Have You Been Charged with Dogfighting in Georgia?
Dogfighting is a serious crime in Georgia and most people associate dogfighting with the incident involving Michael Vick years ago. Even though he served his time, many people think of him in terms of dogfighting. That is why it is critical to hire a Georgia Dogfighting Attorney if you have been charged. Our lawyers understand the harsh connotations associated with a dogfighting charge and will work diligently to reduce your charges!
Georgia Law on Dogfighting
Dogfighting can manifest in five different ways according to O.C.G.A. §16-12-37. A person may be guilty of dogfighting when they:
- Own, possess, train, transport, or sell any dog with the intent that such dog shall be engaged in fighting with another dog;
- For amusement or gain, cause any dog to fight with another dog or for amusement or gain, cause any dogs to injure each other;
- Wager money or anything of value on the result of such dogfighting;
- Knowingly permit any act in violation of paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection on any premises under the ownership or control of such person or knowingly aid or abet any such act; or
- Knowingly promote or advertise an exhibition of fighting with another dog.
Georgia Case Law on Dogfighting
In the case of Barton v. State, one person was convicted of dogfighting while three other people were acquitted of their charges. In that case, officers raided a farm that was hosting a dogfight. Many people ran from the scene. Three men, Barton, Chafin, and Townsend were apprehended but were not near the area where the dogfighting and gambling were taking place. However, Green was apprehended by a GBI agent while standing right next to the pit where two dogs had obviously been fighting. Furthermore, Greene had $899 on his person.
During the trial, all parties argued that there was insufficient evidence linking them to dogfighting. Greene said that the evidence demonstrating that he allowed a dog to fight another dog and wagered on the results was wholly circumstantial. While the Court agreed with that, they found that the additional evidence proved otherwise. Green was 400 miles away from his home in a remote area of the state where dogfighting was taking place. Furthermore, him being right next to the dog pit with a large amount of cash on him led the Court to find Greene guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of dogfighting.
With regard to Barton, Chafin, and Townsend, they were not found near the dogfighting or gambling area. Furthermore, none of the officers were able to identify them as being present at the pit. The only evidence offered by the State was that they were “brought back” from an undetermined place. Therefore, the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for dogfighting. 253 Ga. 478, (1984).
Penalty for a Dogfighting Conviction in Georgia
A person convicted of violating any part of the dogfighting statute will be guilty of a felony. Upon a first conviction, the penalty will be a fine of at least $5,000, a prison term between one and five years, or both. A second or subsequent conviction will be punished by a prison term between one and ten years, a fine of no less than $15,000, or both.
It is important to note that each violation shall constitute a separate offense.
Many people are unaware that it is illegal to be a spectator at a dogfighting event. O.C.G.A. §16-12-37(c) states that “any person who is knowingly present only as a spectator at any place for the fighting of dogs shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.” However, a second conviction will be punished as a felony with the consequences of a fine of at least $5,000, a prison term between one and five years, or both. A third or subsequent conviction will elevate the fine to at least $15,000, a prison term between one and ten years, or both.
Georgia Dogfighting Defenses
Insufficient evidence tying the victim to dogfighting: Similarly to the case of Barton v. State, if there is not enough evidence tying you to the incident, then you cannot be convicted.
Lack of Knowledge: Promoting an event that you did not know was really a dogfighting event may be a defense. However, it must be reasonable that you were unaware of the event.
Mistaken Identity: Police officers make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes result in an innocent person being arrested. If you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, call our dogfighting lawyers in Georgia for assistance.
What are not Defenses in Georgia
The dog did not die: Dogfighting does not require that the dog dies for a person to be convicted. Owning dogs that participate in dogfighting, placing bets on the dogfights, or knowingly promoting a fight are all ways that a person can violate the statute.
Crimes involving animals have negative connotations in Georgia. Many people assume guilt without hearing the facts of your case. Our Georgia Dogfighting Attorneys help you fight the charges and try to either get the jail time or fine lowered. The Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys at Lawson and Berry are here for you! Contact us today for a free case evaluation.