Jeffrey E. Johnston

Evans Legal Issues Blog

Ruling could point to greater protection for mobile phones

For many in Georgia, tips on technological security can be important to protect personal privacy. National news stories about the breaches of data linked to large tech companies or the expansive reach of law enforcement databases may make many concerned about the amount of information they carry on their cell phones or other mobile devices. This is one reason why many experts advise people to rely on passcodes or phrases to unlock their mobile phones rather than many of the newer biometric options like fingerprint recognition, iris unlocking or facial identification software.

Courts have ruled on several occasions that the police cannot compel suspects to turn over their telephone passcodes or passwords, citing constitutional protections against forced self-incrimination. On the other hand, police have been allowed to use fingerprints, facial recognition and other biometric options to unlock a suspect's cell phone without his or her consent. However, one federal judge in the Northern District of California put forth a ruling that could change the law moving forward. In the ruling, the judge noted that the law must keep up with technology and that it makes little sense to protect passcodes but not biometric data.

Book examines inequality in misdemeanor system

Some people in Georgia assume that facing misdemeanor instead of felony charges means that the consequences of conviction will be relatively light. However, in a book called "Punishment Without Crime," former federal public defender Alexandra Natapoff looks at the high cost of misdemeanor convictions.

According to Natapoff, around 80 percent of all arrests and state dockets are misdemeanors. The sheer volume of cases leaves public defenders less able to pursue investigations or constitutional issues. Natapoff also points to a significant disparity in the results of plea bargains for white and black defendants. White defendants are more likely to have charges reduced, dismissed or dropped. The vast majority of misdemeanor cases are resolved with plea deals.

Do you have poor driving posture?

Many of us have been told to sit up straight by a parent at the dinner table or by a teacher in school — but has anyone ever commented on your driving posture?

Most drivers have never thought twice about their ergonomics while behind the wheel. Yet, maintaining poor driving posture could lead to life-long issues.

Study suggests higher car accidents risks for drivers with ADHD

Drivers in Georgia with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder might face bigger challenges when trying to pay attention in traffic. The neurological disorder impairs their ability to maintain focus, control impulses or resist talking and fidgeting. These problems could interfere with safe driving, and a study of drivers with ADHD who were involved in car accidents linked medication to lower rates of crashes.

The researchers analyzed insurance claim records collected from 2005 through 2014. From this pool, 2.3 million people of adult age with ADHD were identified. Their information was cross referenced with records of emergency room visits after car accidents. The researchers then looked for prescription medication records that could indicate that the people were treating their ADHD. According to their analysis, 22.1 percent of the crashes studied might have been avoided if the drivers with ADHD had taken medication.

Definitions of assault and battery in Georgia

In the state of Georgia, a person can be charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor, without even touching another person. A violent threat is sufficient for a charge of simple assault. Simple battery involves making contact with the other person. The contact must be deliberate and provocative or insulting or must cause harm on purpose. Simple battery is also a misdemeanor.

Aggravated assault, which is a felony, occurs when the intention is to rob, rape or murder the other person. An attack with a weapon or any other object that is likely to cause or does cause serious injury or firing a gun from a vehicle toward a person are also acts of aggravated assault. Aggravated battery involves a serious injury. This includes what is known as "serious disfigurement", which could mean an injury that results in a broken bone or a scar.

Explaining the uptick in accidents involving dump trucks

Most Georgia drivers appreciate the need to exercise caution when driving on the interstate. Extra caution is often needed when driving alongside large dump trucks or concrete delivery trucks. Statistics show that there has been an increase in the number of serious accidents involving these types of large vehicles.

In 2016, there was a 9 percent increase in the number of accidents involving dump trucks that required a vehicle to be towed away from the scene of the accident. During that same year, the number of dump truck accidents that involved injuries jumped to 5,483. This represents a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year, according to statistics provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

WHO releases report on traffic accidents worldwide

People in Georgia who use their seat belts and avoid driving drunk or speeding are less likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident than those who do not follow these practices. The World Health Organization's 2018 Global Report on Road Safety also identified failure to use child restrains or motorcycle helmets as contributors to the worldwide fatality rate in traffic accidents in 2016 of 1.35 million deaths. This is the leading cause of death worldwide for people ages 5 to 29 and is the eighth leading cause of death globally across all ages.

Traffic deaths are higher in lower-income countries than in higher-income countries despite the fact that there are fewer motor vehicles in lower-income countries. Lower-income countries have also had the least success in reducing traffic fatalities. In 48 high- and middle-income countries, traffic deaths dropped from 2013 to 2016 compared to no reduction in low-income countries.

Rapper Ty Dolla $ign indicted over September drug arrest

In early September, rapper-singer Ty Dolla $ign was arrested on drug charges in Georgia. In early December, prosecutors officially indicted him. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Dolla $ign, whose real name is Tyrone William Griffin Jr., was visiting Fulton County to perform a concert in Atlanta. However, his tour van was pulled over by law enforcement officers before he could get to the show. Video of the arrest, which was filmed by an officer's body cam, was posted online shortly after the incident occurred. In the clip, officers are seen ordering Griffin, DJ and producer Skrillex and four other men from the van. Officers and drug dogs then search the vehicle, finding a small pouch of alleged cocaine in Griffin's backpack. An officer also says he smells marijuana and asks if anyone has been smoking it. Griffin admits that he smoked some pot "earlier."

National Safety Council issues winter weather driving tips

Although Georgia rarely sees large amounts of snow, the state is still prone to experiencing freezing temperatures, ice and sleet during the winter. Combined, these weather conditions can lead to serious driving hazards. While it's recommended that drivers avoid hitting the road in the middle of bad winter weather, there are times when getting behind the wheel is a necessity.

As a result, the National Safety Council has issued a number of winter driving tips for those who have to go out in the elements. First and foremost, the council recommends checking a vehicle's readiness before winter weather strikes. This means examining vital components, including brakes, fluid levels and tires, but it also includes preparing an emergency kit to keep in the vehicle in case of a breakdown. Drivers should also allow enough time for a vehicle to warm up before driving. This not only protects components, but it also allows for windshields to clear from frost.

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