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Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office will not prosecute many marijuana cases for the time being

Where a crime takes place in Georgia, and most places, is an extremely important question.  Yesterday, the Gwinnett County Solicitor General announced that the prosecutors will not prosecute marijuana possession cases with arrest dates of May 10, 2019 or after due to a law change that pertains to THC levels. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/gwinnett-county/this-metro-county-will-not-prosecute-any-more-marijuana-cases-for-now/974261373.

In essence, it is now more difficult for the State to establish  through its available tests beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance the defendant possesses is an illegal substance as opposed to a legal substance, such as hemp.

Now, other counties and municipalities in Georgia, such as our own DeKalb County, Fulton County, and even Atlanta may follow suit.  However, Cherokee County is not likely to adopt this view.  In most Georgia counties, a misdemeanor marijuana charge would carry a fine, perhaps some community service, and, in the most serious cases, such as a repeat offender situation, a period of time on probation.  In Cherokee, we see negotiated plea offers that require random drug tests, significant jail time (30+ days), exorbitant fines, requirements to attend drug court, and DUI Risk Reduction School, even when the charge has nothing to do with the defendant driving.

It is extremely important that an attorney be familiar with the venue in which a criminal case, or even a civil case, is pending.  There can be a huge discrepancy between how one county deals with a particular charge and how another county would address the same matter.  In some circumstances, this disparity in how things are handled can vary from one judge’s courtroom to another.  The knowledge of how to respond and react in these circumstances is something that comes with experience, knowledge of the jurors in a specific county, awareness of the local customs and practices of the court, and connections with others who are most familiar with the venue.

If you or someone close to you has been charged with a marijuana offense, or any criminal offense, call the DeWoskin Law Firm for a consultation.  We have the experience and expertise to provide sound legal guidance as to the best manner of defending the case.  If the charges do come out of a venue with which we are not familiar, we know how to get you to the person most knowledgeable, reliable, and capable of handling the matter.

Should I settle my debt with Bank of America or American Express?

Bank of America and American Express are first party debt collectors, meaning that if and when they file suit against you, they are the original lenders seeking to collect their own debts.  Thus, these are often tougher cases to beat in court.  However, before agreeing to settle or pay even a first party debt, there is information you should have or verify.

First, you should always be cautious when speaking to any debt collector on the phone.  They will usually require extremely private information from you to verify who you are, or looking for information they may not have, such as your address or place of employment.   Meanwhile, you will never get simple information from them, such as the representatives first and last name, employee identification number, direct number, etc.  When you are at this kind of a disadvantage, it is better to tell them absolutely nothing and insist that any and all communication be in writing.  If they then ask you to confirm your mailing address, you should always refuse.  The true and valid debt collector should have it.  DO NOT be persuaded to bypass this rule.  Debt collectors are trained in how to play off your concerns about what could happen or make you think they are there to help.  They are there to collect money.  They are not on the lookout for your best interests.

Second, you should ensure that you have true and correct copies of the documents supporting their claims against you before ever agreeing to what is owed or how you will pay them.  If you went to a restaurant, you would not just look at the total of the bill at the end of a meal.  You would look to ensure that so much as an extra iced tea wasn’t added to your bill if it was not ordered and received.  Well, this is the same thing.  You may not need to read over every charge of every bill as you may do monthly when you receive credit card statements, but you should know what is being charged, claimed, and what it is related to before you decide whether or not to pay it.

Third, make sure that any resolution you agree to is in writing, and that it fully resolves the debt such that it won’t be resold to someone else or that they can pursue you for the remaining balance.  What you want to prevent is a judgment being entered against you, or perhaps even the chance that you will be sued again.  In Georgia, a case may be dismissed with or without prejudice.  “Without prejudice” means that the case can be refiled at a later time even though it is the same case or controversy.  So, before signing or agreeing to anything, know that “the lawyer told me this” or “Sandy at Bank of America told me that” will not be the beginning of a successful argument defending against a debt at a later time.

Finally, it is best to have the input and guidance of an experienced attorney when trying to make sure that you are doing what is best for you under the circumstances.  Sometimes, that may mean speaking to a couple of attorneys.  For instance, my firm does not practice bankruptcy, but we can identify when it is best for some potential clients to forego hiring us to instead retain the services of a qualified bankruptcy attorney.  Also, you should be certain your attorney is competent.  A simple Google search can give you insight into an attorney’s reputation for ethics and professionalism, whether or not the attorney has been sanctioned or disbarred in the past, or whether or not the attorney holds himself or herself out in a professional light.  Paying attention to these things can prevent further headache and harm.  Nobody ever wants to spend good money after bad.  If you have any questions regarding these types of debts, please call us at the DeWoskin Law Firm, (404) 987-0026.

See also Blog Post dated 05/23/2018 and 06/08/2018

Waiting to call an attorney after an injury can mean evidence is lost or destroyed

F.A. was a client of ours who was taking her car to be serviced at a luxury car dealership in North Atlanta.  While she waited, she began to walk through the showroom and stopped before a glass shelf with lots of coffee mugs, hats, pens, and other branded things that the dealership was selling.  She set her purse down and reached for a mug on the glass shelf.  When she placed it back on the shelf, the rest of the items on the shelf started rolling forward onto her.  She quickly tried to catch these items and level out the shelf, but it was already tumbling toward the ground.

The shelf crashed down onto her foot, landing so hard that the glass cut into the bones of her foot.  Our client was rather shocked as several employees of the dealership came to check on her.  Many of these employees came with towels, mops, and other things to try to clean up the blood and glass that was now all over the floor.  F.A., who was 75 years old, was taken to the hospital by ambulance and treated for her painful injuries.  Due to some other unrelated health conditions, including peripheral arterial disease, the treatment for her injuries took longer than it might have with a younger or healthier person.  She had to undergo surgical procedures and angioplasty to assist with proper circulation and prevent the need for amputation of her leg.

When F.A. hired us, we immediately sent spoliation notices to preserve all the necessary documentation and determine who the witnesses were, secure any video footage of the incident, and ensure that we would have what we needed to prove liability when the time was right.  Fortunately, thanks to several prompt phone calls and letters, we were able to actually view the video footage.  Although the insurance company argued that F.A. caused the shelf to collapse onto her (which was not the case) we pressed forward showing that this shelf was precarious before F.A. ever approached it, and that these items were clearly on display with the expectation that customers would pick them up and then purchase them.

The case ultimately settled for $200,000.00.  What this case really demonstrates is the importance of hiring counsel early.  Had our client waited even a week before reaching out to us, we could have had real issues ensuring the availability of that video.  With proper notifications in place, if the video were to disappear, through standard practices of recording over videos or any other reason, we would be able to hold the dealership accountable and there could be sanctions that would protect the client.

If you have questions soon after being injured, do not wait to reach out to knowledgeable counsel.  It can be the difference between complete success and complete failure to recover damages after being injured.

Is it possible to be removed from the Sex Offender Registry?

Being a registered sex offender negatively impacts your life in a variety of ways. It affects where you live, where you work, and whether or not you can even get a job. It can have a negative impact on your social life if your neighbors learn that you are a registered sex offender. It can also negatively impact your relationship with family members.

If you are a registered sex offender, your life can be vastly improved by being removed from the registry. If you have completed all of your jail time, parole, and probation for the charge or charges that required you to register, you may be eligible to be permanently removed from the sex offender registry. Call the experienced lawyers at the DeWoskin Law Firm for a free consultation to see if you are eligible to be removed from the registry.

IS THERE A DEADLINE FOR FILING A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT?

If you are injured as a result of another person’s negligence, you are entitled under Georgia law to recover all damages that flow from that injury. Typically, this is referred to as a personal injury claim.

Many personal injury claims settle out of court without the necessity of filing a lawsuit. If the case is not settled out of court, the injured party has the option of filing a lawsuit in an effort to be fairly compensated through the legal system.

However, there is a time limitation for filing a personal injury lawsuit. That time limitation is called the statute of limitations. In Georgia, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit, generally speaking, is two years from the date that the right of the action accrues. (O.C.G.A. 9-3-33)

For example, a personal injury suit based on a car wreck must be filed within two years from the date of the wreck. If you do not file suit within the statute of limitations, your case will be dismissed, barring extreme circumstances.

There are exceptions to the above rule. For example, under the same statute, a person has just one year to bring an action for injuries to reputation. Also, there are rules that pertain to the timeliness of serving the lawsuit on a defendant that relate back to the statute of limitations. There are other rules as well that can affect the viability of your lawsuit.

To best protect your ability to be properly compensated and to ensure that you do not miss the statute of limitations, you should consult with a trusted attorney about the specific facts of your case. Call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.

THE REAL REASON THAT NO GOOD AND DECENT ATTORNEY WILL EVER CALL YOU FIRST AFTER A CAR WRECK

Many law firms in Georgia illegally and unethically employ individuals to pull police reports after an accident, then call the people listed on the reports and offer the legal services of their employers.  These individuals are called “runners,” and they are the definition of ambulance chasers.  In fact, they are more than happy to come to a hospital bedside, invited or otherwise, at any given point in the day.

Not surprisingly, the State Bar of Georgia looks upon these predatory, sleazy tactics unfavorably.  Unfortunately, the State Bar does not have a history of addressing these matters aggressively and holding the law firms that employ such runners accountable.  And so, after a car wreck, it is not just possible, but likely that you will receive a call from someone who calls himself or herself an “investigator,” or who misrepresents that they work with this or that insurance company.

It is a disappointing truth that, at a time when all you should be focused on is getting better and treating injuries, you must also be vigilant not to be fooled by someone who works for a law firm pretending to be someone they are not so they can sign you up as a client.  NO GOOD AND DECENT ATTORNEY WILL EVER, EVER CALL YOU, OR HAVE SOMEONE CALL YOU, WITHOUT YOU REACHING OUT TO HIM OR HER FIRST.  This is a cornerstone of an ethical law practice.  Sure, lawyers may advertise services on television.  They may put billboards on the highway or on the sides of buses, but they should never call you or have someone call you and say, “I hear you were in a wreck and we can help.”  This is the tactic of a law office desperate to sign up anyone naïve enough to fall for this sort of thing.  They work on case volume, which means they simply do not have the time nor the resources to provide you with competent legal representation.

If you or someone close to you has been in a car accident, even if it is not a serious car accident, do not talk to someone when they call you and tell you they heard you were in a wreck.  If they claim to be calling from the insurance company, ask them what the policy number is and get a number to return their call.  The chances of them actually being from State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, etc. will improve if they can give you a number that does not ring back to a cellular telephone.  In fact, it would be a good idea to Google the company to ensure the number you were given is legitimate.

Be careful and don’t be scammed by these folks who will tell you whatever it takes to sign you up.  You should only ever enter into an agreement for legal representation when you are sitting and talking to an actual lawyer.

MEDICAL ADVICE WHEN INVOLVED IN A PERSONAL INJURY CASE

After being involved in a motor vehicle collision, people will often ask me for advice regarding treatment.  I am not a medical doctor, so I cannot give medical advice, but I have a large network of trusted medical professionals to which I can refer my clients, although which medical professional they choose to see is entirely their decision. Above all else, it is imperative that my clients follow the advice of the medical professionals they see.

Neglecting or delaying medical treatment, or failing to comply with the advice of medical professionals after being involved in an auto collision can negatively impact my client’s case. It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, if not immediately, after being involved in a motor vehicle collision for several reasons.

First, if you sustain cuts, scrapes, or bruises after a wreck, those are readily visible injuries that would probably require immediate medical attention. However, you would not necessarily know if you have sustained any internal injuries because they are not as apparent as external injuries. These types of injuries could potentially be harmful, and it is for this reason medical advice should be sought after an accident.

Additionally, failing to follow the advice of medical professionals when involved in a motor vehicle collision can negatively impact your ability to recover in your case because in Georgia you have a duty to mitigate your damages – including your injuries. Essentially, this means you have a legal duty to try to get healthy. Not doing so can be held against you in your case. For example, if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision and you see an emergency room doctor immediately afterwards, or any other medical professional, and it is recommended that you follow a specific schedule for physical therapy, but you do not follow the doctor’s advice, the insurance company or opposing party’s attorney will have a strong argument that the injuries you sustained in the collision were not severe because you did not follow the treatment suggested by the doctor.

Similarly, the insurance company or opposing counsel will likely argue that you must not have been severely injured by the collision if you waited days or weeks after the collision to seek medical treatment, or if you are inconsistent with treatment. These gaps in time between treatment are called “gaps in treatment.” An example of a “gap in treatment” would be if your doctor advised you to attend physical therapy twice a week for eight weeks and you went for two weeks, then skipped two weeks, and then continued your physical therapy thereafter. Gaps in treatment can negatively impact your ability to recover in a personal injury case because the insurance company or opposing party will argue that your injuries must not be severe if you skipped treatments.

When you or someone you know is involved in an automobile collision due to the negligence of someone else, seek medical attention as soon as possible, follow the advice of your medical professionals, and call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.

How does the amount of damage to my vehicle affect my recovery in a personal injury case?

According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia, there are more than 300,000 motor vehicle collisions in the state every year. Many of these collisions result in property damage and bodily injury to one or more people involved in the collision.

If the collision results in property damage to your vehicle, under Georgia law the at-fault driver (i.e. the driver who caused the wreck) is responsible for paying for the damage he or she caused to your vehicle. If your vehicle is damaged but not totaled, the at-fault driver must pay for your cost of repairs. If your vehicle is totaled, the at-fault driver must pay whatever the value of your vehicle was at the time the wreck took place; that is, what your vehicle could have been sold for prior to being involved in the collision.

Your vehicle’s damage is also evidence that can be used to assist in proving (or, unfortunately, disproving) any bodily injuries you are claiming resulted from the wreck. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. You can tell people that you were involved in a violent collision, but those words mean different things to different people. However, a single photo of a vehicle that is crushed like an accordion tells people more than any amount of story-telling could.

If you are involved in a collision, whether it is your fault or not, you should always take photos of the property damage to your vehicle and to any other property that was damaged (e.g. the other vehicle, roadside property that might have been hit, etc.). These photos can be invaluable evidence in your case.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle collision, reach out to the DeWoskin Law Firm. Let us guide you through the process and maximize your recovery. Call us at 404-987-0026.

Why You Must Have a Lawyer if You Are Charged with DUI

You’re in your car with your significant other, leaving the new trendy restaurant in Midtown, Atlanta at which you both had dinner and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine. You forget to flip on your turn signal while turning right onto North Avenue to head home. Suddenly you hear sirens and see blue lights. You pull over for the officer, gather your license and registration, and as the officer approaches the vehicle, you hear the dreaded question: “How much have you had to drink tonight?”

You agree to perform the tests the officer asks because you think, “Hey, I only had a couple of glasses of wine, right? Surely, the officer will realize I am not drunk.”

After being compliant with the officer and performing all the tests, the officer places you in handcuffs, reads out loud to you the contents of an orange card, asks if you will take a breath test, and takes you to jail.

Many Georgians have found themselves in the exact situation described above, and it can be one of the most frightening and confusing things to ever happen to a person in their life. People hire attorneys to shepherd them through the rest of this unfortunate ordeal. Others get out of jail after being arrested for DUI and think: “DUI is just a misdemeanor traffic charge. I have never been in trouble before. I am sure I can handle this on my own and save attorney’s fees.”

This article examines several reasons why you should always retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible after being charged with DUI.

First, you should hire an experienced DUI attorney because there are certain time-sensitive components related to being charged with DUI that will affect your case significantly. In addition to having criminal charges brought against you by the State of Georgia, the arresting officer will often file what is commonly referred to as an “ALS” which is short for “Administrative License Suspension.”

By filing an ALS, the officer is asking the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings and the Georgia Department of Driver Services to suspend your driving privileges for allegedly driving under the influence. If an officer files an ALS in your case, you have a very short time frame within which to respond. If you do not respond within the requisite time frame, your license will be automatically suspended for one year without you having ever been convicted of any crime at all. This is because the license suspension is a civil matter that is separate from the criminal DUI matter.

To avoid your license being administratively suspended after being charged with DUI, it is important to hire an experienced attorney right away that knows the law regarding ALS hearings and can assist you in maintaining your privilege to drive.

Because the law in Georgia regarding DUI constantly changes and evolves, it is important to hire an attorney who is up to date on these changes in the law. For example, the Georgia Supreme Court recently handed down a decision which holds that in a DUI case the prosecution can no longer present evidence that a Defendant refused to give the officer a sample of his or her breath. This decision by the Court is huge for Defendants in DUI cases because the prosecution is no longer allowed to argue to a jury that the reason a defendant refused to provide a breath sample is because the defendant was drinking. The lawyers at the DeWoskin Law Firm have filed motions based on this recent Supreme Court decision, and other favorable decisions, in pending DUI cases where our clients refused to provide breath samples.

Another reason you should always hire an experienced DUI attorney is that there is an absolute wealth of information that can be used pertaining to the tests an officer will ask a person suspected of driving under the influence to perform. It is imperative that your attorney know all of this information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that officers give very specific instructions to DUI suspects before having them perform these tests, otherwise the results of the tests can be unreliable. It is also critical that the investigating officer ask certain medical qualifying questions to a DUI suspect to ensure that the results of the tests are accurate. It is essential that the officer conducting these tests perform them correctly, or else the results of the tests can be skewed, and the DUI suspect can be wrongfully convicted of DUI.

Last but not least, you should hire an experienced DUI attorney because a conviction for DUI in the state of Georgia is almost always permanent. If you are pleading guilty to DUI in the State of Georgia, you cannot utilize Georgia’s First Offender Act. A DUI cannot be expunged from your record in the state of Georgia. The best way to avoid a conviction for DUI ending up on your record is to immediately hire an experienced attorney who knows how to get the charges dismissed or reduced, or who may be able to convince a jury to return a verdict of “not guilty.”

Call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm if you or someone you know is charged with DUI.

What are Punitive Damages?

In Georgia, the law allows for punitive damages to be awarded by a jury “only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”  O.C.G.A. §51-12-5.1.  These damages are not awarded as further compensation to a person who has been injured, but instead are awarded as punishment and designed to penalize and deter the defendant from acting in the same manner in the future.

These damages often come into play in cases where a DUI driver has injured somebody in a car wreck.  If there is so much as $1 in compensatory damages, the jury will get to determine if punitive damages should apply.  Juries are far less likely to award such damages on a first time DUI driver, but in the event that the driver has had many DUIs, or even many incidents that have and could prove dangerous to others that involve alcohol or drugs, the chances of getting punitive damages grow considerably.

Even when punitive damages may be applicable in a case, juries are often skeptical and reluctant to award amounts of money that will enrich the plaintiff.  For instance, juries will often ask at the punitive damages phase if they can designate that the damages will go to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or another non-profit.  They will ask the courts if they can order the defendant to enroll in rehabilitation.  The juries will get creative and try to resist awarding money that just goes to the plaintiff, but not as compensatory damages.  Again, they have already considered those damages and rendered their verdict there.  This is about exemplary damages, and the statute even references that.

Punitive damages can be a tricky issue.  The jury will consider many factors in determining how much, if any, to award for punitive damages.  The jury must consider the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions that give rise to such damages, including considerations as to whether the harm caused was physical or just economic, whether the conduct demonstrated an indifference to  the safety and health of other people, and whether or not it was a one time offense or just one of many occurrences.  The jury also must consider the means of the defendant in assessing these damages.  The higher the price a defendant has paid in the criminal justice setting for the same conduct may very well reduce the level of accountability that the jury is willing to impose in a civil setting.

It is not enough that a defendant was merely negligent for punitive damages to be awarded.  The exposure for punitive damages is strictly limited to those situations where the defendant needs to be punished and have his or her behavior corrected.  This makes perfect sense when, in the case of ordinary negligence, the likes of which result in so many car wrecks and injuries related to those wrecks, the jury is not considering punishment, but only putting the injured plaintiff in the same position that he or she was in before the car wreck.  This is the idea of being “made whole.”  Unfortunately, in countless situations, lives are lost to negligence or injuries are beyond being fixed 100% such that a jury must find the fair amount of monetary compensation to try to make the plaintiff whole.

Knowing when punitive damages should be considered and how to go about seeking them is a complicated decision and process.  However, with proper experience and application, these damages can greatly enhance the chances of getting a just recovery from a fair and impartial jury.  These damages should not be taken lightly and should only be pleaded for in the appropriate circumstances.

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It’s your money. Know your rights. If you have been served with a debt collection lawsuit or are being harassed by debt collectors, we can help.

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You are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Do not fight the charges alone. The State has vast resources. You should too.

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Your life or the life of a loved one has been tragically altered. We fight to ensure that you are fairly compensated.

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