Georgia’s New Hands-Free Law Takes Effect July 1st

 

If you’re a Georgia resident, you’ve probably heard about the “Hands-Free Georgia Act,” a new law that goes into effect July 1, 2018. If you ever use a cell phone or other electronic device while
driving, you’ll want to read on to learn what devices the hands-free law applies to, what it prohibits, and what it allows.

The Hands-Free Law

The text of Georgia’s new hands-free law can be found at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241. The law originated as House Bill 673, which was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by
Governor Nathan Deal on May 2, 2018. The law is intended to reduce the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving. Other states that have hands-free driving laws have observed a reduction in the number of traffic fatalities.

The hands-free law applies to both wireless telecommunication devices and stand-alone electronic devices. The law defines “wireless telecommunication devices” as cell phones, portable
phones, PDAs, GPS units, text messaging devices, computers, and other wireless devices that can send or receive data. CB radios and in-dash navigation systems are among the devices excluded from this definition. “Stand-alone electronic devices” are devices other than wireless telecommunication devices that can store audio or video for retrieval on demand. An iPod or other media player would fall into this category.

What The Hands-Free Law Prohibits

The hands-free law makes it illegal to do the following while driving:

  • Physically hold or support a cell phone, media player, or other device listed above. In other words, you can’t hold your cell phone in your hand while driving or even
    keep your cell phone on your lap.
  • Write, send, or read any text-based communication. You can’t text, IM, Facebook message, read emails, pull up webpages, or scroll through Instagram while driving.
  • Watch a movie or video. (This was never a good idea to begin with.)
  • Record or broadcast video, so no Snapchat, Facebook Live, or Periscope while driving. This prohibition does not apply to dashcams, though.

What The Hands-Free Law Allows

Does the new hands-free law mean that drivers can’t use their cell phones at all while driving? No. The law allows drivers to talk on the phone and send text messages as long as both are done hands-free. Bluetooth headsets, earpieces, in-car speakerphones, and smartphone watches can be used to make and receive calls and send texts. The law also allows drivers to use their cell phones and GPS devices for navigation purposes as long as it is done “hands-free.”

Though the law doesn’t specifically discuss using music streaming services while driving, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has indicated that drivers can program and launch radio apps and music streaming services before driving and then listen while on the road. It’s also permissible to listen to streaming music if the programming can be connected to and controlled by the car’s stereo, and offline, stored music is always allowed as long as it can be played without physically holding or supporting your phone or other electronic device.

The new law carves out some exceptions for emergencies and certain categories of individuals. If you’re reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential crime, or a
dangerous road condition, you can pick up your phone to do so. The law does not apply to first responders performing their official duties or to utility company employees or contractors responding to a utility emergency.

It’s still permissible to pick up and use your cell phone or other electronic device while lawfully parked, but be aware that officers will likely not consider you “lawfully parked” while stopped at a red light or stop sign.

Why You Should Form A Corporation

 

If you’re the owner of a partner of a small or medium-sized business, you may not have considered the advantages of incorporation. Maybe you were under the impression that corporations tended to be large multinational enterprises, or your business took off so quickly that you didn’t have time to discuss your options with your investors and a business lawyer. While it is true that corporations are large enough to require legal help from groups like Smith, Schnatmeier, Dettmering, Collins, Reeves, Hobson & Hobson, LLP, the benefits are not hard to understand. If you’re considering incorporating your business, there are a few things that you should know.

What is a Corporation?

A corporation is a legal entity that exists separately from its owners. In many ways, a corporation can act as an individual does. Among other things, corporations are able to do the following:

 

  • Enter contracts
  • Own property
  • Sue and be sued
  • Borrow money
  • File for patents
  • Issue stocks
  • File for bankruptcy

 

Whether there is one, several, or thousands of shareholders, their individual assets are insulated from the liabilities incurred by the corporation. This is one of the many advantages of incorporating.

Corporations and Business Lawyers

Corporations can expand, becoming huge players in the business world and bringing in over half the total business revenue in the US. Your corporation can grow, but you may find the legalities of the process to be an issue that slows or even halts the process. A Massachusetts firm like Olson & Olson focuses on incorporating businesses like yours so that you can enjoy the benefits.

Advantages of Corporations

There are several significant advantages to incorporation over individual proprietorships or traditional partnerships. Here are several of the most significant ones:

Limited Liability – In most cases, a shareholder’s liability is limited to the value of their investment. If the corporation fails, the investors’ personal assets are safe.

 

Flexible Investment Options – With “C” corporations, because ownership is represented as shares, transfer of all or portion of ownership becomes easier for investors.

 

Fungibility of Shares – Again, because shares represent part of the corporation, they can be bought, sold, held in trust, transferred to another party, et cetera.

 

The Ability to Raise Funds Without Incurring Debt – If the shareholders elect to do so, they can issue additional shares to raise capital. This is different from borrowing money as the new shareholders own a portion of the company.

 

Not all of the advantages to incorporating will appeal to all business owners and investors, but for many, this is a safer, more flexible option.

Types of Corporations

There are several categories of corporations, but a competent business lawyer will not only guide you to the appropriate structure for your company, but will also tailor it to your specific needs.

 

“S” Corporation – If your business has fewer than 100 investors and you meet the other IRS requirements, you may consider an “S” corp, which allows the business to pay its income to its shareholders. The advantage is that the profits are taxed when they reach the investors, avoiding double taxation.

 

“C” Corporation – With a “C” corp, you’re not limited by the number of shareholders. As was previously mentioned, ownership is represented by individual shares, which makes it easier to transfer possession and to raise capital. Profits are taxed at the business level, and are paid to investors in the form of dividends or reinvested in the business.

Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) – An LLC combines aspects of “S” and “C” corporations. The partners in an LLC have the ability to allow profits flow through to the hands of investors, similarly to an “S” corporation.

Cobb County DUI Court

Alternative Sentencing For DUI In Cobb County, Georgia

Many individuals charged with DUI are not aware that Cobb County State Court offers an alternative sentencing program for individuals charged with DUI. When a driver is arrested in Cobb County for a misdemeanor involving a driving under the influence of alcohol offense or driving under the influence of drugs, he or she is randomly assigned to one of the Cobb County State Court judges. Although most Cobb County State Court judges are similar in the way they typically sentence DUI offenders, sometimes sentences can vary depending upon to which judge a defendant’s case is assigned. For this reason, it is important to hire a local Cobb County attorney who is very familiar with each judge’s reputation for sentencing individuals charged with DUI.

Under certain circumstances, it may be preferable to apply for DUI Court, which is best suited to those individuals who have been convicted of prior DUI offenses. An individual’s election to participate in the program is voluntary, so one cannot be assigned to DUI court unless and until one applies for admission to it. Once admitted, an individual must complete the entire program which requires a 24-month commitment. This program emphasizes treatment rather than punishment or incarceration, offering counseling which focuses on drug and/or alcohol abuse.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must:

  • be charged with their 2nd DUI in ten years or 3rd or more in their lifetime;
  • have sufficient charges to support a 24-month sentence (In other words, the defendant must be charged with at least two misdemeanor charges to which he will be pleading, such as DUI and Failure to Maintain a Lane, or DUI and running a red light);
  • reside in Cobb County (However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example if the county in which he lives offers a similar type of DUI court, he may plead guilty to his charge in Cobb County and his sentence may be monitored in his county of residence. Fulton County and Cobb County offer such an arrangement. The defendant must seek approval for this allowance prior to entering a plea.);
  • be 17 years of age or older. If one was 16 years of age or younger at the time of one’s offense, the case will be handled in Cobb County Juvenile Court and one is not eligible for State Court DUI Court;
  • possess no prior convictions for violent felonies or any pending charges;
  • possess no out-of-state warrants;
  • not be attached to an immigration hold, frequently referred to as an “ICE Hold.”

Benefits of the Program

  • less jail time
  • a reduction in fines by one half upon successful completion of the program
  • community service credit of 200 hours upon successful completion of all requirements of the program (especially significant in the cases where an individual must complete 240 hours of community service on a 2nd DUI within 10 years)
  • affordable treatment and alcohol testing
  • support in achieving sobriety

Drawbacks to participation in the program

  • more frequent drug testing
  • very close and more structured supervision
  • cost of $75 a week for the program
  • time/obligations to attend all counseling sessions, group sessions, and DUI court sessions
  • ambiguous length of the program. DUI court is divided into five phases with minimum durations. The length of time a participant remains in a phase depends upon his level of compliance with the program. The requirements of the program decrease with each phase. If one is on regular probation based on a DUI plea, one has a termination date for his probation. The amount of probation cannot be increased once an individual is sentenced for a DUI.

Phases of Program
Phase I:

  • Court – attend one-hour court session every other Tuesday at 4 pm.
  • Group Treatment – twice per week – Tues: 7:30-9pm, Thurs: 7:30-9pm
  • Individual Treatment – once per week
  • Family Group Session – once per month
  • Support Group Meeting – four per week: AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or MADD

Phase II:

  • Court – attend one-hour court session every other Tuesday at 4 pm.
  • Group Treatment – twice per week – Tues: 7:30-9pm, Thurs: 7:30-9pm
  • Individual Treatment – twice per month
  • Family Group Session – once per month
  • Support Group Meeting – three per week: AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or MADD

Phase III:

  • Court – attend one-hour court session every other Tuesday at 4 pm.
  • Group Treatment – twice per week – Wed: 7:30-9pm, Friday 7:30-9pm
  • Individual Treatment – once per month
  • Family Group Session – once per month
  • Support Group Meeting – three per week: AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or MADD

Phase IV:

  • Court – attend one-hour court session on the second Tuesday of each month at 4 pm.
  • Group Treatment – every Wed: 7:30-9pm
  • Individual Treatment – once per month
  • Family Group Session – one session during entire phase
  • Support Group Meeting – three per week: AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or MADD

Phase V:

  • Court – attend one-hour court session the second Tuesday of each month at 4 pm.
  • Group Treatment – Fri: 7:30-9pm (second and last of each month only)
  • Individual Treatment – not required
  • Family Group Session – not required
  • Support Group Meeting – three per week: AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or MADD

Drug & Alcohol Testing
Throughout the program, participants are randomly tested at least twice a week. Each day participants call in via phone to a drug testing number to find out if they are to be tested that day. Testing is done at the treatment center between 6 and 7 pm Monday through Friday and 9 through 10 am Saturday and Sunday.
Employment/Education Requirements
All participants must be working or be in school full-time.
It is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney before you apply for DUI Court, whether in Cobb County or any other jurisdiction. The attorneys at Smith, Schnatmeier, Dettmering, Collins, Reeves, Hobson & Hobson, LLP can help you decide whether DUI Court is the best course of action for your particular legal situation. Please call us today for a free consultation at 770-771-5097.

DUI Cases In Smyrna Municipal Court

Smryna, Georgia is a city in south Cobb County that has approximately 55,000 residents. Smyrna has seen significant growth recently with the redevelopment of a downtown. This area has numerous new homes, shops, restaurants and watering holes.

With this increase in local nightlife has come an increase in police presence on Smyrna roadways especially at night and on the weekends. The Smyrna Police Department (SPD) has a reputation for tough enforcement of traffic laws and especially DUIs. The SPD has 98 officer when it is fully staffed and has 2 officers assigned to the DUI Task Force. In 2014, the SPD made a total of 515 arrests and the two DUI Task Force Officers made 287 of those cases.

If you are arrested for DUI in the city limits of Smyrna, your case will start in the Municipal Court of Smyrna located at 2800 King Street, Smyrna, Georgia 30080. Judge Alton Curtis is the Chief Judge in Smyrna and he has a reputation of being tough but fair. You and you lawyers will have to decide whether or not to keep the case in Smyrna Municipal Court or “bind the case over” to the State Court of Cobb County in downtown Marietta, Georgia. As a general rule, municipal courts in Georgia are only allowed to have “judge” or “bench trials”. If an individual wishes to have a trial by jury, the case must be “bound over” to State Court (or Superior Court if a county does not have a state court). The decision of where to handle your DUI case is an important one and should be made only after speaking with your lawyer.

If you have been charged with DUI or any other offense in the Municipal Court of Smyrna, call one of the attorneys at Smith, Schnatmeier, Dettmering, Collins, Reeves, Hobson & Hobson, LLP for a free case evaluation at (770) 771-5097.

Acworth Municipal Court

The Acworth Municipal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. Located at 4408 Acworth Industrial Drive, Acworth, GA 30101 this court primarily handles misdemeanor traffic offenses, shoplifting, and marijuana offenses. Felony offenses are not handled in municipal courts. Most cases which involve violation of state law incur a maximum punishment of $1000.00 and/or 12 months incarceration. If you are being prosecuted pursuant to a violation of a municipal ordinance, typically the maximum punishment will be a $600.00 fine and/or 6 months incarceration.

The Chief Judge of the Acworth Municipal Court is Judge Phillip Taylor. His Associate Judges are H. Luke Mayes and Charles Chesbro. All of the judges are part time, holding permanent positons as private attorneys or in some other capacity. The Solicitor or Prosecutor for the City of Acworth is Randal Bentley who is also a part time employee. Court is held one day a week on Tuesday afternoons from 1:30 pm until 5:30 pm.

Misty Day is the Clerk for the Acworth Municipal Court. The Clerk’s office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 5:00pm. Most fines can be paid online. To find out your fine amount and whether or not your citation requires a court appearance, you can call (770) 974-0965. More serious misdemeanor offenses such as DUI, Possession of Marijuana, Hit and Run, No Insurance, Reckless Driving, Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Passing a School Bus, Racing, and Suspended License require a mandatory court appearance. If you are charged with one of these offenses, you should first seek the advice of an attorney as charges such as these may result in jail time, probation, and loss of your driver’s license. If court date is approaching and you have not yet obtained an attorney, you may continue your case one time in order to procure an attorney by calling the clerk’s office at the number above.

The Acworth Police Department consists of over 60 sworn and un-sworn personnel. Wayne Dennard is the Chief of the Acworth Police Department. The City of Acworth also has its own jail which houses inmates charged with minor offenses. The jail is overseen by Lt. Kenneth King. The average population of the jail is 24 inmates with a maximum capacity of 41 inmates. In 2014 the Acworth Police Department issued 6081 citations, 4904 warnings, handled 883 accident reports, and 93 accidents with injuries. In 2014 a program of targeted traffic enforcement was implemented to patrol in enforce traffic laws.

If you are charged with a traffic offense, a misdemeanor or a violation of a municipal ordinance please call 770-771-5097 and ask to speak to one of the attorneys at Smith, Schnatmeier, Dettmering, Collins, Reeves, Hobson & Hobson, LLP for assistance with your case. We are frequent advocates in the Acworth Municipal Court and we are more than willing to speak with you in order to discuss your case and explain your legal options.