By Andria Simmons
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer
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John Steakley's Note:
This was a Gwinnett County criminal case that started as a routine domestic violence case but quickly ballooned in an FBI investigation with people traveling from Palestine to attend court in Gwinnett County. It had just been a couple of years since the 9/11 attacks, so everyone was pretty jumpy about courtroom security. I've never seen as many S.W.A.T. officers in the same courtroom and snipers on the rooftop. I often tell people, "the only way to beat the system is to stay out of it." Even if your case ultimately ends up in a complete dismissal of all the criminal charges against you, you've still been arrested, booked, fingerprinted, had to post bail (or never got one), had to spend money to hire a good attorney to defend you, and may have spent weeks, months or even years of your life in jail awaiting a resolution. And just because the case is ultimately dismissed does not mean the record of your arrest will be expunged. It's not that simple. While you, your family, and perhaps even the alleged "victim" don't see the case as a very big deal, that doesn't mean the government won't. Now, it's unlikely that your domestic violence case will turn into an international terrorism investigation, but just because you get arrested for a minor crime doesn't mean you won't ultimately be prosecuted for a major one. Prosecutors are not limited to charging you with only the crimes for which you are arrested. They can add charges. So if you want to beat the system, stay out of it. If you can't stay out of it, get a lawyer on YOUR SIDE as quickly as possible. The sooner you get an attorney involved in your case, the better off you will be.