We are available to appear at your first court hearing so you don’t have to! Our experienced Atlanta Municipal Court DUI lawyers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to discuss your case free of charge at 404.816.8777.
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Georgia this weekend, Georgia DUI trial attorneys James “Skip” Sullivan and Bob Chestney are available to discuss your case anytime – including after-hours and weekends! Call us at 404.816.8777
If you have been charged with a DUI in Atlanta, speak to our experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers today. We are intimately familiar with how DUI cases are handled in Atlanta Municipal Court. Whether you were arrested by Atlanta Police Uniform Patrol, MARTA Police, Atlanta Police DUI Task Force, or the Georgia State Patrol Nighthawks, our DUI lawyers are prepared to vigorously defend your Atlanta DUI. Call us today to speak to an experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer about your case. We offer a free consultation.
Being arrested for an Atlanta DUI can be a stressful experience. You probably have many questions about your case including what penalties you may face for a DUI? What is the court process in Atlanta? What defenses are there in my case? You may also have concerns about your ability to drive and a possible license suspension. People come to us because we provide the absolute most vigorous defense available to those facing DUI charges in Georgia. And in the majority of cases, we are able to protect their freedom, ability to drive, and criminal record. You may not feel at this time that you have a strong opportunity to avoid a conviction for the charges you face. But the law provides protections to you that are very important that may lead to a successful defense in an otherwise seemingly indefensible case!
We are available to answer your questions. Our experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers understand the anxiety you may be experiencing. We can put your mind more at ease as we explain the court and investigation process as well as how we successfully defend DUI cases. Our lawyers are available anytime to discuss your case – including weekends! Call us today at 404.816.8777.
Your first court appearance and the court process in your Atlanta DUI case:
Atlanta Municipal Court instituted a policy of requiring individuals arrested for DUI to appear in Atlanta Municipal Court the very next available court day, which could mean the following morning, or Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. if your arrest happened between Friday and early Monday morning. Whether you are in town for the weekend and have a flight out on Sunday, or simply have other commitments that prevent you from appearing at your first court appearance, our Atlanta DUI defense lawyers are ready to appear in court on your behalf. We typically appear in Atlanta Municipal Court several days each week.
All Atlanta DUI cases that are pending in Atlanta Municipal Court are currently assigned to Chief Judge Christopher Ward in courtroom 3A (3rd floor, courtroom A) in the Atlanta Municipal Court building at 150 Garnett Street, Atlanta Georgia 30303. Judge Ward will preside over your Atlanta DUI case while it is pending in Atlanta Municipal Court. The prosecutors (called solicitors) are attorneys who represent the City of Atlanta/State of Georgia in the prosecution of your Atlanta case. The Solicitor General is Raines Carter, who oversees a team of prosecutors in each of the nine courtrooms in Atlanta Municipal Court. There are currently three prosecutors assigned to Judge Ward’s courtroom.
The court process for a DUI case in Atlanta Municipal Court begins with an arrest for DUI within the city limits of Atlanta. If you were booked in the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center (Atlanta City Jail) on misdemeanor DUI charges, then it is likely you will have an arraignment scheduled in Atlanta Municipal Court the very next day the court is open (Atlanta Municipal Court typically calendars DUI cases Monday through Friday). An arrest for an Atlanta DUI from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights will appear on an arraignment calendar in Atlanta Municipal Court Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. in courtroom 3A. If the arrest occurred Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night, then your case will be scheduled for arraignment the very next morning at 8:00 a.m. in courtroom 3A. Depending on the time of arrest early Friday morning, your case may be assigned to the Friday calendar, but most likely will be placed on the Monday morning calendar. If you were booked into the Fulton County Jail, then your case will not be docketed in Atlanta Municipal Court, but rather in Fulton County State or Superior Court, depending on whether your charge is a misdemeanor or felony. If you are not sure which jail you were booked into, the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center is located at 254 Peachtree Street, SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The Fulton County Jail is located at 901 Rice Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30318. If your arrest occurred in the Atlanta city limits, but in DeKalb County, you will only be brought to the DeKalb County Jail, located at 4425 Memorial Drive, Decatur, Georgia 30032 if there is a felony charge or an additional misdemeanor charge that the Atlanta Municipal Court has no jurisdiction to handle. Otherwise, you will be booked in the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center and your DUI case will begin in Atlanta Municipal Court.
Chief Judge Christopher Ward instituted a case management plan for how Atlanta DUI cases progress in his courtroom. If your DUI case is pending in Atlanta Municipal Court, you are required to appear at arraignment (usually scheduled within 24 – 48 hours after arrest), unless you have hired an attorney to represent you. If you are represented by an attorney, you are excused from appearing in Atlanta Municipal Court for your DUI case until the “Final Plea” date in Judge Ward’s courtroom. Judge Ward simply requires an entry of appearance filed by your DUI defense attorney to excuse you from appearing in court until the final plea date is scheduled.
Our Atlanta DUI defense attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your case free of charge at 404.816.8777. If hired, we will appear on your behalf at your arraignment, excusing you to the final plea date.
After the initial arraignment date, Judge Ward will assign your case for “Status” if you have not retained an attorney (usually around 14 days after arrest), “Inquiry” (30 to 60 days after arrest), and then a “Final Plea” date (60 – 90 days after arrest). It is very important to get started on an investigation for your defense right away due to the short time-line the court has scheduled for DUI cases. Also, it is likely that your officer initiated an administrative license suspension action against your driver’s license (DS-1205). If a license suspension action has been initiated, you only have 10 business days from the date of arrest to request a hearing with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or otherwise face a suspension of your driving privileges (a separate action in a different court from your criminal case).
While your DUI case is pending in Atlanta Municipal Court and once a thorough investigation is complete, a decision will need to be made as to how you want to resolve your case, be it a negotiated plea with the prosecutor, a bench trial in Atlanta Municipal Court in front of Judge Ward, or a jury trial in either Fulton or DeKalb Counties, depending on where the arrest occurred. Our in-house investigator, along with our Atlanta DUI attorneys conduct a thorough investigation into your Atlanta DUI case so a strategic decision can be made on how to best defend your case, be it in Atlanta Municipal Court or in Fulton or DeKalb state courts.
Can I have a jury trial in Atlanta Municipal Court?
Atlanta Municipal Court does not conduct jury trials (even though the municipal court building and courtrooms were constructed for jury trials). The City of Atlanta lost the ability to conduct jury trials back in 2005 by an act of the Georgia Assembly when the Atlanta Traffic Court and Atlanta Municipal Court merged together. Because Atlanta Municipal Court is a court of “limited jurisdiction,” if you want to have a jury trial, your case will need to be transferred to either Fulton County or DeKalb County State Court. If you want your case to be kept in Atlanta Municipal Court for trial, it will be a “bench trial,” meaning that a judge decides whether the prosecution has met its burden beyond a reasonable doubt rather than a jury making that decision. Sometimes a bench trial is a sound strategy, sometimes it is not. There are many times when a jury trial is the best possible option to avoid a DUI conviction in your Atlanta DUI case.
If a jury trial is requested and your DUI case occurred within the borders of Fulton County, then it will be transferred to Fulton County State Court for a jury trial. Fulton State Court currently has ten state court judges. The current Solicitor General of Fulton County is Carmen Smith (the elected prosecutor for misdemeanor cases). Generally, two assistant solicitors will be assigned to a courtroom in Fulton County State Court. Once the solicitor’s office reviews your Atlanta DUI case, your case will then be assigned to one of the ten judges once the Fulton State Court Solicitor files your case with the Fulton County State Court Clerk’s Office.
If a jury trial is requested and your case occurred within the borders of DeKalb County, then it will be transferred to DeKalb County State Court for a jury trial. The DeKalb County Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your DeKalb County DUI in state court. The current elected Solicitor General of DeKalb County is Sherry Boston. Generally, two prosecutors are assigned to each courtroom in DeKalb County State Court. DeKalb State Court currently has seven state court judges. Your case will be assigned to one of the seven judges by a selection formula set up by the DeKalb County Court. Each judge handles their caseloads differently.
Because our Atlanta DUI defense attorneys frequently try cases in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, we are familiar with the judges and the solicitors who will be handling your case.
How our skilled Atlanta DUI lawyers build a successful DUI defense:
To build a strong defense in your Atlanta DUI case, your Atlanta DUI lawyer should start by learning everything possible from the information you present. Based on this information, he or she can find more evidence by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your DUI arrest were accurate and legal. This determination is the basis for a strong drunken driving defense in Atlanta, Fulton, or DeKalb counties. We have our own in-house DUI investigator that gathers information, videos, 911 calls, possible surveillance videos, police reports, documents road/scene conditions and more. There are times when we use the services of toxicologists, accident reconstructionists, private investigators, breath test/field sobriety experts, medical professionals, video illustrators, to name a few, to help build a solid DUI defense in your Atlanta DUI case. Our Atlanta DUI lawyers analyze a case from the initial stop or reason why the police were involved, looks for suppression issues with the admissibility of field sobriety tests or state chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine tests), and develop strategies in how to best conduct license suspension hearings, preliminary/committal motion hearings and trial. Our team approach is an effective way to ensure we are prepared to defend your Atlanta DUI.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Atlanta lawyer?
There is a saying that “a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Atlanta DUI arrests are one of the most serious cases that are prosecuted in Atlanta Municipal Court or in State Court. Even if you think you are guilty and may not want to fight your Atlanta DUI case all the way, there are matters that a skilled Atlanta DUI lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring Chestney & Sullivan rather than representing yourself:
- If you represent yourself, you can put your driving privileges in jeopardy if you simply go to court and enter a guilty plea. If you have been arrested by an Atlanta DUI Task Force or Georgia State Patrol Nighthawk DUI Task Force officer, you should have been served notice of an administrative license suspension action. If you enter a guilty plea without properly addressing this license suspension action, you will not be able to get a limited permit (if you are eligible to get one at all) unless the administrative action is conducted properly.
- If your license or privilege to drive is administratively suspended for refusing the State’s chemical test from losing a license suspension hearing or failing to submit a request for a hearing within 10 business days from the date of your arrest, your Georgia driver’s license or driving privileges will be suspended for one year with NO PERMIT. An Atlanta DUI lawyer properly coordinating and handling the criminal case and the administrative license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive and avoiding a conviction in your Atlanta DUI case.
- Other charges in addition to your Atlanta DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the DUI charge itself such as DUI Child Endangerment or Fleeing and Attempting to Elude. These charges sometimes carry more penalties than the Atlanta DUI charge – and could possibly make you a Habitual Violator if not handled properly.
- Sometime the prosecutor may give a bad plea offer. Even if you decide not to contest your Atlanta DUI case, an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney who is familiar with Atlanta Municipal Court and Fulton/DeKalb County State or Superior Courts can assess a plea offer to determine if it is worth taking or rejecting.
- If you decide to represent yourself at trial, the Georgia Rules of Evidence still applies to you. Lawyers go to law school for years to learn these rules and you will be at the mercy of a skilled prosecutor and judge if you are not careful. You may inadvertently make incriminating statements that a prosecutor can use against you if you are not represented by an attorney.
Administrative License Suspension
Besides your DUI criminal case pending in Atlanta Municipal Court, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. There is only a limited time to request this separate hearing to preserve your driving privileges. If you have been charged with a DUI in Atlanta, chances are the officer served you with a notice of a license suspension. Whether you refused the State’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your officer to serve you notice of an administrative license suspension. The form that is used is called a DS 1205 form. This form is either yellow or white and the officer may have had you sign it. Sometimes this paperwork gets lost (you may have received it, but may have been misplaced, or it may have been lost at the jail).
You only have 10 business days to request a hearing to preserve your driving privileges:
Regardless as to whether you have actually received a DS 1205 form, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you take action within 10 business days (as opposed to 10 actual days) from the date of your arrest to preserve your driving privileges. If you do not request a hearing within 10 business days from the date of your arrest and pay Georgia Department of Driver Services a $150 fee, your Georgia driver’s license or privilege to drive in Georgia (for those with an out of state driver’s license) will be suspended automatically on the 31st day after the date of your DUI arrest, if your officer submitted the DS-1205 paperwork to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. In most cases, you do not want your license to be suspended without a hearing.
There are times when it may be a good strategy not to submit a request for a hearing, or to purposefully lose a license suspension hearing. That sounds counter-intuitive, but in a limited number of circumstances, it is a wise strategy to gain an advantage in your Atlanta DUI criminal case. We do not make a decision to use this type of strategy until we thoroughly review your case to see if the facts of your case fit within one of those limited circumstances. Our Atlanta DUI lawyers then review with you the pro’s and con’s of using such a strategy.
Contact us today to discuss your Atlanta DUI arrest with our experienced Atlanta DUI defense lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our dedicated Atlanta Municipal Court DUI lawyers are also experienced in handling administrative license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your Atlanta DUI criminal case and your license suspension hearing.
Once a proper request for a license suspension hearing is made, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your criminal case and only deals with your license or privilege to drive in this state. As a matter of fact, this proceeding is litigated by a completely separate court from your Atlanta DUI criminal case. Once the Georgia Department of Driver Services processes your request for a hearing, your case is then sent to the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH) where a hearing will be scheduled in front of a judge from OSAH. Typically a hearing date is set roughly 30 to 60 days from the date of your arrest. Once a hearing is requested, the Department of Driver Services will extend your driving privileges until there is an order entered from the OSAH judge.
The scope of the license suspension hearing is very limited:
At a hearing, the judge has a very limited role in deciding your case. The judge is bound by law to only look at certain statutory factors to determine whether or not those statutory factors were met. That is it. The judge does not look at your criminal or driver’s history. The judge is not concerned about your job, transportation issues with your children’s school or day care, or any other hardship you may if your license is suspended. The judge’s only role is to determine if the following factors were met:
- Whether the law enforcement officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving or in actual physical control of a moving motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and was lawfully placed under arrest for violating Code Section 40-6-391 (the DUI statute); or
- Whether the person was involved in a motor vehicle accident or collision resulting in serious injury or fatality; and
- Whether at the time of the request for the test or tests the officer informed the person of the person’s Implied Consent rights and the consequences of submitting or refusing to submit to such test; and
- Whether the person refused the test; or whether a test or tests were given and the results indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more or, for a person under the age of 21, an alcohol concentration of 0.02 grams or more or, for a person operating or having actual physical control of a commercial motor vehicle, an alcohol concentration of 0.04 grams or more; and
- Whether the test or tests were properly administered by an individual possessing a valid permit issued by the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on an instrument approved by the Division of Forensic Sciences or a test conducted by the Division of Forensic Sciences, including whether the machine at the time of the test was operated with all of its electronic and operating components prescribed by its manufacturer properly attached and in good working order, which shall be required. A copy of the operator’s permit showing that the operator has been trained on the particular type of instrument used and one of the original copies of the test results or, where the test is performed by the Division of Forensic Sciences, a copy of the crime lab report shall satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph.
How is the OSAH hearing conducted?
The judge will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence. Because the burden is on your Atlanta DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the officer testifies first. Some jurisdictions, like Atlanta allow the officer to have help from the prosecutor’s office, or if the officer is a Georgia State Trooper, an attorney paid by the State of Georgia assists the officer on direct examination. The officer is then subject to cross-examination. There are times when we may decide to place our clients or other witnesses on the stand for direct examination. Our witnesses would then be subject to cross examination from the other side, either the officer or an Atlanta prosecutor, or the attorney representing Georgia State Patrol. Once the testimony and presentation of the evidence is finished, each side can make a closing argument. The judge will then make a decision typically within 5 business days, and will transmit that decision to the parties and the Georgia Department of Driver Services. If there is an error in how the judge ruled, there is an appellate process available to review the court’s decision.
What happens if I win the hearing?
If the OSAH judge finds that one or more of the applicable statutory factors above are not met, then the judge will issue an order reversing the suspension action, transmit it to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, and then Georgia DDS will delete the suspension action off your driver’s history. This does not mean that your Atlanta DUI case is being dismissed, but this hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Atlanta DUI criminal case.
What happens if I lose the OSAH hearing?
If the judge finds that all of the applicable statutory factors were met by a preponderance of the evidence (a lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt), then the judge will issue an order affirming the license suspension and will transmit the order to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, who will then impose the license suspension. Again, because the burden on the officer is so low to meet in these hearings, there is a good possibility that your license may be suspended, but we still may be able to gain an advantage in the criminal case based on testimony from the hearing. If the judge committed an error in ruling, the decision can be appealed. If you are found not guilty for DUI or your Atlanta DUI charge is “reduced” to a lesser traffic offense, then the suspension is lifted by operation of law as soon as the Georgia Department of Driver Services receives notice of the disposition of the case.
Can I handle the OSAH hearing myself?
Because a license suspension action from a Georgia DUI arrest is a very complex subject that even many lawyers don’t understand, we strongly encourage you to contact us to speak to an Atlanta DUI attorney right away to discuss your Atlanta DUI arrest. There are simply too many variables that can impact your driving privileges to be discussed here without knowing the specific facts of your case and your prior criminal history. Remember, you only have 10 business days to request a hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Call our experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing an Atlanta DUI charge, license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Atlanta Drunk Driving attorneys today. We will meet with you free of charge to discuss your options, and provide advice based on our experience in the court where your case will be heard. Contact us today at 404.816.8777. An Atlanta DUI lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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