We are available to speak with you about your ATLANTA DUI case anytime, including after hours and weekends. Call Chestney & Sullivan today!
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Atlanta, experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers James “Skip” Sullivan and Bob Chestney are available to discuss your case anytime – including after-hours and weekends! Mr. Chestney is Board Certified in DUI Defense by NCDD (National College for DUI Defense) and Mr. Sullivan is a former prosecutor. Call us today at 404.816.8777. Our Atlanta DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation to discuss how we can effectively defend your Atlanta DUI.
If you are arrested for a DUI in Atlanta, our Atlanta DUI lawyers are here for you:
Being arrested for an Atlanta DUI can be a stressful experience. If you have been charged with a DUI in Atlanta, speak to our experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers today. Our experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers understand the anxiety you may be experiencing. You probably have many questions about your case, including what penalties you may face if convicted for an Atlanta DUI. What is the court process for a DUI in Atlanta? What defenses are there in my DUI case? You may also have concerns about your ability to drive and a possible license suspension. We can put your mind more at ease as we explain the court and investigation process as well as how we successfully defend DUI charges in Atlanta Municipal Court or in Fulton/DeKalb State Courts. People come to Chestney & Sullivan because we provide the absolute most vigorous defense available to those facing DUI charges in Atlanta. And in the majority of our 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 Atlanta DUI 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! Our firm is intimately familiar with how DUI cases are handled in Atlanta Municipal Court or in Fulton or DeKalb state courts. 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 at 404.816.8777. We offer a free in office consultation.
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 in Atlanta to appear in Atlanta Municipal Court the very next available court day, which could mean the following day or Monday if your Atlanta DUI arrest happened between Friday and early Monday morning. We typically appear in Atlanta Municipal Court several days each week.
All Atlanta DUI cases that are pending in Atlanta Municipal Court are currently in transition for court assignments. Cases pending through mid-January 2018 are currently assigned to Judge Herman Sloan in courtroom 5C (fifth floor, courtroom C) in the Atlanta Municipal Court building at 150 Garnett Street, Atlanta Georgia 30303. Judge Sloan will preside over these pending Atlanta DUI cases until March 16, 2016. All new cases are being assigned to Judge Ardra Bey. Judge Bey will assume supervision over all pending DUI cases in Atlanta Municipal Court after March 16, 2018. 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.
The court process for a DUI charge 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). If you were booked into the Fulton County Jail, then your Atlanta DUI charges will not be scheduled in Atlanta Municipal Court, but rather will be filed at some point 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 Atlanta DUI 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 charges in Atlanta will begin in Atlanta Municipal Court with Judge Bey.
Our Atlanta DUI defense attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your Atlanta DUI charges free of charge at 404.816.8777. If hired, we will appear with you at your arraignment, excusing you from appearing until a final resolution date.
It is very important to get started on an investigation for your defense in your Atlanta DUI case right away due to the short time-line the court has scheduled for Atlanta DUI cases. Also, it is likely that your Atlanta DUI officer, or Georgia State Patrol Trooper initiated an administrative license suspension action against your driver’s license (serving you a DDS-1205 form). If a license suspension action has been initiated, you only have 30 days from the date of your Atlanta DUI arrest to request a hearing with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or otherwise face a suspension of your driving privileges (a separate civil action in a different court from your Atlanta DUI criminal case).
While your Atlanta DUI charges are 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 Atlanta DUI case, be it a negotiated plea with the prosecutor, a bench trial in Atlanta Municipal Court in front of Judge Bey, 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 charges so a strategic decision can be made on how to best position and defend your DUI 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 Atlanta Municipal Court building was actually constructed to accomodate 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 Atlanta DUI case will need to be transferred to either Fulton County or DeKalb County State Court. If you want your Atlanta DUI case to be kept in Atlanta Municipal Court for trial, it will be a “bench trial,” meaning that Judge Sloan 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 Atlanta 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 Keith Gammage (the elected prosecutor for misdemeanor cases). Generally, two assistant solicitors will be assigned to each courtroom in Fulton County State Court. Once the solicitor’s office reviews your Atlanta DUI case, your case will 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 you were arrested for your Atlanta DUI within the borders of DeKalb County, then your Atlanta DUI case 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 Donna Coleman-Stribling. 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 prosecutors 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 to the lawyer. Based on this information, our firm can find more evidence by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your Atlanta 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 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, meaning that all of our DUI lawyers collaborate with each other on each of their cases at every stage.
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 Atlanta DUI officer’s chemical test from losing a license suspension hearing or failing to address a suspension action within 30 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 Atlanta DUI criminal charges 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.
- We strongly suggest that you set up an online account with the Georgia Department of Driver Services to monitor the status of your driver’s license.
Administrative License Suspension
IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE WHILE YOUR ATLANTA DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your DUI criminal case pending in Atlanta Municipal Court, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. There are only two circumstances that an officer can initiate a suspension action against your driver’s license: 1. you refused the state chemical test after the Georgia implied consent notice was read to you, or 2. you agreed to the state’s test after the implied consent notice was read to you and you were above the statutory limit. If either one of those occurred, the officer is required by statute to initiate a license suspension action against you. 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 Atlanta officer or Georgia State Trooper served you with a notice of a license suspension. The notice that is used is a form called a DDS 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).
Regardless whether you have actually received a DDS-1205 form from your Atlanta DUI officer or Georgia State Trooper, it is vitally important for you to understand that you only have 30 days to request a hearing to try to preserve your driving privileges or waive your hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services by opting for an ignition interlock device permit.
Three tracks you can take [beware of making a choice without the advice of an experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Atlanta DUI arrest: In most cases we do not recommend this path as if you do nothing and your officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your arrest, your driving privileges will automatically be suspended by Georgia Department of Driver Services for one year with no permit to drive. Even if you did not receive the DDS-1205 form, we still recommend that you take some sort of action instead of doing nothing. However, there are limited circumstances where we recommend our clients do not request an administrative hearing and do nothing while their Atlanta DUI case is pending, but those circumstances are rare.
- Request an administrative hearing: This is the traditional track that has been the law for many years now, except now there are thirty days instead of ten business days to take action. This track is where a request for an administrative hearing is submitted to the Georgia Department of Driver Services challenging the officer’s decision to administratively suspend your driver’s license for testing above Georgia’s “per se” legal limit for alcohol concentration, or for refusing the Atlanta DUI officer’s request for a state administered chemical test of your breath, blood, urine, or other bodily substances. There is a $150 fee that Georgia DDS requires to process a request for an administrative hearing. The hearing process is discussed in more detail below.
- Properly waive your right to an administrative hearing in your Atlanta DUI case and have an ignition interlock installed: This track came into effect July 1, 2017. This allows first DUI arrest in five years drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Atlanta DUI criminal charges without losing the privilege to drive. It comes with a cost of course. It involves you waiving your right to an administrative hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services and you will need to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for a minimum of 120 days if you tested over the “per se” legal limit, or one solid year of having the ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle (and driving under the confines of an ignition interlock permit) if you refused Atlanta DUI officer’s request for a state administered chemical test. If you choose this track, we highly advise that you install the ignition interlock first, then go to DDS within 30 days from the date of arrest to obtain the permit (a checklist to see if you are eligible for the ignition interlock device permit is attached). There are obvious concerns and pitfalls in choosing this track. For many people, the stigma of having the ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle is just not worth it. The ignition interlock device is also expensive: it requires an installation fee as well as a monthly monitoring fee. And if you remove it while under your ignition interlock permit, tamper with it, or it tests positive, your permit to drive may be revoked for six months – meaning no driving at all. In addition to waiving your right to an administrative hearing and having an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, you must also meet the following conditions:
- An Application for the permit must be made with DDS within 30 days of the person being served notice of the ALS by the Atlanta DUI arresting officer or Georgia State Patrol Trooper through the DDS-1205 form (usually 30 days from the date of arrest), or—in the event of a DDS-1205S form—within 30 days of receiving such notice of the ALS from DDS (from a blood test result that was not procured by a search warrant);
- The ALS cannot stem from a motor vehicle accident involving fatalities or serious injuries;
- The person must be licensed in Georgia and not have any other suspensions, cancellations, or revocations against his or her Georgia driver’s license;
- If the person holds a Georgia commercial driver’s license (CDL), he or she must downgrade to a non-commercial Georgia driver’s license in order to obtain and maintain the permit;
- The person cannot have any prior convictions for DUI in the 5-year period preceding application for the permit. It there is an Atlanta DUI arrest with a DUI conviction within 5 years of the current arrest, the person can still opt for track 2 – requesting an administrative hearing, or track 1 – do nothing at all;
- The person must surrender his or her Georgia driver’s license, either to the arresting officer at time of arrest or to DDS prior to issuance of the permit; and,
- The person must pay a $25.00 permit fee to the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
The period a person must successfully maintain the ignition interlock device on their vehicle will be based on whether he or she consents to or refuses the state-administered chemical test requested by the arresting officer.
A person who consents to the state-administered chemical test and opts for the new permit will be required to successfully maintain the ignition interlock device on their vehicle for a period of 4 months. If he or she is subsequently acquitted of the underlying Atlanta DUI charge, or the underlying DUI charge is dismissed or reduced, the ignition interlock device may be removed at no cost and the driver’s license may be replaced. A person who refuses the state-administered chemical test and opts for the new permit will be required to successfully maintain the ignition interlock device on their vehicle for a period of 12 months, regardless of the outcome of the underlying Atlanta DUI charge.
Successful maintenance of the ignition interlock device must be evidenced by the permit holder to DDS through the production of satisfactory monthly monitoring reports prior to DDS removing the ignition interlock restriction from the permit. A permit may be renewed for a fee of $5.00 if additional time is needed for the permit holder to comply with the terms of the ignition interlock device, but it may only be renewed one time once the permit holder becomes eligible to reinstate his or her driver’s license. Following the designated term of successful compliance, the ignition interlock device restriction may be removed from the limited driving permit in person at a DDS customer service center for a fee of $100.00 (or $90.00 if removal of the restriction is requested by mail or other approved alternate means). The removal fee is in addition to any reinstatement fee that may be required.
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 defense strategy for your Atlanta DUI criminal charges and your license suspension hearing.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Atlanta DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Atlanta DUI criminal charges 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 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:
The license suspension hearing for your Atlanta DUI case is held at the Office of State Administrative Hearings Headquarters located at 225 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 400, Atlanta, GA 30303. The Administrative Law Judge that usually presides over the Atlanta suspension hearings is Chief Judge Michael Malihi. At a hearing, Judge Malihi 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. Judge Malihi’s only role at this civil action against your driving privileges is to determine if the following factors were met by a preponderance of evidence (less than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard at criminal trials):
- Whether your Atlanta DUI law enforcement officer or Georgia State Trooper 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 Atlanta DUI officer or Georgia State Trooper 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?
Judge Malihi will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence. Because the burden is on your Atlanta DUI officer or Georgia State Trooper to establish that the statutory factors were met, the DUI officer testifies first. If your Atlanta DUI officer is a Georgia State Trooper, an attorney paid by the State of Georgia assists the Georgia State Trooper on direct examination. The attorney’s name that represents the Georgia State Troopers is Dee Brophy. Once direct examination is complete, the Atlanta DUI officer or Georgia State Trooper is then subject to cross-examination. An administrative hearing is not the same as a criminal trial and the strategy in conducting these hearings is designed to try to win the administrative hearing if we can, but we also design our strategy for these hearings to improve our legal position for a criminal motions hearing and criminal trial. When conducting these hearings, there are limited 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 by the officer, or Dee Brophy – the attorney representing Georgia State Patrol. Once the testimony and presentation of the evidence is finished, each side can make a closing argument. Judge Malihi will then make a decision typically within 5 business days, and will transmit that decision to the Georgia Department of Driver Services and post it on its website. 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 Judge Malihi finds that one or more of the applicable statutory factors above were not met, then the judge will issue an order reversing the suspension action. The Office of State Administrative Hearings will then transmit the order 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 charges are 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 Atlanta DUI officer or Georgia State Trooper 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 Atlanta DUI 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 in my Atlanta DUI case?
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 Atlanta DUI charges and your prior criminal history. Remember, you only have 30 days to request a hearing, along with a $150 processing fee 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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