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Category Archives: Case of the Month

Why Motions Are Important in a DUI Case

One of my recent cases shows why it is so important to consider filing a “Motion to Suppress” in every Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case. Many attorneys structure their fees to always include a motion to suppress. I don’t normally do this, because there may be some cases where even a motion to suppress is not called for, and in those cases, a defendant may pay more than necessary to resolve their case. That being said, however, in MOST DUI cases it might be worth the money to consider filing a motion to suppress. What is a Motion to Suppress? A Motion to Suppress is a legal pleading which asks the Court to either throw out the case or throw out (suppress) evidence such as the State Breath Test.  While the vast majority of motions to suppress are not granted, the mere fact of forcing the State’s witnesses to show up for court always renders the possibility of good things happening for a Defendant. I tell my clients there are three potentially positive outcomes of going forward with a hearing on a Motion to Suppress:
  1. The State’s witnesses don’t show and you either win the case or force the State to offer a reduction of the charges.
  2. The State’s witnesses do show, and you are able to cross-examine them just like you would at a trial, which opens the possibility for some or all of the case to be thrown out.
  3. Even if the Court denies the Motion, it can sometimes show the State that their witness doesn’t testify as well as perhaps they would like, which gives the State pause to consider whether to go forward with the charges or offer a reduction.
How a Motion to Suppress Helped My Client On this recent case, I had filed a Motion to Suppress which included a request to exclude a breath test due to 4th Amendment search issues. While the “stopping” officer did appear at the hearing, the arresting officer and breath test operator failed to show up.  The Court indicated  that it would not grant the State’s request for a continuance, meaning that if the hearing went forward, the State would not be able to prove the officer had “probable cause” for the arrest, and the entire case would be thrown out.  Of course, the State could have also dismissed the case and re-accused the client within six months. Based on the above, my client accepted an offer to plead to a reduced charge, which kept him from losing his job and also kept his license from being suspended. A lawyer should consider a Motion to Suppress in every DUI case, although quite frankly, many attorneys rarely file these motions. That is why it is so important to hire a lawyer who is qualified and experienced specifically in DUI defense.

New Changes in Law as a result of SB100

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.

mugshot (small)

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:

  1. 3-3-23.1 Minor in Possession of Alcohol: Deletes paragraph 3; no longer results in driver’s license suspension. Also deletes the suspension under 40-5-57.1(a) relating to suspension for under age possession of alcohol.
  2. 40-5-22(d) allows DDS to issue limited permit under 40-5-64 if license has been suspended due to suspension in another state, if otherwise eligible for such a limited permit.
  3. No mandatory suspension for use of fraudulent or fictitious license under 40-5-54 (a)(6); or any felony violation of Article I, Chapter 9, Title 16,  if such offense is related to an identification document as defined in 16-9-4.
  4. No suspension for drug convictions under 40-5-75 ; still suspended for DUI Drugs, although eligible for limited permit IF in Drug Court Program.
  5. No more license suspensions under 40-5-57.2(which is repealed), for conviction of driving off without paying for gas, 40-6-255.

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.

How Relationships Can Win a DUI Case

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.

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance and Why Do you Need It?

A recent local traffic law case brings to light the importance of understanding uninsured motorist insurance:

A man whose car was rear-ended in DeKalb County in 2009 recently lost his claim against his uninsured motorist carrier when the Supreme Court of Georgia determined he did not adequately prove he was eligible for coverage.

The high court unanimously reversed a narrowly divided Court of Appeals opinion on the question. The justices found that the burden of proof rested with the injured driver, rather than his uninsured motorist carrier, to show whether the at-fault driver in the wreck was technically uninsured.

What is uninsured motorist insurance and why do you need it?

Let’s say, for instance, that you are involved in an auto accident and you suffer a serious injury by vehicle. You receive a broken leg, and with surgery and recovery, your medical bills are in excess of $50, 000. On top of that, you have lost wages and of course the pain and suffering that comes with the injury.

The driver who caused the accident has the minimum liability coverage in Georgia: $25,000. Obviously, that would not cover your damages. That’s where uninsured motorist insurance comes into play.

If you have uninsured motorist coverage on your auto insurance policy, and you can prove the driver at fault was either uninsured or underinsured, you can file for payment of the difference with your insurance company.

So, if your claim is for $100,000, and you have uninsured coverage of $100,000, you could apply the $25,000 from the other party’s insurance and claim the remaining $75,000 on your policy.

Uninsured motorist coverage is relatively inexpensive. Check your auto insurance policy today and make sure you have an amount you are comfortable with. Then, in the event of an accident, contact an experienced traffic attorney to help you takes the correct steps toward the best possible outcome.

Case of the Month: DUI with Drugs Involved Turns into a City Ordinance Violation

While marijuana laws are changing all over the United States, the facts remain unchanged in Georgia: have it in your possession or drive under the influence, and law enforcement will not be happy. For an example, let’s examine this edition of my Case of the Month series featuring underage DUI involving marijuana.

dui with drugs

An underage client of mine was stopped by a police officer for making an illegal left turn.  When the officer approached the car, he smelled the telltale odor of marijuana drifting from inside. My client admitted to smoking marijuana prior to being stopped with his girlfriend, a passenger in the car. 

After performing field sobriety evaluations, my client was arrested for DUI for being under the influence of marijuana. When the officer requested a urine test, my client consented.  The urine test came back positive for marijuana. Georgia law states that a person is guilty of a DUI if that person “drives a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana to the extent that person is rendered incapable of driving safely.”  Since marijuana is detectable in urine even a month after use, it is possible to be convicted of this type of DUI weeks after it was last used, if the State can prove, through physical appearance, driving, and field sobriety evaluations, that you were incapable of driving safely. This is part of what makes marijuana DUIs so tricky.

Because of my client’s age, even a plea to reckless driving would have resulted in a 6-month suspension. The key to a urine test is that by the time marijuana (or its inactive ingredient) gets into your urine, you are no longer under the influence of the effects of the marijuana.  In this case, I was able to resolve the case as follows: the DUI was reduced entirely, and the client pled to a city ordinance violation, which did not go on his driving record or on his criminal history.

There are hundreds of ways to win a DUI case, especially when you consult an experienced DUI and traffic lawyer in your area. We just need to be open and creative enough to find the way for each particular case. To contact a reputable lawyer in Georgia, contact me, Mickey Roberts. Be sure to follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for traffic law updates and news.

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Disclaimer

The above information is intended to help educate members of the Georgia motoring public as to their rights under the law and to assist presumptively innocent citizens in properly asserting those rights. Information within this site should not be misconstrued as legal advice.
Case of the Month