DUI DEFENSE

The 30 Day Rule

The 30-day period after a DUI arrest is of extreme importance.  If you do not follow the exact steps required for requesting a hearing before the Department of Drivers Services (DDS) within 30 days of your arrest, the Georgia (GA) DDS will automatically suspend your driver’s license and you will not be allowed to drive for one year or more. Your request for an Administrative License Suspension hearing must:

  1. Be made in writing

  2. Contain specific and thorough details

  3. Conform with the requirements set forth by the State

This 30-day letter, and potential license suspension, is entirely separate from the criminal case against you.

Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs)

Law enforcement officers often ask drivers suspected of being under the influence to submit to Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) to determine if they are indeed under the influence. These tests are completely voluntary and the decision to submit to them and your performance on them can play a large factor in the officer’s decision to arrest you. Our attorneys are trained in these procedures. The three  most frequently SFSTs used by law enforcement include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Evaluation

HGN is an involuntary jerking  or “bouncing” of the eye. Alcohol HGN is seen when the eye, gazing upon an object (such as an officer’s pen or finger), begins to lag and has to correct itself with an abrupt or jerky movement toward the direction in which the eye is moving.

  • Walk and Turn Test

The Walk and Turn Test is a “divided attention” test that is easily performed by most unimpaired drivers. This test requires an individual suspected of DUI to listen and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements. Specifically, the individual is asked to take 9 steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, then turn on one foot and return in the same manner and in the opposite direction.

  • One Leg Stand Test

The One Leg Stand test is also a “divided attention” test. During this test, the individual suspected of DUI is instructed to stand with one foot approximately 6 inches off of the ground and count aloud until he/she is told to put his/her foot down.

 

If you refused testing when you were arrested, it is important for you to know that there are no undue hardship exceptions to the one-year suspension of your license, such as a permit to drive to and from work, or taking your children to school.

What to do if your child is charged with a DUI

Many parents have contacted our office after their child’s arrest for DUI and/or vehicular homicide charges. Often, parents are angry, frustrated, and embarrassed by their child’s actions, but most commonly, they are concerned and afraid of what the future may hold for their child. In coming to terms with your child’s DUI arrest, please consider the following:

  • If your child has been arrested for DUI, he/she has most likely already spent between 6-24 hours in jail, had his/her car impounded, has been handcuffed, fingerprinted, and booked in a local or county jail, and has had his/her license taken by the arresting officer.

  • A DUI conviction can negatively impact a person for years to come. Your child may experience a direct financial impact in the increase in his/her insurance premiums, and a fine and/or probation costs associated with his/her conviction.  Additionally, your child may suffer long-term financial consequences resulting from suspension or other actions imposed by their educational institutions, prevention from admission to certain schools, and prevention from obtaining employment and/or earning a professional license in a variety of fields.

  • If your child fails to request an administrative license hearing before the Department of Driver’s Services within 30-days of his/her arrest, your child will likely loose their license and their ability to drive for a year or more.

Potential Punishments for DUI

Upon conviction of a DUI, there are immediate penalties which you will face. DUI convictions in the State of Georgia escalate with the number of offenses committed – with harsher penalties associated with an offender’s second and third convictions. In some circumstances you may even be charged as a felon and punished more harshly. Additionally, if a person is found to be operating a motor vehicle under the influence while a child under the age of 14 is on board, he/she may be charged with the separate charge of endangering a child while under the influence. If you are less than 21-years-old at the time of your arrest, you may also receive a one-year delay in obtaining a graduated license.

First DUI Conviction


If you are convicted of DUI and you have not had any prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, you can face:

  • Jail sentence from 24 hours up to one year

  • Possible DUI program and clinical evaluation

  • License suspension for up to one year

  • A substantial driver’s license reinstatement fee

  • Fine ranging from $300 to $1,000

  • Community Service of at least 40 hours

Second DUI Conviction


If you are convicted of a second DUI offense within 10 years, you will face:

  • Jail sentence from 72 hours to one year

  • License suspension for up to three (3) years along with a reinstatement fee

  • Fine  ranging from $600 to $1,000

  • Community Service of at least 30 days

  • You will also be required to complete a mandatory clinical evaluation

  • You will be required to complete a substance abuse treatment program

  • You may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle

Third DUI Conviction


If you are convicted of a third DUI offense, you will face:

  • Jail sentence from 15 days to one year

  • License suspension for up to five (5) years and a reinstatement fee

  • Fine  ranging from $1,000 to $5,000

  • Community Service of at least 30 days

  • Publishing of your photo, name, and address in a local newspaper

  •  You will also be required to complete a mandatory clinical evaluation

  • You may also be required to complete a substance abuse treatment program

  • You may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle

Fourth DUI Conviction


If you are convicted of a fourth DUI offense within ten years, you will be convicted of a felony offense, including:

  • Jail sentence from 1 year to 5 years

  • License suspension for up to five (5) years and a reinstatement fee

  • Fine  ranging from $1,000 to $5,000

  • Community Service of at least 60 days

  • Publishing of your photo, name, and address in a local newspaper

  • You will also be required to complete a mandatory clinical evaluation

  • You may also be required to complete a substance abuse treatment program

  • You may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle

Your Rights After Arrest

Understanding your basic rights will best prepare you for properly handling yourself when dealing with police during a stop.

The right to remain silent


After an arrest, you have the right to remain silent. This right applies to everyone accused of a crime in Georgia, even if you are undocumented. One of the the biggest mistake an arrested individual often makes is speaking with an officer and innocently making a statement that all but guarantees his/her conviction. Even the simplest statements you make to a law enforcement officer during an arrest are certain to be used against you in court. Beyond providing the police with your identification information and your driver’s license, you do not have to answer any questions - including when, where, how much, and even whether you have been drinking. Every question law enforcement asks you is for the purpose of assessing their ability to establish probable cause to arrest you.

 

The right to refuse a chemical blood alcohol test

 

Under the Implied Consent Laws, it is presumed that if you drive in the State of Georgia, you have consented to a chemical blood test. As a result, if you refuse to take a State administered test, even if you are not under the influence, your license will be automatically suspended. While this is a harsh penalty, it may still be in your best interest to refuse a blood alcohol test if you suspect that your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is likely to test high as the lack of a test reduces the amount of evidence against you.

 

In the state of Georgia, you are deemed to be over the limit if: you are under 21 and your BAC is .02% or more; you are 21 or over and your BAC is .08% or more; or you’re a commercial driver and your BAC is .04% or more. However, it is important to note that, even if your blood alcohol concentration is lower than the legal limit, you can still face a DUI conviction under the proposition that you are a “less safe” driver.

The right to refuse a field sobriety test


Similarly, you also have a right to refuse a field sobriety test. While these tests are generally considered non-scientific and may not necessarily harm your DUI defense, you have a right to refuse such tests, and you may wish to do so if you believe you will not able to successfully complete them.

DUI Glossary

  • ABSORPTION RATE— The rate alcohol is absorbed into the blood and body tissues. Generally, after alcohol is consumed a small percentage of alcohol (typically around 20%) is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining alcohol is absorbed as it moves through the gastrointestinal tract. A persons absorption rate is impacted by the amount of fat tissue in the body, body size, metabolic rate, and other factors.

  • ADMINISTRATIVE LICENSE SUSPENSION A persons driver’s license is confiscated immediately upon refusal of a breath/blood alcohol test, or arrest. Drivers who have had their license suspended for either failing or refusing to take a BAC test, may challenge their revocation through a hearing.

  • ALS HEARING— If a person properly files a 30-day letter with the Department of Drivers Services he/she may be entitled to a hearing to determine whether his/her license should be suspended for a year or more. During these hearings, the State must prove one or more of the following:

  1. The police officer had sufficient evidence to believe the driver was intoxicated

  2. The driver had a BAC of more than 0.08% while operating a vehicle

  3. A BAC test was requested and the driver refused.

  • BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT—The legal concept which states that the State must prove that a defendant is guilty of a DUI or other criminal offense “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A “reasonable doubt” is one that allows the court or jury to draw more than one reasonable conclusion about who is responsible for a crime. If the State cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be properly convicted.

  • BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION (BAC)— BAC is the weight of alcohol in a fixed volume of blood. It is defined as the number of grams of alcohol per 1000 milliliters of blood, the number of grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, or the number of grams of alcohol per 67 milliliters of urine.

  • BREATHALYZER— A machine used by law enforcement to determine your BAC.

  • CONDITIONAL LICENSE— A license provided to an individual in return for completing a DUI course or alcohol treatment program. Conditional driver’s licenses afford a driver limited privileges to drive to and from work and/or school.

  • DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI)— Driving under the Influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or toxic vapors.

  • DUI SCHOOL OR "RISK REDUCTION" SCHOOL— Drug and alcohol education programs which are designed to teach drivers of the dangers of drinking and driving. Designed to reduce the chance of repeat offenses.

  • DRAM SHOP— A tavern, bar, or restaurant where alcoholic beverages are sold.

  • DRAM SHOP LIABILITY— Dram shops have the legal responsibility to stop serving alcohol to persons who are visibly intoxicated. If a dram shop continues to sell alcohol to individuals who are visibly intoxicated and the intoxicated person subsequently causes injury and/or death to another, either through assault, injury, or motor vehicle collision, the dram shop may be legally responsible for the injury.

  • IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE— Also referred to as a vehicle lock, it is a device that is installed in a vehicle that prevents the vehicle from starting if a breath test detects a BAC over a pre-set limit.

  • IMPLIED CONSENT— The legal concept in Georgia, that by driving on the roads in this state a person has consented to the test of their breath/blood for alcohol and the refusal to take a blood/breath alcohol test can result in automatic suspension of a persons license.

  • INTOXYLIZER— A machine used to determine a persons BAC. A brand name, also referred to as Intoxylizer 5000.

  • MIRANDA RIGHTS Rights read to an individual upon arrest and interrogation. Through Miranda, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a Court of law. You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided for you.

  • NOLO CONTENDERE OR "NO CONTEST" PLEA— If you plead nolo you neither admit nor deny the commission of a crime, but agree to a punishment as if guilty. Usually this type of plea is entered because it cannot be used as an admission of guilt if a civil trial occurs subsequent to a criminal trial. If you plead nolo to a DUI law, it is the same as pleading guilty in that the DUI will go on your record and count the same as a guilty plea.

  • PER SE DUI— Under the Per Se law, the court will not consider the driver’s ability to drive a vehicle safely if the individual operates a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

  • VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER— When a driver unintentionally kills another while operating a motor vehicle. Vehicular manslaughter can be caused by gross negligence, DUI, speeding, and/or reckless driving. This crime can be considered as a misdemeanor or felony. Common penalties include imprisonment, heavy fines, probation, and revocation of the  convicted individual’s driver’s license.

Our attorneys will respond to your call right away, so please, call now at (770) 692-5020.