Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms: Your Constitutional Second Amendment Right

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."   U.S. Const. amend. II.

This Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is generally referred to simply as the “right to bear arms.” The United States Supreme Court recently addressed the Second Amendment and found that, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).  Our Second Amendment right is regulated by each specific state.

Georgia’s specific law is the "Georgia Firearms and Weapons Act." O.C.G.A. § 16-11-120. In Georgia, the Judge of the Probate Court in your county has the authority to issue a valid firearms permit to qualified applicants. This firearm permit “shall authorize that person to carry any pistol or revolver in any county of this state notwithstanding any change in that person´s county of residence or state of domicile.” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129. Qualified applicants must: (1) Be a resident of Georgia; (2) Be a United States citizen, a valid resident alien, or a permanent resident; (3) Be at least twenty one years of age; (4) have a clear mental history (no hospitalization as an inpatient in any mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within five years); and (5) Clear a criminal background check. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129.

It is important to note that Georgia carry permits refer specifically to handguns and a permit is not required to carry a “long gun” as long as you meet the requirements listed above. A Georgia permit is also not required to carry a weapon on your property – such as inside your home, inside your vehicle, or inside your place of business. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-125. On June 4, 2010 Georgia Senate Bill 308 was passed and changed some of the preexisting Georgia laws regarding where an individual is allowed to carry a firearm. Currently, with a valid permit you can carry a handgun: in a restaurant, in a bar only if the owner of the bar grants permission, in your car in the parking lot of a place of worship, and in most public places such as parks and historic areas. Georgia Senate Bill 308.

Even with a valid firearms permit you cannot carry a handgun in Georgia government buildings, including school property. It is also always illegal to carry a handgun while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
People are often curious to discover that Georgia firearms law does not require you to register your firearm, but some weapons must be registered under federal laws such as, the National Firearm Act (NFA) of 1934, and Federal Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968.

Finally, Georgia firearms law has “reciprocity” allowing those with a valid Georgia firearm permit to carry in another state. “Georgia reciprocates in recognizing firearms licenses with the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.”

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Do I have to pay Child Support?

Parents often ask if they have to pay child support, and the simple answer is yes. Georgia, like all states, believes that child support is a parental obligation based on public policy. Child support belongs to the child not to the parents; therefore parents cannot negotiate away that obligation.

Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent “or other person to whom the custody of the child or children is awarded.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-17. The amount of child support starts with the Georgia Child Support CommissionThis organization has “the purpose of studying and collecting information and data relating to awards of child support and to create and revise the child support obligation table.” Georgia Courts. The Georgia Child Support Commission publishes child support calculators to determine a presumptive child support amount. Georgia Child Support Commission Calculators. This presumptive amount can be deviated upon judicial approval.
It is important to have the child support calculator correctly completed to determine a child’s appropriate child support amount. If you have questions about determining your child’s support amount, call our office today for your free initial 30-minute consultation! 770.466.2700

Confrontation Clause: Your Constitutional Sixth Amendment Right

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him."  U.S. Const. amend. VI.

This section of the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution is also known as the Confrontation Clause. The idea behind this amendment is that a defendant should have the opportunity to cross-examine and challenge the credibility of people making statements about him. In general, this right only applies when hearsay evidence is offered against a criminal defendant.

The Confrontation Clause is often confusing because there are many exclusions when it does not apply. In fact, the issue of exclusion was recently brought before the United States Supreme Court. In their Michigan v. Bryant decision, the Supreme Court held that the admission of a dying man's statements was not a violation of the Confrontation Clause. SupremeCourt Michigan v. Bryant.

The majority decision stated that the Confrontation Clause was not violated because the statements were not testimonial. However, in his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that this decision created another expansive exception to the clause.ABA journal 02/28/11.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What is Physical and Legal Child Custody?

Georgia family law revolves around the best interest of your child. The court determines both physical and legal custody of your child after divorce or separation with your child’s other parent. Georgia law provides that the courts are not to give preference to either mothers or fathers when determining physical and legal custody.

Physical custody is where the child resides and typically means that the other parent will have visitation rights. Physical custody can be joint or sole. Joint physical custody means that the child takes turns residing with each parent equally. Sole physical custody means that the child resides with just one parent (the custodial parent). In Georgia, it is not common to see joint physical custody.

Legal custody gives you the authority to make decisions concerning your child’s needs. These include decisions about religion, education, and non-emergency medical care. Legal custody, like physical custody, can be joint or sole. Parents with joint legal custody share this decision making authority, however only one parent has this authority with sole legal custody. Sole legal custody is only granted in instances when one parent is deemed unfit. It is more common for parents to have joint legal custody, meaning that the child’s parents will need to work together to make decisions.

If you are in the middle of trying to determine your child’s custody contact our office @ 770.466.2700 to discuss your options. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011