If you have been arrested in Avondale Estates for a DUI, we are available to discuss your case anytime, including after-hours, weekends, and holidays! If you are visiting from out of town, we can appear in Avondale Estates Municipal Court on your behalf, so you don’t have to. Call Chestney & Sullivan today: 404.816.8777
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. We offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your Avondale Estates DUI charges.
As a warning to drivers, this past summer season, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, activated its summer DUI campaigns. Operation Zero Tolerance ran from June 27 through July 5. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over program also ran from August 22 through Labor Day. Georgia State Patrol and the Avondale Estates Police are enforced the 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T campaign from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With cold weather here, and people venturing to the popular bar and brewery scene in Avondale, expect the Avondale Police, DeKalb County Police, and Georgia State Patrol to be conducting more concentrated patrols – especially near the micro-breweries. We typically see more checkpoints (roadblocks) during major holidays (like the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends) than during any other time of the year.
Avondale Estates Municipal Court is located at 21 North Avondale Plaza, Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002 in the Avondale City Hall building. It is also located in the same building as the Avondale Estates Police Department. Our Avondale Estates DUI lawyers appear in Avondale Estates Municipal Court regularly. The judges in Avondale Estates Municipal Court are Judge Steve W. Nicholas and Judge Joseph A. Conoscienti. The solicitor (prosecutor) is Josie Stevens. The solicitor is responsible for prosecuting your Avondale Estates driving under the influence case.
Avondale Estates Municipal Court is a court of “limited jurisdiction,” meaning that they do not have jury trials there. If you want a judge to decide your Avondale Estates DUI case without a jury, that is called a “bench trial.” At a bench trial, the prosecution still has the burden to prove each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge then decides if the prosecution has met its burden. 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 Avondale Estates DUI case. Because Avondale Estates Municipal Court does not conduct jury trials, your case would need to be transferred to DeKalb County State Court, located in the DeKalb County Courthouse. DeKalb State Court currently has seven state court judges. Your case will be assigned to one of the seven judges once the DeKalb State Court Solicitor files your case with the DeKalb County State Court Clerk’s Office. The current elected DeKalb Solicitor General is Donna Coleman-Stribling. Each judge handles their caseloads differently so it is important that your Avondale Estates DUI lawyer knows how each particular courtroom operates. We try cases in DeKalb County on a regular basis. Because we frequently contest DUI cases in DeKalb County State Court, we are familiar with the judges and the solicitors who will be handling your case.
The Avondale Estates Police Department has a dedicated group of officers that specialize in making DUI arrests. Like all Avondale Estates police officers, these DUI officers have received a minimum of 16 hours of DUI training in the police academy. The Avondale Estates DUI officers have received an additional 24-hour standardized field sobriety course endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some Avondale Estates DUI officers have received additional DUI training such as ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement), or DRE (Drug Recognition Expert). All of the specialized Avondale Estates DUI officers are certified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to operate the Intoxilyzer 5000. Most (if not all) of the Avondale Estates DUI officers are certified on Georgia’s newest breath testing instrument, the Intoxilyzer 9000.
Our DUI defense attorneys know how to challenge an Avondale Estates DUI. We are trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Evaluations. Mr. Sullivan was certified in Standardized Field Sobriety evaluations by SFST instructors with the Conyers Police Department and Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. One of the benefits of investigating and contesting an Avondale Estates DUI is that most of the Avondale Estates 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 TVs. The video equipment is continuously recording, but will not preserve anything until the officer either manually activates the recording, or the officer activates his emergency equipment (lights). Then the video will preserve somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds of time before activation and typically the Avondale Estates DUI officers will run their video until it is turned off when they reach the jail or their final destination. Videos can be obtained or viewed through the court process.
How our skilled Avondale Estates DUI lawyers build a successful defense in your DUI case:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, your Avondale Estates DUI lawyer starts by meeting with you about your DUI charges in Avondale Estates and learning as much as possible from you about what happened. Using this core information, our own in-house investigator can look for more evidence to help our defense by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your arrest were accurate and legal. Our investigator gathers information, videos, 911 calls, possible surveillance videos, police reports, documents, road/scene conditions, and more. There are also times when we use the services of toxicologists, accident reconstructionists, private investigators, breath test/field sobriety experts, medical professionals, and video illustrators, to name a few, to help build a solid DUI defense in your case. Our Avondale Estates DUI lawyers then analyze your case starting with whether the initial stop or reason why the police were involved was legal. We also look for suppression issues with the admissibility of field sobriety tests or state chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine tests). Our DUI attorneys meet as a group and then develop strategies on how to best conduct the license suspension hearings, preliminary/committal hearings, motion hearings, and trial. Our team approach is an effective way to ensure we are prepared to defend your Avondale Estates DUI. All of our lawyers are involved in your case. Our DUI defense lawyers have regular meetings on all of our cases, so the lead DUI lawyer can get as much input as possible in developing a winning strategy in your Avondale Estates DUI case.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Avondale Estates 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 Avondale Estates Municipal Court or DeKalb 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 Avondale Estates DUI lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring our Avondale Estates 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 by yourself. If you have been arrested by an Avondale Estates DUI officer (or any Georgia police 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 and unless the license 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 address a license suspension action within 30 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 and the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Avondale Estates DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the Avondale DUI charge itself.
- Sometimes the prosecutor gives a bad plea offer. Even if you decide not to contest your case, an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with Avondale Estates Municipal Court, as well as DeKalb County State Court or Superior Court, can assess a plea offer to determine if it is worth taking or moving your case to state court, or you may decide to take your case to trial.
- If you decide to represent yourself at trial, the Georgia Rules of Evidence still apply 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
IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE WHILE YOUR AVONDALE ESTATES DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your criminal case pending in Avondale Estates, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. There is only a limited time to request this separate hearing, conducted through the Office of State Administrative Hearings, to preserve your driving privileges. 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 Avondale Estates officer to serve you notice of an administrative license suspension. The notice that is used is 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).
- 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: https://dds.georgia.gov/online-services
Regardless of whether you have actually received a DDS-1205 form, it is important for you to understand that you only have 30 days to request a hearing 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 Avondale Estates DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Avondale Estates DUI arrest: In most cases, we do not recommend this path. 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 the Georgia Department of Driver Services for one year with no permit to drive. Even if you did not receive the DDS-1205 form as a result of your Driving Under the Influence arrest, our Avondale Estates DUI lawyers still recommend that you take some sort of action instead of doing nothing. However, there are limited circumstances where we recommend our clients do nothing regarding a license suspension action, 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 Avondale Estates DUI 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 your Avondale Estates DUI officer’s request for a state-administered chemical test of your breath, blood, urine, or other bodily substances. There is a $150 filing fee made payable to the Dept. of Driver Services in order for DDS to process the hearing request.
- Properly waive your right to an administrative hearing and have an ignition interlock installed: This track came into effect July 1, 2017. This allows the first DUI arrest in five years for drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Avondale Estates DUI criminal case 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 the Avondale Estates 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. 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 administrative license suspension (ALS) by the Avondale Estates DUI arresting officer 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. If there is a DUI arrest with a DUI conviction within 5 years of the current Avondale Estates DUI 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 Avondale Estates DUI officer at the 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 Avondale Estates DUI 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 Avondale Estates 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 Avondale Estates 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.
As the title of the ignition interlock device limited permit suggests, there are limitations on where you can drive while on the IID permit:
- Going to his or her place of employment or performing the normal duties of his or her occupation;
- Receiving scheduled medical care or obtaining prescription drugs;
- Attending a college or school at which he or she is regularly enrolled as a student;
- Attending regularly scheduled sessions or meetings of treatment support organizations for persons who have an addiction or abuse problems related to alcohol or other drugs, which organizations are recognized by the commissioner;
- Attending under court order any driver education or improvement school or alcohol or drug program or course approved by the court which entered the judgment of conviction resulting in suspension of his driver’s license or by the commissioner;
- Attending court, reporting to community supervision, juvenile probation, or Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 42 probation office, reporting to a community supervision officer, county or Department of Juvenile Justice probation officer, or probation officer serving pursuant to Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 42, or performing community service;
- Transporting an immediate family member who does not hold a valid driver’s license for work, to obtain medical care or prescriptions, or to school;
- Attending any program, event, treatment, or activity ordered by a judge presiding in an accountability court, as such term is defined in Code Section 15-1-18; or
- Going for monthly monitoring visits with the permit holder’s ignition interlock device service provider.
Contact us today to discuss your DUI case with our dedicated Avondale Estates DUI lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our DUI defense lawyers are experienced in handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your Avondale Estates DUI criminal case and your license suspension action.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Avondale Estates DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Avondale Estates DUI criminal case and only deals with your license or privilege to drive in this state. As a matter of fact, it 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 a judge from that agency. Typically a hearing date is set roughly 60 days from the date of your DUI 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 hearing is very limited:
At a hearing, the OSAH 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 based on the evidence presented at the hearing. 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 daycare, 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 Avondale Estates DUI 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 Avondale Estates DUI 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 judge will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence, similar to other court proceedings. Because the burden is on the Avondale Estates DUI 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 Avondale Estates DUI 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 are 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 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 an OSAH hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Avondale Estates DUI criminal case.
What happens if I lose my 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 license suspension. Again, because the burden on the officer is so low to meet in these license suspension hearings, there is a good possibility that your license may be suspended. However, we still may be able to gain an advantage in the criminal case based on testimony from the license suspension hearing. If the judge committed an error in a ruling, the decision can be appealed. Also, if your Avondale Estates DUI charge is reduced, or dismissed, or you are found not guilty, the suspension is lifted and deleted from your driver’s history as a matter of law.
Can I handle the license suspension hearing myself?
Because an administrative license suspension 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 Avondale Estates 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 30 days to request a license suspension hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Call our experienced Avondale Estates DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing an Avondale Estates DUI charge, license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Avondale Estates 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. Call us today at 404.816.8777.