Although the average American citizen is not aware of it, the American criminal justice system is totally out of control. The years of the "war on crime" by American politicians have taken our country to the brink of being a police state. Most Americans don't realize how much our rights have been eroded and how powerless the average citizen is when they or a loved one is "caught up" in the system until it happens. Anyone who has had the misfortune of experiencing this first hand, either by themselves or a loved one, realizes two things:

 

(1) This is real.

(2) It is not a "conservative", "democrat", "republican", or "liberal" issue. It is simply the way things are in this country in the 21st century.


As criminal defense lawyers with a very active jury trial practice, we meet many people who are shocked at how much power the police and prosecution have in a criminal case. Simply being in fact innocent, or possibly only "at the wrong place at the wrong time" means nothing unless you are lucky enough to have experienced criminal defense lawyers who not only understand the system, but are very aggressive in the defense of clients.


Chuck Pekor and and the lawyers in his firm between them have tried over 200 jury trials to conclusion, in state and federal courts. Chuck is a former senior federal prosecutor, and Chuck also has a law enforcement background. This level of experience, combined with the firm's knowledge of the courts, prosecutors and judges, and their extremely aggressive approach to criminal defense means you will get the defense you need if you or your loved one are to survive your encounter with the criminal justice system.


As the disclaimer on this and all attorney websites says, we do not give "legal advice" in this site, merely general information about the legal system, and ourselves. Many "lawyer websites" contain lengthy academic descriptions of various aspects of the law.


We will only tell you here that if you or a loved one has been arrested, or otherwise had an encounter with the criminal justice system, you should immediately get competent legal representation. This bears repeating - get a good criminal defense lawyer AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. In criminal matters, time is critical - delaying in getting representation can make a huge difference in the outcome - and your life.


Again, without giving "legal advice", here are a few other pieces of general information useful to anyone ensnared in the American criminal justice system:


1. THE POLICE ARE NOT your friends if you have been charged, or are being investigated for, a crime. Do NOT talk to them until you have talked with a lawyer. The key thing to remember here is that it makes no difference if you are totally innocent and have committed no crime.


Remember, Chuck is a former law enforcement officers. Chuck also spent a number of years as a very senior federal prosecutor, and has been appointed a number of times to act as a special prosecutor at the federal and state level. We number among our clients and close friends many police officers, and have the highest respect for all law enforcement. However, the reality is that if you are a suspect or a defendant in a criminal case, the job of the police (or federal agents) is to charge and convict you. Get to a good criminal defense lawyer as fast as you possibly can.


2. If you have been stopped or pulled over for anything that goes beyond a traffic ticket, NEVER consent to a search of yourself or your vehicle. A very common police tactic is to just ask you if they can search you, your car, or even your home. The implication is "if you aren't hiding anything why not"? The problem is you never know who else has possibly left something somewhere that could get you into trouble. And as former law enforcement officers ourselves we hate to say it, but in recent years we also have seen more and more instances of police simply "planting" evidence.
3. It is unfortunate that American criminal justice has come to this, but even someone who has committed no crime of any kind is at risk if they have an encounter with law enforcement.


The cost of a consultation with us or other experienced criminal defense lawyers is almost nothing compared with the possible effect on your life of proceeding without representation, especially in these days of incredibly harsh sentencing. Especially in the federal system, infractions that might have gotten nothing but a small fine 20 years ago can now result in 10 or more years in prison, without possibility of parole.


The "bottom line" here is that if you or a loved one are facing this type of situation, your (or their) entire life is potentially at risk. If you thought you or someone you cared about might possibly be having a heart attack, what would you do? Obviously any responsible person in that situation would immediately seek competent medical help. An encounter or potential encounter with the criminal justice system may not be life threatening in the sense of "life and death" - but it could be life threatening in ways almost as serious.

Here are some more details about our criminal justice system, specific types of cases, and the way Pekor & Associates practice Criminal Defense:


Charles "Chuck" Pekor is a former law enforcement officer. Chuck is also a former senior Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted many federal cases involving drugs, violence, and white collar crimes, as well as having served as Special Assistant District Attorney and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney by special appointment. Chuck and his frm know the ins and outs of the legal system from a prosecutorial and defense perspective. This unique knowledge allows them to take full advantage of protections and defenses provided by our legal system.

 

Criminal Defense


Chuck and his firm are aware of the stigma that accompanies many criminal charges. They are experienced in defending all varieties of criminal cases, both felony and misdemeanor. Below is a list of just a few of the types of charges that the attorneys often defend their clients against:
Armed Robbery DUI
Aggravated Assault White Collar Crime
Sex-based OffensesObstruction of law enforcement
Theft Crimes Domestic/Family Violence
Drug PossessionDrug Trafficking


Sex Crimes

 

Sexually-based crimes such as rape, child molestation, and sexual assault are very complicated and must be distinguished from other serious criminal matters. So-called "Internet Sex" offenses are very common these days. The media and the general public take special interest in these cases due to their graphic nature and particularly sympathetic victims. These offenses are so emotionally charged that they must be handled with precision from beginning to end. Ultimately, these factors make it extremely difficult for the accused to receive any sort of reasonable negotiated plea offer.


The victims


The vast majority of the accusers in these cases are women and children. (Although in the "internest sex" cases, often there is no "victim" because the defendant has been caught in s "sting" operation, and has unknowingly been in communication with a law enforcement officer.) Because of this fact, allegations of sexual offenses often draw a great deal of media attention and public scrutiny. The enhanced attention then compels district attorneys to allocate special resources such as victims' assistance coordinators, counselors, and special investigators to assist in the prosecution of these cases. In addition to what the district attorneys have so much invested in these cases in terms of resources, the district attorneys also might look to such cases as a means to achieve public recognition and strengthen their position as elected officials.


Presumed Guilty


Another characteristic of these cases that hinders the defense is the perception that nobody would lie about such a horrible thing. There is a widespread notion that we encounter with juries in nearly every sexually based case that no woman or child would lie about a sex crime because of embarrassment or the seriousness of the charge. However, there is no statistical data that can determine whether these cases have any more merit overall than any other classification of criminal case. Just as people will lie in armed robbery cases and drug offense cases, people will lie in these cases. The accused must be able to overcome the false presumption that an accuser is honest and the offense must have occurred because the accuser says so.


Child victims


Anybody who has children or has been exposed to children knows that children are impressionable, often seek attention, and have a tendency to exaggerate. These are just a few of the distinctions that can define someone's behavior as "childish." The fact that ten-year-old kids and five-year-old kids have completely different capacities for understanding a given situation and articulating what they have seen or been exposed to poses a particularly difficult problem for all involved. Unfortunately, it is as necessary to ensure that a child understands an adult situation as it is to determine what a child's perception is of that same situation. One can never underestimate the impact that fear and manipulation can have on a child's ability to accurately perceive an adult situation.

 

Aside from the perception that children would not lie about a sexually based accusation, there is yet another consideration concerning cases with child accusers. Children are by their nature very impressionable. They often seek to please adults and can have a tendency to answer questions in a manner they think that the adult wants them to answer. This phenomena makes it difficult not only to get at the truth of the matter, but even to get to the accuracy of what the child says took place.
The child accuser is also usually exposed to several adults ranging from parents to police to counselors who all wish to discuss the allegations for different purposes. While the counselor is ideally speaking with the child for purposes of medical and/or psychological treatment, the police and investigators are concerned with procuring evidence and statements to incriminate the accused. On top of all this, parents and other family members get involved for any number of reasons, some that are benign and others that are much more self-serving.


It is not unusual for allegations of sexual misconduct with children to be used as a tool in a contentious divorce or custody battle. Children might make false allegations simply for attention or as retribution against an adult they feel has mistreated them in some way. Unfortunatley and tragically, children are often convinced to lie about such things by a parent, to gain an advantage in a divorce or custody battle. There are no limits to the circumstances that can give rise to false allegations of sexual offenses.


Perhaps the most difficult factor in handling a sexually based charge with a child accuser is the Child Hearsay Act. This statute provides that:


"A statement made by a child under the age of 14 years describing any act of sexual contact or physical abuse performed with or on the child by another or performed with or on another in the presence of the child is admissible in evidence by the testimony of the person or persons to whom made if the child is available to testify in the proceedings and the court finds that the circumstances of the statement provide sufficient indicia of reliability."- O.C.G.A. 24-3-16
This statute grants the court tremendous discretion in determining how and what testimony is admissible. The judge can virtually permit any number of witnesses to testify to what one child has said. This is an exception to the evidentiary rules concerning hearsay that would generally preclude such testimony in other types of criminal cases. While common sense dictates that no matter how many times a lie is told does not change the fact that it is a lie, the effect that repetitive testimony has on juries is both detrimental and undeniable.


Because of all of the above considerations, the attorney handling the defense of a sexual based charge must be thorough in his investigation and diligent in his preparation. Someone who is accused of an offense of this nature can do himself irreparable harm if he delays in seeking counsel or acts on misguided advice.


Statutory Rape


The reason that statutory rape is addressed separately from all other manners of sex crime is simple. Unlike nearly all other criminal offenses in Georgia, statutory rape is a "strict liability" crime. Strict liability means liability that does not depend on the intent to commit a criminal act. For instance, if a person takes another persons coat mistakenly believing it to be his own, then no crime has been committed. In such a case, the prosecutor would need to prove that the person who took the coat had the intent to steal a coat that did not belong to him and that it was not an innocent mistake. In fact, the prosecutor would have to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction.


In the case of statutory rape, all that a prosecutor needs to prove to a jury in Georgia is that an accused engaged in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years. No consideration is given to the fact that some 15-year-olds are more mature than others or that some 12-year-olds physically appear to be 27-years-old. This also means that factors such as consent and force hold no bearing or value to the defense of the charge. The underlying theory is that someone under the age of 16 is legally unable to give consent. In many cases, the resulting conviction can seem downright unjust and severe.
Take for instance the case in which a 25-year-old man enters a bar that does not allow anyone under the age of 21. The man is approached by a woman who appears to be nearly the same age as he is. She then orders an alcoholic beverage from a bartender who asks her for her identification. As she takes it out of her purse, he observes a birthdate on her i.d. that says she is 24-years-old. Later on in the evening, the young woman accompanies this man back to his apartment where the two engage in consensual sexual intercourse. A week later, the police knock on the young man's door and proceed to arrest him on a charge of statutory rape, advising the man that the girl whom he took home was in fact 15-years-old.
While it is clear from this example that the man had no intent to have sex with someone under the age of 16, or even 24 for that matter, he has committed a crime under Georgia law. All of the circumstances that suggest he was responsible on the night he took the girl home are virtually useless when it comes to his defense in court. All that the prosecution needs to prove his guilt to a jury is the fact that he had sex with the girl and that she was not yet 16 years old. Despite the fact that most jurors would concede that this law is not meant to target people like the man mentioned in my example, the fact that it does is no less tragic.


What might be more disturbing than the fact that statutory rape is a strict liability crime is the punishment that the crime carries. A person convicted of statutory rape is subject to imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years. If the person convicted happens to be under 21-years-old, then he is subject to imprisonment for a minimum of 1 year. Even this lesser punishment for those who commit statutory rape who are also under 21-years-old fails to do justice in cases where two high school children are sexually active and one is 15 while the other is 16.


Recently, there have been several cases in the media where there has been an overwhelming amount of evidence that a female "victim" of statutory rape not only consented to the acts but encouraged them. Despite the public outcry, these cases have not yet had any impact on the laws in this area. Further, because the laws in this area are designed to protect children, it is unlikely that the legislature will take action to change them anytime soon.


DUI


Though DUI is a misdemeanor that might be included in the above list, it is a charge that is pursued so thoroughly by law enforcement that it warrants its own category. The tragic loss of life that is attributable to DUI and media coverage has been distorted in such a manner that communities ranging from local to statewide have cast a net so wide that it commonly ensnares sober drivers who are wrongfully charged.


As a result of public outrage over DUI, drivers who are not intoxicated are often confronted with police officers who are so determined to arrest drunken drivers that almost any driver they pull over will suffice. Due to the level of public outrage, police officers never have to answer for mistakenly arresting a sober driver. These circumstances and the repercussions that a client faces mean that a charge of DUI requires a particularly informed legal defense. Chuck and Dan are diligent when it comes to investigating the facts of each case and keeping current on the intricacies of the law.

 

You can reach us at 404-848-8086