We are available to speak with you about your Decatur DUI case anytime, including after-hours, weekends, and holidays!
If you are visiting from out of town, we can appear in Decatur Municipal Court or DeKalb County State Court on your behalf, so you don’t have to!
Call Chestney & Sullivan today at 404.816.8777
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Decatur, experienced DUI trial attorneys 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 experienced Decatur DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your Decatur DUI charges.
If you are charged with a DUI in the City of Decatur, our experienced Decatur DUI lawyers are prepared to vigorously fight your DUI charge to avoid a conviction.
Decatur Municipal Court is located at 420 West Trinity Place, Decatur, Georgia 30030. It is in the same building as the Decatur Police Department. Our Decatur DUI lawyers appear in Decatur Municipal Court on a regular basis. The judges in Decatur Municipal Court are Rhathelia Stroud (Chief Judge), Berryl A. Anderson, Robert N. Leitch, Lindsay R.M. Jones, Tisha Tallman, Mathew McCoyd (substitute judge), and Holly Manheimer (substitute judge). The solicitor (prosecutor) is Larry Steele. The solicitor is responsible for prosecuting your Decatur Driving Under the Influence case.
Decatur 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 Decatur 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.
Often, a jury trial is the best possible option to avoid a DUI conviction in your Decatur DUI case. Because the Decatur 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 in DeKalb County State Court handles their caseloads differently so it is important that your Decatur DUI lawyer knows how each particular courtroom operates. Our Decatur DUI lawyers try cases in DeKalb County State Court 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.
How our skilled Decatur DUI lawyers build a successful defense in your Decatur DUI case:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, our Decatur DUI lawyers start by meeting with you about your DUI case 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 defense in your Decatur DUI case. Our Decatur DUI lawyers then analyze your Decatur DUI 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 trials. Our team approach is an effective way to ensure we are prepared to defend your Decatur DUI. All of our lawyers are involved in your case. Our DUI attorneys have regular meetings on all of our cases, so the lead DUI attorney can get as much input as possible in developing a winning strategy in your Decatur DUI case.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Decatur 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 Decatur Municipal Court or DeKalb 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 Decatur DUI lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring us 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 a Decatur DUI Task Force 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 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 Decatur DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the 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 Decatur 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 DECATUR DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your Decatur DUI criminal case pending in Decatur Municipal Court or in State Court in DeKalb County, you are likely facing a license suspension action. There is only a limited time to request this separate hearing that is conducted through the Office of State Administrative Hearings to preserve your driving privileges. Whether you refused the Decatur DUI officer’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your Decatur DUI officer to serve you notice of an administrative license suspension. The form 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.
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 Decatur DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Decatur DUI arrest: In most cases, we do not recommend this path. If you do nothing and your Decatur DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your Decatur DUI 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, our Decatur 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 Decatur 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 the Decatur DUI officer’s request for a state-administered chemical test of your breath, blood, urine, or other bodily substances.
- 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 Georgia licensed drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Decatur 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 Decatur 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 ALS by the Decatur 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 Decatur 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 arresting officer at the time of the Decatur DUI 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 Decatur 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 Decatur DUI charge, or the underlying Decatur 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 Decatur 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 Decatur DUI charges with our experienced Decatur DUI trial lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our dedicated Decatur DUI defense lawyers are experienced in contesting DUI cases and handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your Decatur DUI criminal case and your license suspension action.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Decatur DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Decatur DUI criminal charges and only deals with your license or privilege to drive in this state. As a matter of fact, the administrative license suspension action is litigated by a completely separate court from your Decatur 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 that agency. Typically a hearing date is set roughly 60 days from the date of your Decatur 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 Decatur 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 Decatur 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 Decatur DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the officer testifies first. Some jurisdictions allow the DUI 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 Decatur DUI officer is then subject to cross-examination. There are times when our Decatur DUI lawyers 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 Decatur DUI criminal charges are being dismissed, but an OSAH hearing can be a great tool for our Decatur DUI lawyers to gain an advantage in your Decatur 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 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 Decatur DUI officer is so low to meet in these license suspension hearings, there is a good possibility that your license may be suspended, but our Decatur DUI lawyers still may be able to gain an advantage in the Decatur DUI criminal case based on testimony from the hearing. If the judge committed an error in a ruling, the decision can be appealed. Also, if your Decatur 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 in my Decatur DUI?
Because a license suspension hearing 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 Decatur 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.
Contact our experienced Decatur DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Decatur DUI charge, or license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Decatur 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.