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Criminal Defense Attorney Kim T. Stephens Discusses the Campus Carry Law

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Criminal Defense Attorney Kim T. Stephens Discusses the Limitations to the Campus Carry Law

Effective July 1, 2017, licensed gun owners will be able to carry weapons on Georgia college and university campuses. Georgia joins Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Idaho, Kansas (effective July 1, 2017), and Arkansas (effective September 15, 2017), who all already have campus carry laws in place. Criminal defense attorney, Kim T. Stephens cautions students and other individuals that that there are limitations to the campus carry law, and it’s important for students and others to know these limitations to avoid arrest and possible criminal prosecution.

1. Students are not allowed to have guns or ANY other type of weapon in university dormitories at any time. Students found in possession of a firearm or other weapon could be charged with a felony. Therefore, students who live on campus would not have a place to safely store a weapon, even if they are a licensed gun carrier.
2. The campus carry bill does NOT allow guns to be taken inside a fraternity or sorority house. Therefore, any student living at a fraternity or sorority house, could not keep a weapon on the property. Individuals violating this policy could be charged with a felony and/or a misdemeanor.
3. Firearms are also NOT allowed inside buildings, stadiums, or other facilities used for athletic events.
4. Firearms or weapons of any kind cannot be taken into any daycare or childcare facility, including those on university property.
5. Students and other individuals may not take firearms into faculty or administrative areas on campus, and may not take firearms or any other weapons to student judiciary hearings. Any person violating these restrictions may be charged with a felony.

Kim T. Stephens is a nationally ranked criminal defense attorney in Athens, Georgia. If you have been charged with a crime or are facing disciplinary action from a student judiciary board, call Kim Stephens today for professional advice and a powerful defense.

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Kim T. Stephens on Title IX, Student Conduct, and Academic Dishonesty

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Did you know that criminal defense attorney Kim T. Stephens represents individuals being investigated or punished by student judiciary boards at universities throughout Georgia?

In the last month, Mr. Stephens has obtained a temporary protective order to prevent a law student being suspended without due process from an Atlanta law school. This aggressive action on behalf of Mr. Stephens’ client kept the student in school, enabled him to take his exams, and earn credit for his semester’s work. Mr. Stephens also recently had an expulsion at UGA overturned and reduced to a suspension, again allowing the student concerned to return to school and complete their degree. The student’s relieved parent wrote the following review of Mr. Stephens’ services:
“I talked to a lot of attorneys when my college aged child was expelled for academic dishonesty and the appeal deadline was only days away. Kim Stephens was the only attorney willing to help. With his knowledge and experience, he was able to get the expulsion turned to suspension and my child was readmitted to UGA and will now be able to accomplish educational and career goals. Without him, that would not have happened. Thank you Mr. Stephens.”
If you, or your child, are facing an investigation or a hearing with the student judiciary at a college in Georgia, you need professional advice and a powerful defense.

Call Kim T. Stephens today and let him protect your future.

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Kim Stephens Discusses Common Misconceptions about Arrests

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            Athens defense attorney Kim Stephens discusses common myths about arrests and criminal defense. Kim Stephens is a nationally ranked defense attorney, and he has practiced criminal law in Athens for twenty four years.

Misconceptions About Arrests and Criminal Defense

  1. MYTH: If the police don’t read me my Miranda rights, my case will automatically be thrown out or dismissed.

TRUTH:  The police are not required to advise a person of their Miranda rights, i.e. the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present, until a person has been detained or arrested.  If the police fail to tell you your Miranda rights following a custodial arrest, any statements you make in response to police questioning or interrogation might be excluded from use at trial, but the case is still not likely to be thrown out or dismissed, although a good defense attorney will certainly try to leverage this omission to help resolve your case.

 

  1. MYTH: If my friend has marijuana/cocaine/prescription pain pills/ecstasy/or any illegal drugs, while he or she is in my car or house, I can’t be arrested or charged by the police with possession since it isn’t mine.

TRUTH:  In Georgia, you can and are likely to be charged with possession of illegal drugs if drugs are found in your car, house, or in close proximity to you, even if the drugs belong to your friend or acquaintance.  I represented a young female UGA student—an honor student with close to a 4.0 GPA—in the recent past who was a guest at a parent/student fraternity social at the Athens Classic Center.  Her date, a good friend of hers, was approached by the police and arrested for cocaine possession after an officer serving as a security guard saw him snorting a white powder.  Our client was also arrested based solely on the fact that she was standing beside her date at the time.  Even worse, the local newspaper put the young lady’s picture on the front page with a headline announcing she had been arrested for possession of cocaine.  After investigating the case, I convinced the prosecutors in the Athens Clarke County District Attorney’s Office to dismiss all charges against the young lady, but the emotional trauma and expense of simply being charged was extraordinarily difficult on her and her family. Be aware that if you are spending time with people who are involved in illegal activity, you may be arrested just for your proximity to those people, even if you aren’t directly involved in the crime.

 

  1. MYTH: I (or my son or daughter) will never be arrested because I am/ they are a good person and would never violate the law.

FACT:  Almost all of my clients are good people.  Some of my clients are falsely accused.  Some have done something that violates a law, but the police and prosecutors have over-charged or inflated the charges to be bigger than they should be.  Some people have simply made bad decisions or found themselves in unfortunate circumstances.  At Stephens & Brown, we begin each case believing our clients are good people and treat them with respect throughout our representation.  We seek to achieve the very best possible result in each case.

 

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged crimes, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends people every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing incidents from impacting his clients’ lives. He is a nationally ranked defense attorney and has successfully litigated hundreds of cases.

 

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933

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Sex Crimes

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Consent and Sex Crimes

            Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes University of Georgia, University of North Georgia, Athens Technical College, and Piedmont College students back to Athens. Continuing in our series of blogs intended to help new and returning students in Athens understand and navigate the legal system, today’s blog will focus on consent and laws concerning sexual conduct, and sex crimes. If you have questions about academic concerns/ student conduct hearings, DUI laws or other local and state laws regarding alcohol consumption, you can access Student Legal Services Series 1: DUI here; Series 2: Alcohol Laws and Local Ordinances, here; and Series 3: Academic Concerns, here.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged crimes, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends students every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing incidents from impacting students’ education and lives beyond college. He is a nationally ranked defense attorney and has successfully litigated hundreds of cases.

Consent:

While in college and beyond, it is important to understand the meaning of consent as it relates to sexual activity in order to avoid hurting someone, committing sexual assault, and facing charges that could permanently impact your reputation, freedom, and well-being. The University of Georgia defines consent (via their EOO website) as “Words or actions that show a knowing and voluntary willingness to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.  Consent cannot be gained by force, intimidation or coercion, by ignoring or acting in spite of objections of another, or by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the respondent knows or reasonably should have known of such incapacitation…Past consent does not imply present or future consent.  Silence or an absence of resistance does not imply consent. Minors under the age of 16 cannot legally consent under Georgia law.”

In other words, before engaging in sexual activity you need to be certain that:

  1. The other person has clearly indicated that they want to have sex or engage in sexual acts with you. Remember you should NEVER attempt to coerce or convince an individual to do something they are unsure about or don’t want to do.
  2. You have consent for each encounter. Just because a person has consented to sex previously does NOT mean that you have the right to engage in sexual activity without their ongoing and clear consent.
  3. The other person is not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. An intoxicated person, or a person who is incapacitated because of medication, CANNOT legally consent to sex or sexual activity.
  4. That the person is over the age of sixteen. Remember that nobody under the age of 16 can consent to sexual activity. Even if you are only one or two years older than the individual and have a relationship with them, any sexual activity (including kissing) could still be considered a crime.

 

 

Sex Crimes:

You should be aware of the following laws and regulations regarding sexual activity in Georgia:

  1. If you touch someone in a sexual manner without their consent—for example, slapping buttocks or touching intimate areas of their body—you can be charged with sex crime such as  sexual battery or even aggravated sexual battery. See O.C.G.A. 16-6-22.1 and 16-6-22.2.
  2. If you have sex with an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, and other serious criminal charges, even if you were also intoxicated. See O.C.G.A. 16-6-1, 16-6-22.1 and 16-6-22.2.
  3. If you have any kind of sexual contact with someone under the age of consent (16), you may be charged with child molestation, aggravated child molestation, statuary rape, sexual battery, aggravated sexual battery, and/or enticing a child for indecent purposes. See O.C.G.A. 16-6-3, 16-6-4, 16-6-22.1, 16-6-22.2 and 16-6-5.
  4. Students, particularly male students, are being expelled by UGA and other colleges and universities based upon accusations of sexual misconduct, where both students involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, WITHOUT A HEARING to determine the truth of the accusation.

Remember if you are accused of any crime involving sexual misconduct, it is vitally important that you hire an attorney to help you defend the accusations and protect your future.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933

 

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Student Legal Services Series 2: Alcohol Laws and Criminal Defense

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Student Legal Services Series 2:

Alcohol Laws and Local Ordinances

 

Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes University of Georgia, University of North Georgia, Athens Technical College, and Piedmont College students back to Athens.

Continuing in our series of blogs intended to help new and returning students in Athens understand and navigate the legal system, today’s blog will focus on state laws and local ordinances, particularly those pertaining to the consumption of alcohol. If you missed last week’s blog on DUI laws and what to do if you’re stopped, you can access it here.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged crimes, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends students every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing incidents from impacting students’ education and lives beyond college. He is a nationally ranked defense attorney and has successfully litigated hundreds of cases.

Alcohol Laws and Local Ordinances:

  1. Athens has an open container ordinance, meaning it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages outside in public spaces, even just outside of some bars and restaurants. The local police enforce the open container law year round, even on football game days on and off campus.
  2. Athens has a noise ordinance and excessive noise at any residence may result in police coming to your residence and attempting to question everyone who is there. If the police show up at your home because of a noise complaint, have someone who has not been drinking and/or is over 21 years of age meet the officers at the door and, above all else, be polite, cooperate and turn the noise down, i.e. lower the decibel level.
  3. Littering violates state law and local ordinances and makes the community an uglier place. Instead of dropping cans, bottles or other trash on the ground or throwing them out the car window, pick up any trash you see and put it in the closest recycle or trash bin. You will feel good about yourself and will avoid unnecessary attention from the police.
  4. If you drink alcohol and are under the age of twenty-one, you may be charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol, i.e. MIP, even if the police don’t perform any test to determine if you have been drinking. Local police departments in Athens changed their policy of arresting first time underage drinkers and branding them as criminals last year; but, police will arrest you and take you to jail if they can charge you with another crime, i.e. obstruction, public intoxication, possession of a fake ID, etc., at the same time. The penalties and sentences in MIP cases and these other types of misdemeanor cases can be unduly harsh and burdensome and can result in you having a criminal record. Please don’t trust your friend’s expert advice just because he or she already had an MIP in Athens or somewhere else. Every case is different. You should always consult with an attorney before you go to court.
  5. If you are stopped and/or cited for MIP, local police will likely ask for or search for fake IDs and, if they find one, they will arrest you and take you to jail. In some cases, Athens and UGA police officers have charged students with felony forgery charges instead of the more appropriate misdemeanor charge of possession of a false or fictitious ID. Possession of a fake ID, even as a misdemeanor charge, can result in serious sanctions including suspension of your driver’s license.
  6. If you urinate in public you are violating both state law and local ordinances. In addition to Public Urination, the police may also charge you with Public Indecency and will definitely check to see if you’ve been drinking. If you have consumed alcohol, they may then also charge you with an MIP and/or Public Drunkenness.
  7. If you are a UGA student, the Honor Code contains specific punishment for violations of the Code that involve alcohol or drugs. Second time violations involving alcohol, even a violation as minor as an RA seeing beer in a dorm room refrigerator, can and often does result in suspension from UGA for a full year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933               s-cd s10-cd s-dui s10-dui cc-dui cc-cd readers_choice_logo_2012 rc13 Top100seal1[1]                          
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Student Legal Services Series 1: DUI

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Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes University of Georgia, University of North Georgia, Athens Technical College, and Piedmont College students back to Athens. The fall is an exciting time in Athens, with students returning to the city, and football season just around the corner. Former Bulldog All-American and criminal defense attorney Kim Stephens encourages incoming students to study, work hard, have fun, and be careful to avoid being arrested and forever branded as a criminal.

For the next several weeks our blog will focus on educating students about local laws and ordinances and helping them avoid legal problems and academic disputes.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged crimes, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future.  Kim Stephens defends students every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing incidents from impacting students’ education and lives beyond college.

 

Student Legal Services Series 1:

DUI

  1. If you are under the age of twenty-one and drive any vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages (0.02 BAC or 1 alcoholic drink for most people), you may be charged with DUI. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a DUI charge, your driver’s license would likely be suspended if you are charged with MIP while driving.  Don’t put yourself or others at risk.  Walk (preferably with a friend so that you won’t be a good candidate for being robbed or mugged), call a sober friend, have a designated driver, take a cab, or let Uber help you.
  2. If you are over the age of twenty-one and drive a vehicle (including bicycles, scooters, Segways, golf carts, horses, or any moving vehicle) with a blood alcohol level of .08, you will be charged with DUI in Athens. While television, radio and billboard advertisements call a DUI a $10,000.00 mistake, I know of a DUI conviction costing a person more than $200,000.00 because he lost his job, lost his company car, couldn’t find other work for over a year, almost lost his home, and suffered the more typical DUI I’ve also seen commercial drivers lose their licenses for a year or, for a second DUI permanently taking away their ability to work.  These cases demonstrate the severe impact a DUI can have whether you are a college student or a working adult.
  3. If you drive a vehicle improperly (speeding, failure to maintain lane, etc.) after consuming alcohol or using drugs, you may be charged with DUI less safe even if you refuse the breath or blood test. Often police officers will request that you take “a few tests” to determine if you are impaired.  You are not required to take these field sobriety tests.  Understand that police officers use the test to gather evidence against you, not to help you.  So, in almost every circumstance, you should refuse to do field sobriety tests at the scene of your stop.

2016 Update: Recent Georgia and United States Supreme Court cases have called into question the legality of blood tests to determine blood alcohol level in DUI cases without a valid search warrant.

  1. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor reckless driving to felony vehicular homicide. A conviction for vehicular homicide almost always results in many years of prison time though Stephens & Brown has successfully kept clients out of jail in these serious cases including one client recently who caused the death of two elderly people after smoking marijuana.  Don’t take a chance of killing someone, ruining your life, and devastating the lives of family members for you and the person you might injure or kill.

 

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933

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St. Patrick’s Day Reminders from Criminal Defense Attorney, Kim T. Stephens

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the attorneys and staff at Stephens and Brown. Criminal defense attorney, Kim T. Stephens, urges students and others celebrating tonight to remember the following laws and ordinances while having fun in Athens tonight.

State laws and local ordinances:

a) Athens has an open container ordinance, meaning it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages outside in public spaces, even just outside of some bars and restaurants. The local police enforce the open container law year round.

b) Athens has a noise ordinance and excessive noise at any residence may result in police coming to your residence and attempting to question everyone who is there. If the police show up at your home because of a noise complaint, have someone who has not been drinking and/or is over 21 years of age meet the officers at the door and, above all else, be polite, cooperate and turn the noise down, i.e. lower the decibel level.

c) Littering violates state law and local ordinances and makes the community an uglier place. Instead of dropping cans, bottles or other trash on the ground or throwing them out the car window, pick up any trash you see and put it in the closest recycle or trash bin. You will feel good about yourself and will avoid unnecessary attention from the police.

d) If you drink alcohol and are under the age of twenty-one, you may be charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol, i.e. MIP, even if the police don’t perform any test to determine if you have been drinking. Local police departments in Athens recently changed their policy of arresting first time underage drinkers and branding them as criminals; but, the penalties and sentences in MIP cases can still be unduly harsh and burdensome and can result in you having a criminal record. Please don’t trust your friend’s expert advice just because he or she already had an MIP in Athens or somewhere else. You should always consult with an attorney before you go to court.

e) If you are under the age of twenty-one and drive any vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, you may be charged with DUI. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a DUI charge, your driver’s license would likely be suspended if you are charged with MIP while driving. Don’t put yourself or others at risk. Walk (preferably with a friend so that you won’t be a good candidate for being robbed or mugged), call a sober friend, have a designated driver, take a cab, or let Uber help you.

f) If you are over the age of twenty-one and drive a vehicle (including bicycles, scooters, Segways, golf carts, horses, or any moving vehicle) with a blood alcohol level of .08, you will be charged with DUI in Athens. While television, radio and billboard advertisements call a DUI a $10,000.00 mistake, I know of a DUI conviction costing a person more than $200,000.00 because he lost his job, lost his company car, couldn’t find other work for over a year, almost lost his home, and suffered the more typical DUI penalties. I’ve also seen commercial drivers lose their licenses for a year or, for a second DUI permanently taking away their ability to work. These cases demonstrate the severe impact a DUI can have whether you are a college student or a working adult.
g) If you drive a vehicle improperly (speeding, failure to maintain lane, etc.) after consuming alcohol or using drugs, you may be charged with DUI less safe even if you refuse the breath or blood test. Often police officers will request that you take “a few tests” to determine if you are impaired. You are not required to take these field sobriety tests. Understand that police officers use the test to gather evidence against you, not to help you. So, in almost every circumstance, you should refuse to do field sobriety tests at the scene of your stop.

h) If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor reckless driving to felony vehicular homicide. A conviction for vehicular homicide almost always results in many years of prison time though Stephens & Brown has successfully kept a person out of jail in the last few months who caused the death of two elderly people after smoking marijuana. Don’t take a chance of killing someone, ruining your life, and devastating the lives of family members for you and the person you might injure or kill.

i) If you buy alcohol and provide it to someone under the age of twenty-one, you can be charged with providing alcohol to a minor. In addition to criminal sanctions, your driver’s license will be suspended if you are convicted of providing alcohol to a minor.

j) If you have sex with an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, and other serious criminal charges, even if you were also intoxicated. Even more worrisome, students, particularly male students, are being expelled by UGA and other colleges and universities based upon accusations of sexual misconduct where both students involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, WITHOUT A HEARING to determine the truth of the accusation.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged crimes, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends students, teachers, athletes, and other citizens every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing incidents from impacting the lives of his clients.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933

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Legal Advice for Widespread Panic Fans

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Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes Widespread Panic fans to Athens, Georgia. Criminal defense attorney Kim Stephens encourages all fans to enjoy the music, to have fun, but also to remain vigilant and safe to avoid being hurt or being arrested and forever branded as a criminal.

Fans should be aware of the following:

State laws and local ordinances:

  1. Littering violates state law and local ordinances and makes the community an uglier place. Instead of dropping cans, bottles or other trash on the ground or throwing them out the car window, pick up any trash you see and put it in the closest recycle or trash bin. You will feel good about yourself and will avoid unnecessary attention from the police.
  2. If you drink alcohol and are under the age of twenty-one, you may be charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol, i.e. MIP, even if the police don’t perform any test to determine if you have been drinking. Local police departments in Athens recently changed their policy of arresting first time underage drinkers and branding them as criminals, instead issuing citations to the alleged offender; but, the penalties and sentences in MIP cases can still be unduly harsh and burdensome and can result in you having a criminal record
  3. If you are under the age of twenty-one and drive any vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, you may be charged with DUI. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a DUI charge, your driver’s license would likely be suspended if you are charged with MIP while driving. Don’t put yourself or others at risk. Walk (preferably with a friend so that you won’t be a good candidate for being robbed or mugged), call a sober friend, have a designated driver, take a cab, or let Uberhelp you.
  4. If you are over the age of twenty-one and drive a vehicle (including bicycles, scooters, Segways, golf carts, horses, or any moving vehicle) with a blood alcohol level of .08, you will be charged with DUIin Athens. While television, radio and billboard advertisements call a DUI a $10,000.00 mistake, I know of a DUI conviction costing a person more than $200,000.00 because he lost his job, lost his company car, couldn’t find other work for over a year, almost lost his home, along with suffering the more typical DUI  I’ve also seen commercial drivers lose their licenses for a year or, for a second DUI permanently taking away their ability to work. These cases demonstrate the severe impact a DUI can have whether you are a college student or a working adult.
  5. If you drive a vehicle improperly (speeding, failure to maintain lane, etc.) after consuming alcohol or using drugs, you may be charged with DUI less safe even if you refuse the breath or blood test. Often police officers will request that you take “a few tests” called field sobriety tests (these are not the same as the breathalyzer test that they will ask you to take after they arrest you) to determine if you are impaired. You are not required to take these field sobriety tests. Understand that police officers use the test to gather evidence against you, not to help you. So, in almost every circumstance, you should refuse to do these voluntary field sobriety tests at the scene of your stop.
  6. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor reckless drivingto felony vehicular homicide. A conviction for vehicular homicide almost always results in many years of prison time. Don’t take a chance of killing someone, ruining your life, and devastating the lives of family members for you and the person you might injure or kill.
  7. If you buy alcohol and provide it to someone under the age of twenty-one, you can be charged with providing alcohol to a minor. In addition to criminal sanctions, your driver’s license will be suspended if you are convicted of providing alcohol to a minor.
  8. If you have sex with an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with rapeaggravated sexual batterysexual battery, and other serious criminal offenses, even if you were also intoxicated. Even more worrisome, students, particularly male students, are being expelled by UGAand other colleges and universities based upon accusations of sexual misconduct where both students involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, WITHOUT A HEARING to determine the truth of the accusation.

Remember, if you are arrested and charged with a crime, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends individuals every day, winning in court, and arrests from having negative long-term consequences.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME, CALL ATTORNEY KIM T. STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE 706-548-3933

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Mental Health and Criminal Justice

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Lately, I have received a number of calls from families needing representation for a loved one who is suffering from some level of mental illness and was arrested after the family called for help during an episode. From dementia to schizophrenia, there are many illnesses which affect the mind as well as the body and cause people to behave in ways that are not only contrary to their true nature but also potentially pose a risk to those around them, and it has come to my attention, more than ever in recent months, that the resources for families suffering in this way are few, even for those with health insurance and access to medical care.

One layer of the problem is that individuals in the grip of dementia, addiction, schizophrenia, or psychosis rarely recognize that they are ill and need help. The very nature of their illness prevents them from seeing their situation accurately, so they resist the attempts by family and friends to get help. When their illness causes them to become disruptive or violent, spouses, partners, children, parents, have very few options open to them. Often, they call the police. The police respond, but they too have limited resources for dealing with crises that result from mental health problems, and the end result of a 911 call is usually an arrest, which does not help the person suffering and results in additional expenses and burdens for their family. This is not a criticism of law enforcement who are usually doing everything within their power to keep people safe, but they are not trained mental health professionals, and therefore cannot be expected to perform medical diagnosis when responding to a call.

The following are resources/options open to people who believe a loved one is suffering from mental health problems:

  • Any medical doctor can sign an involuntary committal order for an individual the doctor feels is suffering from mental illness. The problem here is that often people can maintain a façade of wellness for a short amount of time, e.g. the fifteen minutes spent at a doctor’s office, so even when a loved one manages to get them to a doctor, often there is not sufficient evidence for the doctor to sign an involuntary committal order.
  • Family can file paperwork for an involuntary committal, and under certain circumstances, a judge of superior or probate court can order involuntary treatment for people proved to be suffering from mental illness or addiction. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel comfortable with this kind of paperwork and cannot afford to hire an attorney to help them. Even if they overcome this obstacle, proving the illness can be difficult, and this type of action can really affect relationships within the family.
  • In crisis situations the law allows a judge to order a person to be apprehended by law enforcement on the basis of a two-party affidavit and delivered to a hospital for diagnosis by medical personal to determine whether treatment is necessary. Again, this process could be intimidating to some people, and even for those who would feel confidant or comfortable utilizing this measure, during a crisis there would rarely be time to complete affidavits and contact judges.
  • If a police officer observes a crime being committed by a person the officer reasonably believes is mentally ill and in need of treatment, the officer has the discretion to take the person to be evaluated instead of arresting him/her. My experience has been that this rarely happens, even when the family states that they believe their loved one is suffering from mental illness. This is not a failing on the part of law enforcement, but rather reflects a lack of awareness and/or training in mental health.

Even when any of the above measures are successfully taken, it is extraordinarily difficult for the treating facility to detain an individual without their consent. The patient can/will only be detained for up to five days, unless the chief medical officer submits a petition to the appropriate court supported by two independent medical doctors or one doctor and one psychologist recommending involuntary inpatient treatment. This rarely happens, even for people suffering from severe mental illness. The root of this reluctance to involuntarily commit people on the word of their relatives stems from a time when people abused the system to rid themselves of unwanted/unruly children, spouses, relatives. This is a very real concern and not a system we would ever want to revive. However, the current system does not work and does not provide adequate support for those suffering from mental illness or the loved ones who are trying to take care of them.

I am not a supporter of big government, and I rarely advocate for more governmental control, but the mental health system in our great country needs reimagining, revising, reworking. We need to be more aware that people are truly suffering, often in poverty, often isolated, often lonely, and increasingly desperate. Providing support for these people and their families is not only the right thing to do, it would also make our society safer.  A large part of my law practice is criminal defense, thus a significant portion of my income depends on people being arrested and charged with crimes; I would welcome, however, the day that families and individuals affected by mental illness can avoid criminal charges by getting appropriate help for their condition before their illness leads to arrest.

Kim T. Stephens

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Kim T. Stephens on ESPN Discussing Criminal Defense, Due Process, and Jonathon Taylor

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Criminal defense attorney Kim T. Stephens was featured on an ESPN Outside the Lines special this weekend. During the interview, Stephens discusses the need for due process when student athletes, or regular students, are charged with a crime. In the video excerpt below Stephens is featured at the 3:25 and 4:25 marks in the video. Stephens and Brown will post the full interview once ESPN makes it available.

 

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/13684416/georgia-bulldogs-sent-alabama-crimson-tide-officials-documents-related-assault-case-involving-jonathan-taylor

 

 

“Taylor’s attorney, Kim Stephens, said there is the potential for people to be treated unfairly under the new SEC rule if a case has not been adjudicated yet: “If a person commits domestic violence, if a person commits sexual misconduct, certainly they don’t need to be playing at any SEC school or any other school for that matter, they need to be punished in the courts and, if appropriate, incarcerated. But there needs to be due process, there needs to be fundamental fairness.”

 

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