A DUI charge can be life changing. There are fines, penalties, probation, license suspension, and many other areas of your life that can be negatively impacted, including your ability to get a job, a new license, or even a loan. You need a skilled DUI lawyer to help.
How Many DUI’s Have You Had In Your Entire Life?
Clients sometimes try to hide their past DUI’s when they hire a lawyer for a current DUI. Do not hide any information from your lawyer. Every factor is either working against you or for you. So even if you had a DUI 9 years ago, it’s still very important to make sure your lawyer knows that.
The state’s prosecutor will always know your history and they will always use it against you. Typically, any DUI in the past 10 years will be used against you; any DUI’s in the past 5 years will be used against you. But this doesn’t have to mean that there’s no hope. You should hire a DUI lawyer to sort through the evidence nonetheless.
Your lawyer will want to know all the possible facts surrounding your current DUI after you’ve disclosed all prior DUI’s. Facts matter. Even the minor facts matter.
Why were you pulled over in the first place? Was there a wreck? Did you swerve out of your lane? Were you speeding? Or did the officer just look at you and pull you over? The officer must always have what’s called “articulable suspicion.” That means that the officer must have some reason he/she can articulate (meaning “say out loud”) other than race, color, country of origin. Simply put, if you were pulled over only because of how you looked, that’s unlikely to lead to a conviction. But officers rarely do this, and they often do have a valid reason to pull you over.
What time was it when you were pulled over? What was the weather? What was the traffic like? These are important considerations because at night we tend to be tired and sometimes our eyes look bloodshot. These are clues officers are trained to look for. But if there’s another explanation, these may be insufficient to support a conviction.
Did you answer any questions? If so, were the questions recorded by the officer’s body-worn camera or the officer’s dash-mounted camera? You’ll need to be able to see all of this and review it, because all of that evidence can be useful and helpful when you prepare a defense.
You have a right in Georgia to refuse to perform any test the officers request of you. Officers cannot force you to do any tests. Keep in mind that if you do perform the tests, you are giving the officer evidence. You many think you’re ‘passing’ these tests but let me be clear: you are not. You are giving the state evidence to use against you – it’s that simple.
If you refuse these tests, and if you are arrested, your license is typically subjected to a hard suspension, meaning there is no way to keep driving around legally while your charges are pending (see 10-day letter, below). The Kent Law Group is of the opinion that if you find yourself being questioned about a DUI, and if there is any possibility whatsoever that you may have alcohol in your system, you should probably refuse to do these tests.
A lot of people think that the purpose of these tests is to prove that you are still safe to drive. But that’s not why the officers administer the tests. They administer the tests exclusively – exclusively – to establish probable cause and to justify your arrest. If you are going to be arrested anyway, do not give the officers evidence freely.
Let me be clear though: if you refuse, you will be arrested. But if you’re arrested, you can bond out shortly thereafter. It’s not fun, but you’d rather be arrested with little to no evidence to use against you versus being arrested and giving the state all the evidence they need to prove your guilt.
When you are arrested for a DUI in Georgia, the clock starts ticking immediately. You have only TEN (10) DAYS from the date of your arrest to send a letter to the Department of Drivers Services TOGETHER WITH A CHECK for $150.00 (subject to change from time to time) in order to try to protect your driving privileges.
Here’s how it works in a few examples:
1 – You’re arrested on January 1 for DUI even after you do all the roadside tests. You have only 10 days from January 1 to send a letter with the fee to request a hearing about the administrative license suspension. If your letter is not postmarked by January 10, you lose your right to contest the suspension and your license will likely be suspended on February 1.
2 – You’re arrested on January 1 for DUI, but you refused to do the roadside tests. Your license is subject to a hard suspension and will be suspended within 30 days after your arrest. You have no right to request a hearing to dispute your administrative license suspension.
3 – This one is important. In either scenario above (either 1 or 2), you’re arrested, and time passes. Many lawyers will tell you for one reason or another that you can do nothing about your license. Not true. The DUI Lawyers at The Kent Law Group routinely send the 10-day letter well beyond 10 days following your arrest, and we even send the letter if you refused testing (which would ordinarily result in an automatic suspension). And in about 90% of those cases, the client’s license suspension was revoked, meaning that the client could continue driving legally.
How does this happen? If the law says 10 days, how can you still appeal it weeks later? Officers are obligated to submit paperwork to the Department of Drivers Services (DDS) following your DUI arrest – any DUI arrest. But many times, they simply don’t mail or submit it, and sometimes they mail it but the postal services lose it. Other times, the DDS simply fails to process it. That’s just how government works. So, there’s no harm in sending the 10-day letter even if 30 days or more have passed.
Here’s an example: a client was charged in 2021 for DUI. We reviewed the video and found that the state had no evidence to use against the client, but the client refused testing, and more than a month had passed from the time of arrest to the time the client hired us. The client’s license should have been automatically suspended. But we advised the client to check his license status online; he reported that it still showed as ‘active’ and ‘valid’. With that, we sent the 10-day letter and challenged any suspension the state was going to impose. The officer did not attend the hearing, so the Judge was legally obligated to revoke the automatic suspension regardless of the time that had elapsed following the arrest. Client continued to drive legally, and we later negotiated his charges to a simple reckless driving. A solid win all around.
The point is, do not give up on sending the 10-day letter regardless of how much time has passed.
If you fail to send a 10-day letter, or if your license is suspended for any reason following a DUI, you cannot legally continue to drive. Sure, you can physically drive, but your privileges are suspended. If you continue to drive, you are driving on a suspended license. And if you are pulled over, you will be arrested and charged with a driving on a suspended license. That means that you will have 1 suspension for 12 months because of your DUI. But you will also have another 12-month suspension for the driving on a suspended license charge. The two suspension periods do NOT run at the same time. Your license will effectively be suspended for 2 years! That’s why it is so critical to hire a DUI Lawyer from The Kent Law Group to evaluate your case and determine whether you should challenge your license suspension. You do not want separate charges.
Recent Cases Have Changed Georgia DUI Law
In the past, officers could compel you to give a sample of your blood, breathe or urine. But instead of getting a warrant to do that, the officers would just tell you to do it. That’s against the law and thankfully good lawyers challenged the constitutionality of that deceit.
As a result of those cases, officers can no longer simply make you give a blood test and cannot make you give a urine sample. They now must get a judge to give them a warrant. That’s the only way the government gets to take something from you without your consent – with a warrant.
So, if you find yourself faced with an overzealous officer who is trying to force you to give him a blood sample or a urine sample, tell the officer to get a warrant. They MUST do so. If they refuse and force you nonetheless, that evidence can and should be suppressed by the judge. Bear in mind, too, that the longer it takes the officer to get a warrant, the longer your body has to process any alcohol in your system. Meaning that hopefully even if you do give a sample, the delay will minimize the results.
A recent case, Elliott v. State (2021), returned a great deal of rights to the people and ended the deference given to the state. In Elliott, the Court ruled that paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution not only protects against compelled testimony but also compelled acts and actions. One case held, for the first time, that Georgia drivers do not have to submit to a breath test. In Elliott, the court held that the act of refusing a breath test cannot be used to try to convince a jury that the driver must have been intoxicated. The theory there was that prosecutors were essentially saying, ‘well, if he was innocent, he would have just given the breath sample; since he refused, he must be guilty.’ Thankfully, the courts deferred to the constitution and now prohibit this manipulation of evidence.
Video Evidence Is Crucial
If you hire a lawyer for no other reason in your DUI case, you should hire a lawyer simply to collect the video evidence, if any, in your case. We have had more acquittals of DUI clients over the years when video evidence was shown than when there was no video evidence. That’s because jurors want to see what happened and want to weigh the facts for themselves. Always request video evidence in your DUI case.
Recorders Court / Municipal Court DUIs vs. State Court DUIs
DUI charges do not have to be brought in one particular court. In fact, many clients find that their DUI case is pending in recorders court or a municipal court. This can often be beneficial for the client because it essentially gives the client 2 chances to resolve the case. If you find that the charges are pending in recorders court or municipal court, you should hire a lawyer. Many times, municipal courts will try to stonewall you and make you resolve your case in that court. But you don’t have to. Your DUI lawyer will negotiate everything the best way possible in that court, but if it looks as though the prosecutor is playing hard ball, your lawyer can simply ‘bind over’ your case to State Court and start all over. This can be beneficial because State Court prosecutors have substantially more cases to work on. When they see your DUI case and hear the arguments your lawyer makes, they may be more apt to resolve that case quickly, whereas a municipal court prosecutor doesn’t have as many cases and may focus on your case to your detriment.
Recorders court DUI cases can be handled the same way. So, if you’re not getting a good break in Recorders court, your lawyer can also bind that case over to State Court the same way. We’ve had good results this way. One final thing to consider: in Recorders Court and Municipal Court, there are no juries. That means that one person – a judge – will decide your guilt. If your case must be tried, you ordinarily do not want one person to be the decision maker. Bind your case over to state court and request a jury, then try your case, if necessary, to twelve people. That way the prosecutor has to convince 12 people of your guilt. Let our experienced DUI lawyers evaluate your case and make the best decision for you.