Your Georgia driver’s license can be suspended for up to a year, with NO limited permit available, if you or your lawyer fails to send in a letter requesting a hearing with the Department of Driver Services (DDS) within 10 days after your arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), according to a recent Georgia Court of Appeals case.
Under Georgia law, the license of any person charged with DUI can be “administratively” suspended by the DDS even before a person’s DUI case is resolved. After being arrested for DUI, if you register above a .08 (or .02 for drivers under age 21) on the State breath machine, or if you “refuse” to submit to a state chemical test, the arresting officer takes your license and gives you a copy of a “1205” form, which acts as a temporary driver’s license. He sends in your license and the original 1205 to DDS.
You then have 10 business days in which to send in a letter, along with the $150 filing fee, requesting a hearing on the issue of whether you will receive an administrative license suspension. If you fail to do so, your license is automatically suspended 30 days after the arrest for up to 1 year!
In the past, DDS has “waived” the 10 day requirement if they received the letter close to the deadline and the filing fee was submitted. That policy apparently changed last year, and this case, Mikell v. Hortenstine, decided in late 2015, now puts everyone on notice that the DDS does not mess around when it comes to deadlines. Look at the facts of this case:
An officer arrested Hortenstine for DUI on Sept. 25, 2014 and served him with a notice of suspension of his driver’s license. Hortenstine hired a traffic attorney 8 days before the deadline, BUT the attorney failed to send in the letter until the 11th business day, one day outside the time period!
The trial court had some compassion for Hortenstine, and found that since he had provided all of the information to his lawyer in a timely manner, the DDS could not suspend his license without a hearing. However, in a cold and heartless decision, our Court of Appeals said,
“Since the lawyer was acting as an agent for Hortenstine, and since we are bound by the acts of our agents, the fact that the letter was sent 11 business days instead of 10 precluded Hortenstine from having a hearing, and the license suspension is upheld.”
I suppose the moral of the story is that you need to:
Georgia SB 100, which was passed in this year’s legislative session, changes several laws which previously had provided mandatory license suspensions. In particular, the offense of a minor in possession of alcohol and the offense of possession of drugs NO LONGER CARRY MANDATORY LICENSE SUSPENSIONS if they are not involved in a DUI.
While these offenses no longer carry mandatory suspensions and will not be reported to the Department of Driver Services (DDS), it is important to note that they still remain on a person’s arrest record if the person was arrested and fingerprinted. As a result, it’s still important to hire an attorney to make sure that the correct plea is entered so the arrest record can be restricted.
Here is a summary of the changes:
SB 100 is just one example of how Georgia’s laws are constantly changing, and why it’s crucial to work with a traffic lawyer who specializes in your area of need and who stays up-to-date with all the new laws, decisions, and precedents while understanding the impact they have on your case. To discuss your case and how I may be able to help, schedule a consultation with me, Mickey G. Roberts.
When you are looking to hire a DUI lawyer, which is more important: the price the lawyer charges, or the experience and reputation the lawyer brings to the table?
There is a debate in legal circles as to how lawyers should charge. On one side is the old school billable hour crowd, which believes lawyers should charge by the hour. On the other side is a new group which believes a lawyer should charge based on his/her knowledge and experience.
A recent case illustrates why I am now leaning towards the second group. Throughout my 35 years of practice, I have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge not only about the law, but also knowledge about and relationships with certain courts, police departments, prosecutors, and judges. That knowledge and the relationships derived from practicing for 35 years is, in many ways, invaluable.
In this recent case, my client was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Even the video showed his speech was slurred, he was slightly unsteady, and he exhibited the maximum clues on the HGN field sobriety test. He also had supposedly run over a curb with his car.
At first glance, most lawyers would assume that it would be impossible to win a DUI case like this one. However, the client had been involved in a serious injury accident several years ago, which left him with some head injuries and partial memory loss. The client provided me with proof of his injuries sustained in the accident, as well as a letter from his lawyer indicating the evidence of permanent disability.
I first approached the officer and told him, in a nice way, of my concerns about whether the symptoms were the result of alcohol impairment or the result of injuries sustained by my client, and told him I would be talking to the prosecutor about reducing the charges. Then I spoke with the prosecutor, whom I have known for over 25 years, and eventually she agreed with me and reduced the charges.
Now, how valuable was it to my client that I had developed enough experience to consider other causes for this supposed DUI and established those relationships with the officer and prosecutor? Or that I had worked hard to develop a reputation with many prosecutors as someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to DUI cases, so that if I discuss with these prosecutors that they have a problem with their traffic law case, they listen, research, and consider other possibilities?
Yes, my opinion is that experience, knowledge, and relationships are invaluable when it comes to DUI defense.