Advocacy In Connection with Serious Felony Charges
There are several laws that address homicide in Georgia: There are two types of murder charges: Malice Murder and Felony Murder.
Malice Murder is the intentional taking of another person’s life with malice and without any justification. Thus, there are defenses (accident, self-defense) that the prosecution has the burden of proving do not exist. If the prosecution proves that the defendant in fact killed another person maliciously, without any excuse or accident defense, the crime is murder, which automatically results in a sentence of life in prison. The punishment may include a provision that the sentence is not subject to parole (life without parole), or subject to parole in 30 years.
Felony Murder does not require proof that the defendant intended to kill the victim. Instead, the crime requires that the defendant intentionally committed another crime (for example armed robbery) and whether the defendant intended to kill the victim or not, a person died as a result of the commission of that other felony. Often, the prosecution will rely on proof that the defendant intended to assault the victim (with a weapon) and regardless of whether the defendant intended to kill the victim, the victim was, in fact, killed. If the defendant did intend to assault the victim with a weapon, he is guilty of felony murder notwithstanding the defendant’s lack of intent to kill the victim. A conviction for felony murder results in the same sentence as a conviction for malice murder: an automatic life sentence, either with or without the possibility of parole.
There are other homicide offenses in the Georgia Code.
- Voluntary Manslaughter: This offense, punishable by a sentence of 1–20 years in prison, is often referred to as “heat of passion” homicide. The defendant intended to kill the victim, but there was a reason, short of malice, such as sudden anger caused by something the victim did.
- Involuntary Manslaughter: This offense which is less “blameworthy” addresses the situation where the defendant did not intend to kill the victim and was not engaged in a felony that caused the victim’s death, but the defendant acted recklessly. For example, if the defendant is on his back porch in an urban area, shooting a gun at squirrels, but a stray bullet kills a neighbor, this may be the subject of an involuntary manslaughter prosecution.
- Vehicular Homicide: This offense addresses motor vehicle offenses that result in the death of the victim. This offense is a felony if the defendant was DUI, or driving recklessly. This offense is a misdemeanor if the defendant violated some other provision of the motor vehicle code, such as running through a stop sign or changing lanes without due caution.
There is no uncertainty about the definition of this offense, though the prosecution can rely on different ways of proving “lack of consent.” Generally, a defendant is guilty of rape if he (almost always a man), forcibly has sexual intercourse with the victim without her consent. Frequently, rape charges are brought against a man who has sexual intercourse with a woman who is too drunk to consent, asleep, or otherwise mentally incapable of giving consent. Rape is punishable by a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole. The prosecution is required to prove that the defendant was aware that the victim did not consent (or was incapable of consenting). In other words, one cannot commit the offense of rape accidentally, or without the intent to commit the crime.
Virtually any sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 may be prosecuted as child molestation. The defendant must commit the act with the intent to satisfy his own, or the child’s sexual urge. This “intent” is what distinguishes child molestation, from bathing a child.
Any picture that depicts a child under the age of 18 constitutes child pornography if the picture depicts the exposed genitals or breasts and involves sexually explicit nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse that is intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desire of either the child or the person.
Aggravated assault is committed when the defendant assaults the victim and does so either (1) with a dangerous weapon, or (2) with the intent to kill, rape or rob the victim. Aggravated assault is punishable by a sentence of 1–20 years in prison.
There are numerous drug offenses that are included in the Georgia Code, including charges related to simple possession, possession with intent to distribute, actual distribution, and trafficking. These offenses apply to numerous drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and scores of other controlled substances including pharmaceutical drugs. There are cases involving street-level distributors and other cases involving corrupt doctors who sell opioids for no legitimate medical purpose. The sentences range from probation to life in prison, depending on the drug involved, the quantity of the drug involved, and the defendant’s prior record.
Handling Many Types of Weapons Charges
Most Georgia weapons offenses are charged because other criminal conduct is alleged to have been committed using a weapon such as a gun, knife or blunt object that may be considered a weapon. We handle state and federal weapons charges involving:
- Intent to commit a crime
- Concealed weapons
- Stolen weapons
- Unlicensed weapons
- Failure to register a firearm
- Illegal sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons, silencers and more
- Unlawful weapons sales or trafficking
- Buying weapons for someone else (straw purchase)
- Possession or use on federal property
- Possession by a convicted felon
Convictions on weapons charges mean harsh penalties that may include large fines, probation, and jail time or prison time. Using a weapon to commit a crime or having a previous felony conviction automatically increases a charge to a felony, with even greater penalties.