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A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Best Lawyer Movies

We are posting our favorite lawyer movies. If you have one let us know and we will post it!

My favorite is: LIAR LIAR I especially like the weight and hair testimony.

Best Lawyer Movies

Watch Scott’s favorite here and comment your favorite to be posted next

Who Are We?

For over 15 years, The Semrau Law Firm has defended the rights of individuals charged with criminal offenses. The mission for our practice is to provide professional service to people charged with criminal offenses, making the best defense our goal for every case. We believe that we can only be free if all people are free. We accept a lawyer’s ethical duty to represent our clients “zealously within the bounds of the law.” We are a small criminal defense firm with just two lawyers, Scott Semrau and Michael Burns, an office manager, Tomeca Kellogg, and a legal assistant, Melissa Brown.

Scott Semrau was born in Detroit, Michigan and lives in Cobb County with his wife and three children. He is a graduate of the National Criminal Defense College. He received his law degree cum laude from Tulane Law School and his undergraduate degree cum laude from Georgia State University. Scott is a past President of the Cobb Bar Association Criminal Law Section and a past Vice President for the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Scott also teaches a criminal law class at Chattahoochee Technical College. He is a published author and speaker on topics including criminal defense, probation revocation, child molestation defense, legal research, law practice management, and criminal evidentiary foundations.

Michael Burns was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia and now lives in Woodstock with his wife and two children. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia and returned to obtain his Juris Doctorate. Prior to joining the firm, he practiced law as a public defender in Cherokee County and then joined the Cherokee County Solicitor General’s Office. As a former prosecutor, Michael knows what the State needs to build its case and how to exploit any holes in their evidence.

Tomeca Kellogg was also born and raised in Marietta, Georgia. She is a graduate of Marietta High School and completed her undergraduate training in paralegal studies at Clayton College and State University. Tomeca keeps the office running, the cases files in order, and the calendars straight. She manages the attorney’s schedules and knows where to find them at any time. She can always help answer any case specific or procedural questions about the legal process at 770-795-7751.

Melissa Brown was born in Lithia Springs, Florida, where her family ran a small café and restaurant. She now lives in Hiram, Georgia with her husband and two children. She plans to attend Kennesaw State University this fall. Melissa e-commutes to the office and manages file and document preparation for the law firm.

The Semrau Law Firm offers Criminal Defense and Personal Injury services to clients in all local, state, and federal courts in metro Atlanta and northwest Georgia. We can make the difference between losing and preserving your driver’s license, a prison sentence and freedom, and financial security and injustice. We believe that we can only protect our own liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s liberties and that the right to a skilled attorney is a foundation for our democracy.

We Stand in 0 to 100 Degree Weather So You Don’t Have To

With the temperature starting to hit 90 degrees on a regular basis, no one wants to stand in court lines long enough to surround the entire building. No one wants to wake up early just to sweat like a pig and waste a day in traffic court, so in most cases we can go to court for you, get your ticket reduced, and pay your fine. Give us your information by e-mail (scottsemrau@semraulawfirm.com or mburnsjr@semrauawfirm.com) or telephone (770-795-7751) and we will do the rest. To see a few frequently asked questions and there answers visit our “Don’t Go To Court” website page.

Many of you may be thinking well even if I do have to get up early and sweat a bit at least it will be cheaper to just pay the ticket than to hire a lawyer. Let me explain to you a little math and show you how we will actually save you hundreds of dollars. Our minor traffic ticket legal services are almost always less than $300. If you just pay the ticket without using our services, the total cost of just one ticket could be well over $1,000. The ticket fine may only cost you $140, but if you add the cost of increased car insurance and lost time at work then it is easy to see the value of using our firm. Make it easy on yourself. Call our law firm once, and in most traffic cases you’re done.

Take notice when it comes to mandatory court appearance. Many people think that traffic violations have insignificant consequences. This assumption is incorrect. A few possible consequences include probation, fines, suspended license, community service, and even jail time. You should immediately contact our office if you have received a citation or been arrested for aggressive driving, hit and run, driving with a suspended license or expired registration, no insurance, reckless driving, racing, or high speeding tickets. Georgia traffic ticket laws are aggressively enforced and will remain on your record forever. It makes sense to fight a traffic ticket to keep your driving record as clean as possible.

Just one call and that is all. No waiting or sweating. We go to court so you don’t have to.

Teaming up with the Enemy: Boss Bombs the Field Sobriety Test

In the movies, the relationship between prosecutors and defense attorneys is always a nasty association between two people who seem to dislike each other. In some areas of law this portrayal possesses some truth; however, criminal law is one area where this depiction is rarely true. In criminal law, some prosecutors and defense attorneys are even friendly enough to get drunk together–well, at least the prosecutors get the defense attorney drunk.

That’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when two prosecutors from the Cobb County Solicitors Office and a City of Kennesaw Police Officer were kind enough to join Scott in teaching his Criminal Law Class at Chattahoochee Technical College. State DUI prosecutors Cara Convery, Esq. and Adam Abbate, Esq. taught the class about driving under the influence, while Scott prepared to assist in the demonstration of DUI field sobriety test by getting thoroughly intoxicated (a true sacrifice, I’m sure). The prosecutors instructed the class on the when an Officer can stop a motorist and perform a DUI investigation and on the specific DUI penalties.

Officer Wood from the Kennesaw police department lent his expertise and administered the three standardized tests on Scott. The Standardized test consists of the walk and turn test, the one leg stand test, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The walk and turn and one-leg stand tests require you to first listen to instructions and then perform the tasks. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test checks the involuntary jerking of the eye. Scott has cross examined Officer Wood in Court many times, so I’m sure the Officer enjoyed the opportunity to use Scott to demonstrate the “validity” of DUI field sobriety tests. So what was the result? Scott said the tests were hard to perform correctly after drinking four, 12 ounce, high alcohol beers in under one hour. He definitely would not recommend driving under those circumstances. Officer Wood declared Scott an unsafe driver and nobody in the class disagreed! Mr. Abbate was nice enough to offer Scott a ride home!

The consequences of driving under the influence usually consist of license suspension, fines, jail time, DUI school, and increased insurance rates. This chart expands on the specific consequences of driving under the influence.

According to the research concerning DUIs and the field sobriety test, the walk and turn test is accurate 68 percent of the time, the one-leg stand test is accurate 65 percent of the time, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is accurate 77 percent of the time.
I asked Scott if his experience changed his mind about field sobriety testing and he said “no”, he still believes that field sobriety tests are designed for failure. These tests are standardized, meaning all tests are administered and graded the same for every person. But everyone knows that no two people are the same. For example, he described a recent case where the officer failed the tests because he didn’t follow his own training when administering the tests. In that case, our client was very overweight and the officer still required him to perform the tests without a coat even though it was raining and very cold.
In the class, the students were able watch the tests performed on Scott and then were instructed to administer and perform the field sobriety test on each other. At the end of class, the students were the big winners and we want to thank the prosecutors and Officer Wood for their assistance. The students came away with a first-hand perspective on field sobriety testing and they were very impressed with the skill and professionalism of the prosecutors and police officer. The students declared the class—best class ever!

To read about other defenses we use and learn about why The Semrau Law Firm should represent you in a DUI case, visit our DUI website.

“Privacy Comes at a Cost:” Police Search of Cellphones Limited

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor for privacy rights. The Court’s opinion combined two lower cases where police examined data stored on suspects’ cellphones without a warrant, ultimately leading to additional charges. In the end the justices came down on the side of privacy rights. Chief Justice Roberts realized that their decision would “have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime, [but] privacy comes at a cost.” Currently, the law states that police can search whatever physical items are on a person when they make the arrest. However, justices realized that smartphones were different. The Court explains that “a decade ago officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many of the more than 90% of American adults who own cellphones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives.” This raised new privacy concerns. The legal question in the cases was whether the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches, requires police to get a warrant before searching a cellphone after an arrest. The court decided that the Fourth Amendment does require police to obtain a warrant before searching the data on someone’s cellphone.

Police are still permitted to examine the physical aspects of a phone to make sure it cannot be used as a weapon; however, once a phone is secured, the data can endanger no one and the arrested person is unable to delete incriminating data, so there is no urgent need to search the phone’s data. However, the court explained that under extreme circumstances the police could still search someone’s cellphone without a warrant. A few examples include a suspect texting someone who might detonate a bomb or someone who may have information about a kidnapped child’s location on his phone.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, the ruling appears to be in line with public opinion. This opinion poll found that 60.7 percent of people surveyed believe police should not be allowed to search the data on a person’s cellphone without a warrant. Chief justice Roberts acknowledges that its decision will have an impact on law enforcement’s ability to fight crime, but he believes that warrants are an important part of government that should not be overlooked.

How did you do that? Motion Granted to Suppress Three Heat-Sealed Packages Containing 2.6 Pounds of Marijuana

If I told you about a case involving 2.6 pounds of marijuana you would probably expect a sure conviction for the defendant. Take a look at this police report and read how we were able to get our client acquitted.

Click here to see the police report, our brief, and the judge’s order

As you can see in the police report, the police officer originally only pulled our client over for failing to maintain his lane. The officer completed this stop with a written warning; however, he then asked our client for permission to search his car. After our client refused, the officer informed him that he had a K-9 that could detect narcotics who was going to do a quick exterior sniff. The K-9 gave positive alerts, so the officer informed our client he was going to perform a search of the vehicle. During the search, the police officer located a backpack in the trunk containing three vacuum sealed bags comprising of 2.6 pounds of marijuana.

While the Defendant’s vehicle was properly stopped, the continued detention and search of his car were unlawful. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. An officer is legally allowed to ask questions that are related or unrelated to a traffic stop and request consent to conduct a search; however, once the purpose of a traffic stop has been completed, any continued detention amounts to a second detention. For this second detention to be legal, the officer must have a reasonable articulable suspicion of other illegal activity besides the traffic violation. Articulable suspicion requires a particularized basis for suspecting that the citizen is involved in criminal activity. This suspicion must be more than a mere hunch. In this case, if the Defendant had been super nervous or if his statements didn’t make sense, or maybe if there were some drug related objects in the car—like rolling papers or a maybe even a “legalize it!” bumper sticker. Those would be legitimate reasons to suspect drug activity.

The State prosecutor tried to claim that the officer had reasonable articulable suspicion due to the Defendant’s “extreme nervousness” and “vague responses” to questions about his destination. The State claimed that the Defendant’s nervousness never decreased, but rather increased after being questioned about the presence of illegal contraband in his vehicle. While nervousness alone does not give reasonable suspicion, a reasonable suspicion may arise where nervousness is accompanied by additional indicators.

The State claimed that the nervousness was accompanied by vague responses to questions posed by law enforcement. If this were true, the continued detention might have been justified; however, after watching the video of the Defendant’s stop, the Judge found that the Defendant did not appear to be overly nervous, or give any vague responses. Therefore, the police officer had no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that justified the detaining the defendant after the completion of the traffic stop, and the Motion to Suppress was granted!

A Case from 1934 Wins the Day– Can’t wait to see what the Court of Appeals does with this decision

After waiting for over an hour today at the Municipal Court of Douglasville, our case was finally called up only to be shot down on our Motion for New Trial. A few months ago Scott filed a motion for new trial claiming that prior to the trial of the case, the Trial Court failed to establish that the Defendant knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived her right to counsel and right to a jury trial. She was convicted of Hit and Run and other minor traffic tickets. Like I wrote yesterday, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants all defendants the right to a trial by jury and the right to counsel. These rights are automatically given to every American citizen, and a person must knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently give up these rights if they wish to proceed to a bench trial without counsel. In our client’s original trial, the judge never discussed whether she wished to forfeit her rights to a trial by jury and right to counsel. It is a judge’s duty to inform the defendant of these rights and emphasize the significance of these rights. Therefore, we argued that she could not have given up these rights knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.

As soon as the hearing began, Scott tried to present his case, but Judge Rollins interrupted explaining that according to a case written almost 80 years ago, Herndon v. State, 178 Ga. 832 (1934), anything relating to ‘’pleading’’ cannot be brought up in a motion for new trial. He stated that since our client entered a plea of not guilty then anything relating to her plea, including her waiver of jury trial and counsel, would not be considered at the Motion for New Trial. The prosecutor never said a word.

When Scott and I returned to the office we spent almost two hours researching the issue. After dusting off some old books we finally found the Herndon case, and discovered that it stands for the proposition that defects in an indictment may not be taken advantage of on a motion for a new trial. Of course a demurrer to indictment (an objection to a charging document) must be presented prior to trial; however, Scott was not attacking the accusation or indictment, so the Herndon case holds no relevance to the case presented today.

Next comes a Notice of Appeal, and we’ll see what Georgia Court of Appeals thinks of the judges logic. From our perspective, we’re solid that the Herndon case has no relevance to our issue and we’re secure in the knowledge that our client did not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive her right to counsel or jury trial. We have a good feeling things will go our way in the Court of Appeals.

Boss Behind Bars

Boss Behind Bars
Today I started my first day of work at the Semrau Law Firm. My name is Leigh Shapiro and I am the summer intern here. Throughout my internship I will be posting about the daily life of a lawyer by shadowing Scott and working on my own research project, so stay tuned to learn about the law with me.
Today began with a trip to the State Court of Cherokee County. On the drive to court, Scott explained to me the structure of Georgia’s court system. There are five different types of courts on the bottom level: municipal court, magistrate court, probate court, juvenile court, and state court. Today we went to the state court which has limited jurisdiction over misdemeanors, traffic, felony preliminaries, and civil law actions except cases within the exclusive jurisdiction of the superior court.
When we arrived at court we had to go through security much like at an airport. There were signs scattered around advising people to remove everything from their pockets, and police officers, like TSA agents, were waving their metal detector wands ensuring this policy was followed. After making our way through security and upstairs we met with our client and proceeded into one of the courtrooms. When we walked into the courtroom, Scott knew most of the attorneys in the room, and even seemed friendly with the judge. I always pictured judges as nasty people who are out to get you, but after meeting Judge Morris my opinion quickly changed. Judge Morris invited Scott and I up to the bench before proceedings began, and explained that if there was anything he could do to help me during my internship, he gladly would. Once Scott and I sat back down, proceedings began. Our first case was a man charged with his fourth DUI.
Our first goal in this case was to waive our client’s right to a trial by jury The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants all defendants the right to a trial by jury, and in order to forfeit this right, the defendant must sign a waiver and present it to a judge. Our other goal for this case was to set a court date to transfer our client’s case to the Cobb County DUI court. The Cobb County DUI court is a treatment-based program for those have been convicted of multiple DUIs. The mission of this court is to place repeat DUI offenders in an intensive treatment program to enhance public safety. After being approved for the jury waiver and setting a court date for late July, Scott explained to our client that he must visit the DUI Court and be accepted into their program before any further progress can be made.
Our next objective was to drop off a letter at the assistant state solicitor’s office in the building next door. As we were leaving the court house to walk next door to drop off the letter at the prosecutor’s office, Scott introduced me to a few attorneys. It was interesting to see how most attorneys know each other and seem to have known each other for a while. Everyone was addressing each other by their first name and asking about each other’s vacations and families.
Once we made it next door, Scott and I dropped off the letter and then proceeded to explore the building, which was the old Cherokee State court house built in 1927. As we were walking around the building investigating the Dixie Speedway display, the director of the exhibit described some of the significance of the building and explained that the old county jail was on the top floor open for viewing. Both Scott and I jumped at the opportunity to go explore the old jail. And that’s how my boss ended up behind bars.

Felony Not Guilty Verdict!

Check out this closing argument from a recent trial, NOT GUILTY!

Closing Argument