Tag Archives: Gwinnett DUI lawyer

Georgia Courts: No Flexibility on License Suspension Letter

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.

Georgia Courts: No Flexibility on License Suspension Letter

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:

  1. Hire a DUI lawyer as soon after your arrest as you can, and
  2. Make sure that your DUI lawyer is experienced as well as competent and can be trusted to get that letter in well before the 10-day deadline.

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.

The Facts About Georgia Driver’s License Reinstatement After Second DUI

dui-in-georgia

One of the reasons it’s so important for anyone charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) to hire an experienced traffic attorney is because your first DUI conviction will amplify the consequences of any future DUIs. A second DUI conviction not only carries heftier penalties than a first DUI, but also involves a complex process for getting your driver’s license reinstated. There is a lot of incorrect information out there, so here is the truth about license reinstatement after a second DUI conviction within a five-year period:

  • There is a hard suspension for four months after the plea. (This means absolutely NO driving!)
  • After four months, you may be able to get a limited permit to drive to work or school, which is valid for the next twelve months.  HOWEVER, you must first prove to the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS):
    • You have completed the twenty-hour Risk Reduction Class (DUI School).
    • You have completed the Alcohol and Drug Evaluation.
    • You have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on any car you drive, which requires you to blow into the device and prevents the car from starting if alcohol is detected.
  • After those twelve months, you may be able to get a limited permit for an additional two months.
  • Finally, after eighteen months of suspension, you can get your license reinstated by proving to the Georgia DDS:
    • You have completed DUI School.
    • You have completed a substance abuse program if it was recommended based on your Alcohol and Drug Evaluation. If no substance abuse program was recommended, you MUST receive a waiver from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD).
    • You have had an IID for one year, unless waived by the Court for financial hardship.
    • You have paid a $210 reinstatement fee.

** Please note: I get many calls from folks wanting to seek the financial hardship waiver for the IID, but there are a few important factors to consider. First, it is very rare for a judge to order a waiver. Second, if you do receive a waiver for the IID, you are NOT eligible for any limited permit, meaning you would have a hard suspension for the full eighteen months!

Because driver’s license reinstatement laws are complex, it is wise to hire an experienced, knowledgeable DUI lawyer to help guide you through the process. To begin discussing your case, call Mickey Roberts at 770-923-4948 for more information. Or, to stay up-to-date on the latest DUI and traffic law news, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

What is the Definition of a Serious Injury?

If you are involved in an accident and charged with either Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Reckless Driving, and because of that driving, you cause another person to suffer serious injury, you could be charged with a felony, punishable with imprisonment anywhere from 3 to 15 years.

Serious injury by vehicle is one of two types of DUI cases which can be a felony case, with the other being vehicular homicide.

What is the definition of a “serious injury?”  A serious injury is “when another is deprived of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless.”

Here are some examples of Serious Injury by Vehicle from actual Georgia auto accident cases:

  1. Broken bone(s), even a little toe!
  2. Stitches
  3. Losing vision in an eye
  4. Losing hearing
  5. Contusion of the brain
  6. Leg injury which resulted in temporary use
  7. Facial lacerations
  8. Disfigurement from surgery

Anytime you are involved in an accident involving another person, and you are charged with DUI or reckless driving, it is IMPORTANT that you hire an experienced traffic lawyer immediately.  There are many things which must be done soon after the accident, like notifying your insurance company, finding out the extent of any possible injuries to the other party, and obtaining copies of the police accident and incident reports. In addition, many times I will go ahead and hire an accident reconstructionist so that he can evaluate the accident site and evidence immediately.

A felony conviction can be devastating. The likelihood of not only prison time but also the disabilities that go along with such a conviction call for an aggressive, well-planned defense.

If you find yourself facing such a situation, please call me, Mickey G. Roberts, PC, immediately!

Georgia Drivers Have a New Way to Be Haunted by Prior DUIs

There are many reasons why a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction can be disastrous. Besides the immediate consequences of license suspension, jail, probation, community service, etc., a DUI conviction ALWAYS stays on your driving and arrest records. While some drivers already know that a prior DUI conviction can result in a harsher sentence for any future DUIs, there is another, lesser-known reason why you don’t want a DUI conviction: if you are arrested for a subsequent DUI, the prior DUI conviction MAY be introduced into evidence at trial against you.

Georgia is one of the few states (potentially the only state) that allow such evidence, which used to be known as “similar transaction evidence”. That is because a prior criminal conviction generally is only admissible to show motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.  And since DUI is not a crime where someone specifically intends to drive while impaired, (unlike, say, a crime spree where someone robs several banks), most states have ruled that prior DUIs are just not relevant to a current DUI charge.

Oh, but not Georgia, where the Constitution seems to apply to every citizen except those charged with DUI!  In the recent case of State v. Jones, decided on June 1, 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court held that prior “other acts” evidence (the new name for “similar transaction evidence”) IS admissible for the purpose of showing a general intent to drive while either impaired or over the legal blood alcohol limit.

So, when charged with a first time Georgia DUI offense, it’s wise to hire an experienced traffic attorney specializing in DUI defense to try to fight that charge as aggressively as possible in hopes of avoiding a conviction, because if convicted, the DUI stays on your record forever and can come back to haunt you should you ever receive another DUI arrest.

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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.
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