Monday, February 28, 2011

Accidents happen all the time.

During a visit to a Loganville nail salon, a woman was involved in an acetone fire and received second-degree burns. The Loganville Police Department and Fire Marshal's office were both contacted and are investigating the accident. Loganville Tribune 2/27/11.

Although we can never be prepared for every event, it is important to have a plan for when you do find yourself in an accident. See our website for a list of things to do when involved in an accident.

Outstanding traffic citation in Gwinnett County? Amnesty may be your answer.

Beginning March 1, 2011, the Gwinnett County Records Court is offering traffic citation amnesty for citations that have been outstanding for up to 28 years. ACJ 2/28/11. This amnesty will waive the $25 bench warrant fee and recall the bench warrant when the fines are paid. The Court will also supply the forms to reinstate suspeneded or expired driver's licenses unders some circumstances.

This means you can settle your outstanding traffic citation case without additional penalties. This amnesty will not eliminate your required court appearance, so be sure to contact the Court or an attorney before moving forward. Gwinnett Courts.

Don't wait on this offer, amnesty ends at the end of March 2011.

Friday, February 25, 2011

No Radar Speed Detection in Loganville?

Not quite. As of January 1, 2011, Gwinnett County Police and other nearby City Police lost their ability to use their radar and laser speed detection devices to catch speeders.  AJC 1/4/11.  The problem is the result of a legal battle over whose tax money will cover public safety issues. While the debate is in court, law enforcement officers are back to using the pacing method to determine a vehicle’s speed.

However, “Only two Gwinnett County cities can continue to use radar and laser guns at this point." 11alive 1/5/11.  The City of Loganville Police Department is one of those cities. They can still use radar and laser speed detection devices on Loganville streets because their permit does not expire until the end of 2011.

If you find yourself being pulled over by the Police for speeding, be sure to find out how your speed was determined and call our office to discuss your options.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who determines child custody?

In Georgia, when a couple with children divorces or separates, their child's custody is determined by a judge. Even if both parents agree to custody issues for their child, a Court still needs to approve the custody arrangement. The judge shall look at the best interest of the child to make this decision. But what does that mean?

The best interest of the child is a standard that does not focus on the parents, but rather looks forward and attempts to determine the child's best interests now and in the future. In Georgia, the best interest of the child is a statutory list of factors judges may look at when determining custody issues. This list of potential factors includes: the love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child; capacity of the parent; parent's knowledge of the child; parent's ability to provide daily needs for child; parent's home environment (nurture and safety); stability; mental health of parent; physical health of parent; parent's involvement; parent's employment schedule; domestic violence; recommendations by a guardian; and any evidence of substance abuse by either parent. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3. However, the judge does not specifically look at religion, sexual orientation, nor economic advantage of one over another when determining the child's custody.

A judge can also order more then just custody or visitation in the best interest of the child. Recently, a Georgia Court held that because "the evidence showed that father had ingested drugs during the child’s lifetime, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in requiring that he be periodically drug tested." Willis II v. Willis, Daily Report S10F1357; S10F135.

It is important to have an attorney who is familiar with these standards to help you with your child custody issues.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can you say no to the police? Your Constitutional Fourth Amendment Right

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states, " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” U.S. Const. amend. IV.

The United State Supreme Court clarified this in their 1968 Terry vs. Ohio decision. They held that the Constitutional Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures is not violated when a police officer stops a suspect on the street and frisks him without probable cause to arrest, if the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.  This is often referred to as a Terry Stop and allows the officer to conduct a pat-down to search for weapons. 

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently confirmed that decision when they found, “Police officers were authorized to assume that the defendant posed a danger to their safety, and thus, the pat-down search for a weapon was constitutionally permissible.” Lewis v. State, Daily Report A10A1669.

This means that if a police officer believes you pose a danger and that officer can point to specific facts (more than a mere hunch) to support his belief, then the officer is allowed to conduct a Terry Stop and Frisk. This Terry Stop and Frisk is limited to your outer garments to search for weapons only. Additional exceptions also allow police officers to seize contraband that is immediately apparent by feel or sight. 

When a police officer asks if they can look around, many people just answer yes, but our Constitution allows us to say NO.  With your consent, the police can search even if they have no legal authority to do so. Refusing permission to search does not mean that you are guilty, that you are hiding something or even that the search will not happen. If the police still want to search your things and you refuse, they are then required to obtain legal authority to conduct the search. This type of balance ensures that our Constitutional right “against unreasonable searches and seizures” is protected.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It is important to have it in writing.

A Georgia court recently held that "A party may not be held in contempt for violation of a court order unless the order informs him in definite terms as to the duties thereby imposed on him." Morgan v. Morgan, DailyReport S10A1365.

This decision was related to a Agreed Domestic Relations Order (ADRO), but the same would hold true for any type of agreement. It is important to have the correct details in writing. Legal contracts and forms can be found all over the internet these days, however they often do not address your specific concerns. Contracts and agreements should be written to your specific issues and can be catered to your needs. Contact The Law Office of Christine M Bechtold to help you with your legal contract.

Monday, February 21, 2011

charged as adult

Loganville Man Charged in Rape of Teen Girl

Did you know that in Georgia any person over the age of seventeen is treated as an adult?

In early 2004, the Juvenile Law Committee (JLC) began a project to revise the now forty year old Georgia Juvenile Code. One of JLC's goals is to increase the juvenile age to eighteen in Georgia. Advocates say this could be more costly now, but it would result in savings when more young offenders get proper services and stay out of adult prison. Opponents say this change is not necessary and too costly when the state is already challenged with budget issues.


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