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GA Court of Appeals Reverses Conviction for Giving False Name

July 18, 2013

In Smith v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a defendant's conviction for giving a false name to a law enforcement officer.

The defendant possessed a valid Georgia driver’s license with one name, but his fingerprints in the FBI database corresponded with another name. The conviction was reversed because there was no evidence establishing which of these names was false and further because there was no evidence showing that the defendant actually gave either name to the police officers.

The evidence showed that Smith went with friends Murry and Flake to a Best Buy and the three men attempted to purchase approximately $500 in merchandise. Murry presented a forged check and false identification. When the transaction did not go through, the three men left the store and Smith attempted to drive away. Store employees reported the vehicle’s tag number to the police, who stopped the car in the parking lot and arrested the three men. At the time, Smith possessed a valid Georgia driver’s license with the name “Jack Spade”. Upon running Smith’s fingerprints in the FBI database, it was discovered that they were associated with the name William Carmichael Smith.

At trial, the State presented similar transaction evidence that Smith was arrested in South Carolina under the name “Jack a/k/a William Carmichael Smith” for attempting to pass fraudulent checks.

Under Georgia law, it is a misdemeanor to give a false name, address, or date of birth with the intent to mislead a law enforcement officer who is acting in the lawful discharge of his official duties. As there was no evidence that Smith gave either name to the officers, and no evidence to show which of the names was false, the Court of Appeals held that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for giving a false name.

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for identity fraud and forgery. Evidence showed that officers found a checkbook with loose checks under the driver’s seat of the vehicle which Smith was driving. Identity fraud victims testified at trial that their account numbers were on the checks and they did not give the defendant or anyone permission to use their account.

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