses, Courtrooms, and Grounds of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia exist for the purposes of conducting the judicial business of the public in a dignified, orderly, and professional manner.  Court facilities provide a locus in which judicial officers, court officers and officials, and other participants in the legal process can resolve civil and criminal disputes in an atmosphere of reverence and respect for the rule of law.  This Court Policy is designed to maintain the dignity of all courthouse facilities and the integrity of the legal process taking place therein.  Behavior, conditions, or attire not conducive to the dignified and orderly operation of official court business are hereby prohibited."

        Even though this policy was instituted for the USDCSDG, it can be said for any and all Courts you may encounter.  Even when such a written policy or code is not in effect, there is an etiquette that is expected of all participant in the legal system.  This includes those who work in it daily such as judges, attorneys, and support staff; but also includes jurors and case participants such as plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses. 

        In the USDCSDG Policy, the Justices spell out specifically what is expected and what is prohibited with respect to  dress for employees, officers of the court, and all ALL PERSONS entering the US Courthouses.  They are not alone.

        More and more Courts are adopting specific dress codes and people not conforming to these policies are being turned away and sent home to change.  These policies may differ slightly from court to court, but the basic principal is the same...dress appropriately for court.  

        Show the court that you have respect for yourself, for them, and for the rule of law.  Check court websites for rules specific to the Court you are participating in.  If there are no specific rules stated for that court, use these as a guideline.


        

        For our own clients, we provide the following advice to follow when attending court:


PLEASE REVIEW THE BELOW ITEMS THAT WILL APPLY
TO YOU WHEN YOU GO TO COURT IN YOUR CASE

If you have received a notice to appear in court, it is important that you make the best impression you can with the judge, opposing counsel, jurors and potential witnesses. 

Please take the time to read this entire notice.  Understanding courtroom etiquette and standard of dress will help you make a positive impression.

Arrive 30 minutes before court and be seated IN THE COURTROOM, please.

Be neat and clean. 
·        Be freshly showered.
·        Brush your teeth and hair.
·        Groom and trim any facial hair. 
·        Clean and trim fingernails.
·        Remove piercings. 
·        Make an effort to cover tattoos. 
·        Do not wear excessive perfume or cologne.
·        Do not wear sunglasses in the courtroom.

Be dressed appropriately.

Women:
·        Dress conservatively.  Business attire or your Sunday best.  Classy, not trashy.
·        Wear appropriate sized clothing.  Nothing too tight or too baggy.
·        Do not show cleavage.
·        Do not show undergarments.
·        Skirts should not be shorter than 2 inches above the knee.
·        No shorts, capris, sleeveless shirts, t-shirts or jeans.
·        Do not wear excessive jewelry.
·        Wear conservative makeup.
·        No flip-flops or casual sandals.
·        If wearing heels, do not wear super high heels (absolutely nothing over 4 inches, 3 inches is the recommended maximum height).

Men:
·        Dress conservatively. Business attire or your Sunday best.
·        Wear appropriate sized clothing.  Nothing to tight or to baggy.
·        Wear a belt.
·        Tuck in your shirt.
·        Do not show undergarments and no “saggin”.
·        For appearances other than a trial, a suit is not required, but button up shirt and slacks are         recommended.
·        For trial, a jacket and tie are recommended, if not a suit.
·        Do not wear wallet chains.
·        Do not wear excessive jewelry.
·        No holes in clothing.
·        Avoid jeans and t-shirts.
·        Do not wear sandals or flip-flops.
·        If you have long hair, wear it pulled back and tucked into collar.
·        No low rider pants of any sort.

Do not chew gum.

Leave cell phones at home or in your car.

In the courtroom, you are often judged before you have a chance to speak or be spoken for.  People often form an impression of someone within the first few seconds of seeing them.  Those impressions can be hard to overcome.  Please do your part to make sure the impression you leave during your court appearance is a positive one.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Judge Identifies 12 Huge Lies About Justice in America

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Stages of a Criminal Case

Criminal prosecution develops in a series of stages, beginning with an arrest and ending at a point before, during or after trial. The majority of criminal cases terminate when a criminal defendant accepts a plea bargain offered by the prosecution. In a plea bargain, the defendant chooses to plead guilty before trial to the charged offenses, or to lesser charges in exchange for a more lenient sentence or the dismissal of related charges.

Arrest

Criminal prosecution typically begins with an arrest by a law enforcement officer. An officer may arrest a person if (1) the officer observes the person committing a crime; (2) the officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by that person; or (3) the officer makes the arrest under the authority of a valid arrest warrant. After the arrest, the officer books the suspect. When the booking process is complete, the suspect is placed in custody. If the suspect committed a minor offense, the officer may issue a citation to the suspect with instructions to appear in court at a later date.

Bail / Bond

If a suspect in custody is granted bail, the suspect may pay the bail amount in exchange for a release. Release on bail is contingent on the suspect's promise to appear at all scheduled court proceedings. Bail may be granted to a suspect immediately after booking or at a later bail review hearing. Alternatively, a suspect may be released on his "own recognizance." A suspect released on his own recognizance need not post bail, but must promise in writing to appear at all scheduled court appearances. Own recognizance release is granted after the court considers the seriousness of the offense, and the suspect's criminal record, threat to the community and ties to family and employment.


The suspect makes his first court appearance at the arraignment. During arraignment, the judge may read the charges filed against the defendant in the accusation or indictment and the defendant chooses to plead "guilty," "not guilty" or "no contest" to those charges. The judge will also review the defendant's bail and set dates for future proceedings.

Grand Jury Proceedings

The government generally brings felony criminal charges by a grand jury indictment. Grand juries are used to establish the existence of probable cause. If there is no finding of probable cause, a defendant will not be forced to stand trial. The grand jury hears only from the prosecutor. The grand jury may call their own witnesses and request that further investigations be performed. The grand jury then decides whether sufficient evidence has been presented to indict the defendant.

Plea

A Plea agreement or plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant for the defendant to plead guilty or no contest under certain terms and conditions, which must be approved by the judge, to prevent going to trial.


Pre-trial motions are brought by both the prosecution and the defense in order to resolve final issues and establish what evidence and testimony will be admissible at trial.



A Pre-trial Conference is the last chance to try to come to a settlement of the case before it goes to trial.  It is also a time to resolve any issues such as motions before going to trial.