Call us today! Our experienced Forsyth County DUI lawyers are available 24/7 to discuss your case at 404.816.8777. We offer a free consultation.
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Forsyth, 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
Our experienced Forsyth County DUI lawyers are prepared to vigorously defend your Forsyth County DUI case whether you have a DUI in the City of Cumming, or anywhere else in Forsyth County.
If your Cumming DUI case begins in in Cumming Municipal Courts, if you demand a jury trial, Cumming Municipal Court loses jurisdiction over your case. Your Cumming DUI case is then transferred to the Forsyth County court system for prosecution. Sometimes that is the best option if the prosecutor in Cumming Municipal Court refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
If you were arrested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department, then your DUI case will be handled in Forsyth County State Court if there are no felony charges. Once your case is in Forsyth County State Court, the Forsyth County Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your DUI case. The current elected Solicitor General of Forsyth County is William “Bill” Finch. Generally in Forsyth County State Court, two prosecutors are assigned to each courtroom, although other prosecutors may assist in a courtroom on any given court day. There are two elected Forsyth County State Court Judges that preside over misdemeanor DUI cases: Chief Judge Russell McClelland and Judge Leslie Abernathy-Maddox. Your case will be assigned to a judge once your case is filed with the Forsyth County Court Clerk’s Office. Cases have traditionally been assigned by alphabet beginning with the first letter of a defendant’s surname, but the policy of case assignments are subject to revision. The assigned judge typically will preside over your case until a final resolution is reached in most cases, however, during the jury trial weeks, both state court judges may assist the other and preside over criminal jury trials. Also, an additional judge may be brought in to assist in presiding over trials.
If your case may have been sent to Forsyth County State Court from Cumming Municipal Court to preserve your right to a jury trial, or your case began in Forsyth County State Court, sometimes the facts of a particular Forsyth DUI may be best suited for a “bench trial” (a trial where the judge decides the case instead of a jury). 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 on your Forsyth County DUI case – especially if the prosecution refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s department has a specialized DUI Task Force. The Forsyth County DUI Task Force, like all Forsyth County police officers, have received at a minimum 16 hours of DUI training in the police academy. Most Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers trained have received an additional 24 hour standardized field sobriety course endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers have received additional DUI training such as ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement), or DRE (Drug Recognition Expert). All of the Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers are certified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to operate the Intoxilyzer 5000. Many, if not all the Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers are certified on Georgia’s newest breath testing instrument, the Intoxilyzer 9000.
Our DUI attorneys know how to challenge a Forsyth County DUI case. All of our DUI attorneys are trained in Standardized Field Sobriety evaluations and have also received training on the operation and limitations of the Intoxilyzer 5000 and 9000. We currently own three Intoxilyzer 5000 breath testing devices. Mr. Sullivan was certified in Standardized Field Sobriety evaluations by members of the Conyers Police Department and Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. One of the benefits of investigating a Forsyth County DUI arrest is that most of Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicles are equipped with video and audio. Their video equipment has some features similar to a DVR or TVO that many people have at home for their TV’s. Their video equipment is continuously recording, but will not preserve anything until the officer either manually activates recording, or the officer activates his or her emergency equipment (lights). Then the video will preserve somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds of time before activation and typically Forsyth DUI officers will run their video until their investigation is complete. Some will run their videos until they reach the jail. Videos can be obtained through the court process.
How our skilled Forsyth County DUI lawyers build a successful DUI defense:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, our DUI lawyers start by learning everything possible about your case from you. Based on this information, our Forsyth County DUI attorneys and investigator can search for more favorable evidence by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your arrest were accurate and legal. This forms the basis for a strong drunken driving defense in Georgia. We have our own in-house investigator that gathers information, videos, 911 calls, possible surveillance videos, police reports, documents road/scene conditions and more. There are times when we even 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 case. Our Forsyth 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 administrative license suspension hearings, preliminary/committal motion hearings and trial. Our team approach is an effective way to ensure we are thorough in defending your Forsyth County DUI charges.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Forsyth DUI defense lawyer?
There is a saying that “a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” DUI cases are one of the most serious cases that are prosecuted in Cumming Municipal Court or in Forsyth County State Court. Even if you think you are guilty and may not want to fight your case all the way, there are matters that a skilled Forsyth County DUI defense lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring our Forsyth County DUI attorneys rather than representing yourself:
- You can put your driving privileges in jeopardy if you simply go to court and enter a guilty plea to your Forsyth County DUI. If you have been arrested by a Forsyth County 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 the license suspension action, you will not be able to get a limited permit (if you are eligible to get one at all) until the suspension action is conducted properly.
- If your license is 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 a year with NO PERMIT. Properly coordinating and handling the criminal case along with the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Forsyth County DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the DUI charge itself.
- Sometime the prosecutor gives a bad plea offer. Even if you decide not to contest your case, an experienced Forsyth County DUI defense attorney who is familiar with Forsyth County State Court or Superior Court can assess a plea offer to determine if it is worth taking or rejecting and decide to take your case to trial.
- 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.
Administrative License Suspension
Besides your criminal case pending in Forsyth County State or Superior Court, or in Cumming 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 Forsyth County, chances are the officer served you with a notice of a license suspension action. If you were arrested by a Forsyth County DUI Task Force Officer, you can be sure that your officer served you with a notice of a license suspension action. 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 a license suspension action. The form that is used is called a DS 1205 form (click on link to show the 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:
There are times when it may be a good strategy not to submit a request for a hearing, or to purposefully lose an administrative license suspension action. That sounds counter-intuitive, but in a limited number of circumstances, it is a wise strategy to gain an advantage in your Forsyth County 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 very limited circumstances. We then review with you the pro’s and con’s of using such a strategy.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 arrest – if your officer submitted the administrative license suspension 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.
Contact us today to discuss your Forsyth County DUI case with our experienced Forsyth County DUI defense lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our dedicated Forsyth County DUI lawyers are experienced in contesting DUI cases and handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your criminal case and your a license suspension action.
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, the license suspension action is litigated by a completely separate court from your 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 an OSAH judge. Typically a hearing date with OSAH 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 an OSAH judge.
The scope of the license suspension hearing is very limited:
At a license suspension 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 in a license suspension hearing 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 administered 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 OSAH judge will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence, similar to other court proceedings. Because the burden is on the officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the officer testifies first. Some jurisdictions 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. 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 license suspension action off your driver’s history (no administrative license suspension). This does not mean that the criminal case is being dismissed, but a license suspension hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Forsyth County DUI criminal case.
What happens if I lose the 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 action and will transmit the order to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, who will then impose the 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 your Forsyth County DUI criminal case based on testimony from the hearing. If the judge committed an error in ruling, the decision can be appealed.
Can I handle the license suspension 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 right away to discuss your Forsyth County DUI case. 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 Forsyth County DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Forsyth County DUI charge, a license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Forsyth County DUI lawyers 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 at 404.816.8777.