If you have been arrested in Douglas County for a DUI, our Douglas County DUI lawyers are available to discuss your case anytime, including after-hours, weekends, and holidays! Call Chestney & Sullivan today at 404.816.8777
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Douglas County, James “Skip” Sullivan is available to discuss your case anytime – including after-hours and weekends! Mr. Sullivan is a former prosecutor. Our experienced Douglas County DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your Douglas County DUI charges. Call us today at 404.816.8777.
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Douglas County, your case will likely be in the Douglas County Courthouse, unless you were arrested by Douglasville Police or Lithia Springs Police. If you plan on hiring an attorney, it is important to do so right away. This is so that not only to preserve your driving privileges but your ability to contest the prosecution’s evidence pre-trial may be hampered by waiting too long to hire a DUI attorney. In a recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals (Preston v State), Douglas County State Court Judge James Edward Barker denied a defendant an opportunity to hear motions pre-trial. After being advised by Judge Barker at arraignment about the importance of hiring an attorney and the 10-day deadline to file pre-trial motions, the defendant still waited too long to hire an attorney and missed an important deadline to file pretrial motions. Judge Barker has the discretion to hear the motions before trial under Georgia law, but in his discretion, the judge denied the defendant’s request. Don’t let this happen to you. We are familiar with the court’s requirements for filing important motions in DUI cases and our experienced Douglas County DUI lawyers are prepared to fight to avoid a DUI conviction in your Douglas County DUI case whether you have a DUI in Douglasville, Lithia Springs, Villa Rica, or anywhere in between in Douglas County.
When your Douglas DUI case begins in any one of the municipal courts in Douglas County, if you demand a jury trial, the municipal court loses jurisdiction over your case. Your Douglas County DUI case is then transferred to the Douglas County court system for prosecution. Sometimes that is the best option if the prosecutor in municipal court refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case. Some Douglas County municipal courts simply will not allow some DUI cases to be tried in their jurisdiction. If that is the case, then the only option to try to avoid a DUI conviction is to try your Douglas County DUI case in the county court system.
If you were arrested by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, then your Douglas County DUI case will be handled in Douglas County State Court if there are no felony charges. Once your case is in Douglas County State Court, the Douglas County Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your DUI case. The elected Solicitor General of Douglas County is Sonja Compton. Generally, two prosecutors are assigned to each courtroom in Douglas County State Court. There are two elected Douglas County State Court Judges that preside over misdemeanor DUI cases: Judge James Edward Barker and Judge Brian K. Fortner. Your case will be randomly assigned to a judge once your case is filed with the Douglas County State Court Clerk’s Office. The assigned judge will preside over your case until a final resolution is reached in most cases. Occasionally in state court during the jury trial weeks, both judges may preside over criminal jury trials.
Even if your case may have been sent to Douglas County State Court to preserve your right to a jury trial, or your case began in Douglas County State Court, sometimes the facts of a particular 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. Often, a jury trial is the best possible option to avoid a DUI conviction on your Douglas County DUI case – especially if the prosecution refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
Our DUI defense attorneys know how to challenge a Douglas County DUI Task Force case. 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 a Douglas County DUI case is that most of their 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. Their 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 be preserved somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds of time before activation and typically Douglas County 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 Douglas County DUI lawyers build a successful DUI defense:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, your Douglas County DUI attorney should start by learning everything possible from the information you present. Based on this information, he or she can find more evidence by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your arrest were accurate and legal. This determination is 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 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 Douglas County DUI attorneys 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 have covered all the bases in defending your Douglas County DUI.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Douglas County DUI 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 municipal courts or in Douglas 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 Douglas County 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. If you have been arrested by a Douglas 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 and the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Douglas County 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 Douglas County DUI attorney who is familiar with the municipal courts in Douglas County, as well as Douglas 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 DOUGLAS COUNTY DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your Douglas County DUI case pending in municipal court or in Douglas County State or Superior Courts, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension – a separate action from your criminal case. 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 Douglas County, chances are the officer served you with a notice of a license suspension. Whether you refused the State’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your officer to serve you notice of a 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: https://dds.georgia.gov/online-services
Regardless of whether you have actually received a DDS-1205 form in your Douglas County DUI case, 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 Douglas County DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Douglas County DUI arrest: In most cases, we do not recommend this path. If you do nothing and your Douglas County DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your Douglas County 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 as a result of your Douglas County DUI arrest, 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 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County DUI arresting 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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.
Like 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 Douglas County DUI case with our experienced DUI defense lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our dedicated Douglas County DUI lawyers are experienced in fighting DUI charges and license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your criminal case and save your license.
I made a proper request for an administrative hearing in my Douglas County DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Douglas County DUI 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 Douglas County 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 where a hearing will be scheduled in front of an OSAH judge. 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 an OSAH judge.
The scope of the Douglas County DUI license suspension 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. 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 OSAH judge’s only role in a license suspension hearing is to determine if the following factors were met:
- Whether the Douglas County 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 Douglas County 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 license suspension hearing conducted?
The judge will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence, similar to other court proceedings. Because the burden is on the Douglas County 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. Your Douglas County 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 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. This does not mean that your Douglas County DUI criminal case is being dismissed, but a license suspension hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Douglas County DUI criminal case.
What happens if I lose my hearing?
If the OSAH 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 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 hearing. If the judge committed an error in a ruling, the decision can be appealed.
Can I handle the hearing myself in my Douglas County DUI case?
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 Douglas 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 an administrative hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Call our experienced Douglas County DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Douglas County DUI charge, a license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, call our experienced Douglas 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 today at 404.816.8777.