Criminal Defense

When people call our law firm with questions about the criminal charges against them, they are scared that they may end up in jail, or that they will have a permanent conviction on their record. They do not know how to defend themselves, are uncertain of the legal process and unaware of their options within it. You need a lawyer to provide reassurance, answer your questions, and exhaust every single avenue in your defense. In sum, people charged with a crime need to know that their lawyer will truly fight for them. If you or a family member has been charged with a serious crime, you are facing what may be a tough road ahead. Many thoughts are running through your mind concerning consequences, such as jail or prison time and affect these charges will have on both you and your loved ones. Getting the advice of an experienced and effective criminal defense lawyer can significantly increase your chances of receiving the best possible outcome.

If you have been accused of a crime, no matter how serious, you have the right to an attorney. You have a right to remain silent in the face of police questioning. You have a right to due process. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can make sure that your rights are protected. You may apply for a public defender, but his paycheck comes from the government, not you. His caseload is probably 2-4 times what a private attorney's caseload will be, so don't expect much personal attention. In law, as in life, you really do get what you pay for, and when something is free, it isn't worth much. It is in your best interest to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. Contact us online or call (404) 835-7595 to schedule a free consultation. You can put your trust in us during these turbulent times.

Our firm is prepared to offer compassion, understanding and aggressive defense to both adults and juveniles accused of crimes.

Hands Bars BWIf the person who is taken into custody remains in jail, you must be brought in front of a judge to determine the conditions of your release. At the bail hearing, a judge will determine if you will be released on your own recognizance with the promise to appear in court.

A "capital offense" as that phrase is used in Georgia is any offense for which a person may be sentenced to death or life in prison. If your loved one has been charged with capital offense such as rape, murder, armed robbery, kidnapping or any of the aggravated sexual offenses, it is essential to retain an attorney who has successfully handled similar trials before. Choosing an experienced defense attorney may help you clear your loved one's name and protect their rights.

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The War on Drugs is war on people within our borders. It's a war that has claimed the lives of untold many, both in the violence it has encouraged and in the lives it has ruined by putting people behind bars for the mere possession of a substance.

But it's a war that federal and Georgia officials keep fighting, regardless of its continued failure. While those targeted have the weight of government prosecution on them, they still have rights. Experienced and aggressive attorneys can help them exercise those rights and fight the charges.

If you have been arrested on drug possession charges or trafficking charges, do not take chances with your future and your freedom. Call an experienced drug charge defense attorney who knows and understands Georgia drug laws and your constitutional rights. In the War on Drugs, you are the enemy, and state and federal prosecutors may aim to give you the harshest penalties possible. Our criminal defense attorneys will challenge evidence, seeking to undermine the case against you and have charges dropped.  You call the shots on whether you want to offer a guilty plea to seek a better deal, and we will be honest about your options. But we don't seek to plead you out for an easy case.

Georgia outlaws possessing, manufacturing, distributing, transporting or dealing in "controlled substances." There are hundreds of controlled substances that are outlawed, but the major ones are cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and prescription narcotics. It is a crime for any person to manufacture, possess, have control of, sell, prescribe, possess with intent to distribute, administer, or dispense any "controlled substance." Note that the law does not bother with the issue of ownership. Ownership of drugs is not an issue. If you possess someone else's drugs, you can be charged with drug possession.

Dealing with a drunk driving arrest can be one of the toughest things you ever do. Most of the people we represent are good people who made a poor decision and were caught in a bad situation. The Georgia criminal justice system treats a DUI charge seriously. A DUI has serious consequences.

It is a crime in Georgia to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for you to do so. A driver or operator of a motor vehicle is under the influence of alcohol when the person is affected by alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive than it would be if the person were not affected by alcohol.

"Less safe" is a very broad and vague term. A jury may find you "less safe" simply because you were weaving or did not property stop as well as you normally do. In fact, a jury may find you "less safe" even if you were driving perfectly.

decision-making-processes BWThe Georgia First Offender sentencing option can help clients avoid a felony conviction, but it is not always available in all cases or to all clients.

Are you accused of being a first-time offender in Cobb, Cherokee, Dekalb, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, or Paulding county?  Are you due for court in Marietta, Canton, Decatur, Cumming, Atlanta, Lawrenceville, Gainesville, or Dallas?  If so, you should not delay in hiring an attorney to represent you.  Click here to learn more about our firm.

Many of our clients have never been arrested before. But, this one mistake can land them in a heap of trouble with the law. A mistake in judgment does not mean you need to go to jail and prison. A mistake in judgment does not mean that you should be punished for the rest of your life by being branded a convicted felon.  Click here to learn more about sentencing.

In Georgia, if you have never been convicted of a felony and never sentenced as a First Offender before, you might be eligible to be sentenced as a First Offender.

Following a guilty verdict or guilty plea, the court may defer further proceedings and place you on probation as a First Offender without entering a judgment of guilt against you. Put another way, you plea guilty and the court accepts your plea, but does not find you guilty. Instead, the court puts you on probation without finding you guilty.

If you successfully complete the terms of the First Offender sentence, your case is discharged without a conviciton and your arrest record can be partially sealed. Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) must receive official notification that you have successfully completed the First Offender requirements. The record is not automatically sealed based on the elapse of the probation sentence.  In fact, I have had clients where their FO convictions show up many years later because someone in the clerk's office just hadn't sent the paperwork to the GBI.

If you are arrested and convicted of another offense while still on First Offender probation, Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 42-8-65(b)) requires GCIC to change your First Offender sentence to a conviction. You will then be a convicted felon for the rest of your life.

In other words, if you successfully complete First Offender sentencing, you are never found guilty and will not be a convicted felon. If you fail to successfully complete First Offender sentencing, you can be brought back to court, found guilty of the charges to which you have already pled guilty, and sentenced. Your sentence will not be limited by the length of the original probation. Rather, you can be sentenced up to the maximum, giving you credit only for the time you successfully served on probation.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Georgia First Offender Act: 

  • Who can use First Offender?
    • First Offender is available to most clients who have never used it before and who has never been convicted of a felony.  Some serious felonies charges and DUI's are not eligible for First Offender sentencing.
  • Is First Offender a right?
    • No.  Even those who qualify for First Offender and ask for it are not guaranteed to get it. Your attorney must be prepared to argue to the sentencing court why you should be sentenced under the First Offender Act.  Judges have wide discretion in deciding who does and does not get sentenced as a First Offender.
  • Is First Offender always the right thing to do when available?
    • No.  Every case and client are different.  There are several reasons why one may not want to use First Offender in their case, even when it is available. 
  • Can I use First Offender in multiple counties?
    • No.  You can use First Offender ONE time in Georgia, and it must be before any other felony conviction.  
  • What if my prior conviction is from another state?
    • ANY prior felony conviciton from any state will disqualify you for First Offender in Georgia.
  • Can I possess firearms after a First Offender plea?
    • Yes and no.  You can not possess firearms while on First Offender probation. Once you successfully complete First Offender and are not a convicted felon nor on probation, you can possess firearms again. 
  • Will a First Offender plea avoid deportation if I am not a US Citizen?
    • The United States considers a Georgia First Offender plea a felony conviction for immigration purposes, meaning it can result in deportation.  In other words, pleading under the First Offender Act does not help at all for immigration purposes.
  • What will violate First Offender?
    • Technically, ANYTHING can violate First Offender (including traffic offenses like speeding) but I've never seen one violated for anything less than a DUI.  It can happen and probably has happened, but it is rare.
  • What happens if I violate my First Offender probation?
    • Violating First Offender probation is worse than violating standard probation.  With standard probation, the court can not revoke more than the client originally agreed to in their plea.  With First Offender, the court can increase the length of the sentence.  For people who are unlikely to successfully complete the terms of their probation, they may be better off in the long run with a reguar felony plea.
  • If I am successful, is my record expunged?
    • Not entirely.  The arrest and discharge will likely remain visible to some potential employers.  The government can always see your entire criminal history for purposes of employement or background checks.  Private employers may be able to see your First Offender plea if they do a thorough background check.  Also, special disclosure rules can apply if you are an applicant for a job dealing with children, the elderly, or law enforcement.   It is nearly impossible to fully expunge anything.  The bottom line, though, is that you are not a convicted felon. 
  • How can I learn more about First Offender?
    • Our main offices are located in Marietta near the Cobb County Superior Courthouse. We are available Monday through Friday from 9:00 - 5:00, with additional hours by appointment. All initial consultations are free in our office or in jail, as needed. Contact us online or call (404) 835-7595.



In every business large and small, there are those folks who are entrusted with keeping up with the income and expenses of the business. From time to time a moment of weakness causes people to dip into company funds for their own benefit. A small dip usually leads to more and larger dips until finally the missing funds are too big to overlook. When it all comes crashing down, the person is embarrassed, ashamed, unemployed and unemployable. On top of all of that, they could be facing prison time.

For every person incarcerated in a prison or jail, there are several more on probation or parole. Most people are able to successfully complete their probationary or parole periods without incident. Sometimes, however, problems arise and people find themselves facing incarceration for an alleged violation of probation or parole.

Here are a few examples of the criminal cases and successes we have enjoyed over the years here at John A. Steakley, P.C.  These samples are drawn from only the cases Mr. Steakley has handled as a defense attorney, and do not include the thousands of cases he handled as a prosecutor in both Tennessee and Georgia.  Please keep in mind that all cases are different, so we can't promise similar outcomes in your case, but we would certainly hope to add your case to our growing list of victories.   

Sex crimes carry extremely serious consequences if you are convicted. The Law Office of John A. Steakley, P.C., defends clients accused of sex crimes, computer-related sex crimes, and attempted sexual offenses. We observe strict confidentiality with our clients at all stages of the process to make sure clients feel comfortable discussing their case with us.

Georgia has many crimes that can land defendants on the Sex Offender Registry where it then becomes an additional crime to fail to report your location to authorities. There are many reasons for a convicted sex offender to fail to report. Our law office has helped a significant number of sex offenders overcome failure to report charges. We look at every possible extenuating circumstance that will benefit you in front of a judge and help them see you in a favorable light.

Charges related to theft and burglary can range from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies that can result in substantial jail time if convicted. It is critical that you exercise your right to an attorney. You future and your freedom may depend on it.

Violent Crimes

Violence is treated as a very serious matter in the law, and the laws around violent crimes reflect that mentality. Punishment for any kind of assault or other violent crime is severe, and will result in a criminal record that will show the person convicted is a dangerous individual.  Moreover, a misdemeanor arrest for any cirme that the federal government considers "domestic violence" can result in a lifetime ban on firearm possession, even if Georgia doesn't consider the case domestic violence.

However, violent crime accusations can be the result of false or exaggerated claims. Mild altercations can be raised to felony assault charges by overzealous prosecutors doing the bidding of vindictive "victims. And people who used force in self-defense can find themselves the subject of criminal accusations.

Georgia Violent Crime Defense Lawyer

If you've been accused of any kind of violent crime, including assault, reckless endangerment or harassment, you don't have to go it alone. A tough, experienced Georgia violent crime lawyer can be on your side. At our firm, we are zealous advocates for those accused of any kind of violent crime.

We will fight for your rights, seeking to have evidence suppressed and your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us today to set up a consultation.

We represent those facing violent crimes charges across Georgia, including in Paulding County, Haralson County, Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Forsyth County, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Dawson County and Hall County.