DUIs are some of the most common yet devastating criminal charges in Georgia. Not only can you face jail time and probation when convicted of a DUI, your license can quite easily be suspended for one year just for refusing state administered testing. As such, whether this is your first DUI or one of many, it is crucial to seek an experienced attorney to help you navigate the complex and technical world of DUI law.
Although DUIs are very serious offenses and carry with them stiff penalties and sentences in Georgia, there are several ways in which a competent attorney can advocate for you in your defense and can potentially get your case either reduced to a lesser charge, dismissed, or acquitted at trial. An attorney may also help save you from any license suspension.
Administrative License Suspension and Hearing
The three primary ways that a person can suffer a license suspension in a Georgia DUI case is through refusing state administered chemical testing, having a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater, or actually being convicted of a DUI.
In the first event, failing to submit to the state administered chemical test for alcohol can be grounds for an automatic one year license suspension. In such a case, the deputy or trooper will issue what is called a DS-1205 Form. That form advises you that you have thirty days to appeal the license suspension by demanding a hearing on the matter through a written letter and sending a check for $150. After receiving the 1205 Form, you have 30 calendar days to request your appeal with DDS before you license is automatically suspended. Requesting a hearing on time, saves your license at least until the administrative license hearing, which is usually held about 45 to 60 days from the initial incident date and arrest.
At the administrative license hearing, you have two primary options — you can negotiate with the deputy or trooper to agree to dismiss the suspension in exchange for some kind of guilty plea, or you can have a hearing on the matter. At the hearing, the burden is on the State to show by a preponderance of the evidence that your license should remain suspended.
If you lose at the hearing or cannot negotiate a deal with the state, your license will be suspended for one year. This is a hard suspension, meaning that there are no limited or work permits available in such a situation. Thus, it is crucial that you seek the help of an attorney to help you try to save your license.
Fighting a DUI cases
In addition to saving your license, there is also the criminal charge that a person accused of a DUI must face. Almost all DUI arrests end up being misdemeanors, but the minimum jail time and other fines and penalties are greater depending on the amount of priors and when they occurred. Depending on the facts of each individual case, there are many ways to fight a DUI.
For first time offenders of DUI, some jurisdictions offer pre-trial diversion for DUI. This is where you receive a dismissal of your case after paying a program fee and completing any requirements of the program, which can include community service and classes. Pre-trial diversion can be a good option for a first time offender where the evidence against them at trial would be strong or overwhelming.
Similarly, even if a jurisdiction does not offer pretrial diversion or you do not qualify, your attorney may be able to negotiate your DUI charge down to a reckless driving offense based on weaknesses in the case or other circumstances. The major benefit of a reckless driving plea is that it does not automatically suspend your license for one year after conviction and is widely considered a less serious offense for your criminal history.
Additional approaches to a case short of trial may include filing a motions to suppress evidence or statements. In a motion to suppress, a judge may order that certain evidence may not be used against you at trial if your fourth or fifth amendment rights were violated. For example, if an officer stopped a vehicle without reasonable suspension or a roadblock was set up without adhering to legal requirements, the evidence acquired against you as a result may be suppressed by the judge.
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