We are available to speak with you about your Duluth DUI case anytime, including after hours, weekends, and holidays! Call Chestney & Sullivan today!
If you have been arrested in Duluth, we are available to discuss your case! If you are visiting from out of town, we can appear in Duluth Municipal Court or Gwinnett County State Court on your behalf, so you don’t have to!
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Duluth, 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. We offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your City of Duluth DUI charges. Call us today at 404.816.8777.
If you are charged with a DUI in Duluth, Georgia, our experienced Duluth DUI lawyers are prepared to fight to avoid a conviction in your Duluth DUI case.
Duluth Municipal Court is located in the City of Duluth Public Safety Center at 3276 Buford Highway, Duluth, Georgia 30096. The Duluth Police Department is located in the same building. Our Duluth DUI lawyers appear in Duluth Municipal Court on a regular basis. Judge Charles L. Barrett, III is the chief judge in Duluth Municipal Court, although other judges may sit on the bench from time to time. Judge Barrett was reappointed as Chief Judge in the summer of 2019 by the Duluth City Council. The solicitor (prosecutor) of your Duluth DUI case is Russell Bryant.
Duluth 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 Duluth driving Under the Influence 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 and the judge decides if the prosecution has met its burden. Sometimes a “bench trial” is a sound strategy, sometimes it is not. There are many times where we exercise our right to a jury trial if we do not reach an agreement with the prosecution in Duluth Municipal Court.
The Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your Duluth DUI when you request a jury trial in Duluth Municipal Court as your case will be transferred to them if it involves misdemeanor charges. The solicitor’s office is also responsible for prosecuting your case if it is sent directly to the Gwinnett County State Court, located in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, bypassing recorders court or any of the municipal courts in Gwinnett County. The current elected Gwinnett County Solicitor is Brian Whiteside. In general, two prosecutors are assigned to each courtroom in Gwinnett County State Court.
Gwinnett State Court currently has six state court judges and two senior state court judges. Your Duluth DUI case will be assigned to one of the six judges once your case is filed with the Gwinnett County Clerk of Court. Because each State Court judge handles their caseloads differently, it is important that Duluth DUI lawyers know how each particular courtroom operates. Our skilled DUI lawyers try DUI cases in Gwinnett County on a regular basis. Because we frequently contest DUI cases in Gwinnett County State Court, we are familiar with the judges and the prosecutors who will be handling your case.
Even though your case may have been sent to Gwinnett County State Court from Duluth Municipal Court, there are also times the facts of a particular Duluth DUI may be best suited for a “bench trial” (a trial where the judge decides the case instead of a jury) in Gwinnett County State Court. This determination is usually made after an investigation in your Duluth DUI is complete, where we look to the judge assignment, the facts of the case, and the legal issues involved.
The Duluth Police department has a special operations unit that concentrates on DUI enforcement. This unit is part of a continuing task force team with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and participates in DUI enforcement campaigns such as Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. These DUI officers, like all Duluth police officers, have received at a minimum 16 hours of DUI training in the police academy. Many Duluth DUI officers have received an additional 24 hour standardized field sobriety course endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some Duluth DUI officers have received additional DUI training such as ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement), or DRE (Drug Recognition Expert). Many Duluth officers are certified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to operate the Intoxilyzer 5000, and an increasing number of Duluth DUI officers are certified on Georgia’s newest breath testing instrument, the Intoxilyzer 9000. Chestney & Sullivan DUI lawyers run Peace Officer Standardized Training Council reports on every officer that make an arrest for DUI, so we will know their training and discipline history. The Duluth Police Department is also active on Twitter on impaired driving:
Let's be #BLUNT | Driving under the influence of DRUGS is the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. It's illegal. It doesn't matter if today is 4/20 or not, people die daily by the actions of impaired drivers. pic.twitter.com/PMI1xKrhtL
— Duluth Police Dept (@DuluthGAPolice) April 20, 2020
Our Duluth DUI defense attorneys know how to challenge a Duluth DUI. We are all 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 a Duluth DUI, is that most of the Duluth patrol vehicles are equipped with video and audio. Their video equipment has some features similar to a DVR or TVO that many people have at home for their TV’s. Their equipment is continuously recording, but will not preserve anything until the officer either manually activates 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 Duluth 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 Duluth DUI lawyers build a successful defense in your Duluth DUI case:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, our Duluth DUI lawyers start by meeting with you about your Duluth 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, an accident reconstructionist, private investigators, breath test/field sobriety experts, medical professionals, video illustrators, to name a few, to help build a solid defense in your Duluth DUI case. Our Duluth 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 meeting as a group then develop strategies in 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 Duluth 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 Duluth DUI case.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring a Duluth 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 Duluth Municipal court or Gwinnett 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 Duluth DUI lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring our lawyers 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 Duluth 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 administrative action is conducted properly.
- If your license is administratively suspended for refusing the Duluth DUI officer’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 Duluth DUI criminal charges and the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Duluth DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the DUI charge itself.
- Sometime the prosecutor gives a bad plea offer. Even if you decide not to contest your Duluth DUI case, an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with Duluth Municipal Court as well as Gwinnett 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 and decide to take your case to trial.
- If you decide to represent yourself at trial, the Georgia Rules of Evidence still applies to you. Lawyers go to law school for years to learn these rules and you will be at the mercy of a skilled prosecutor and judge if you are not careful.
Administrative License Suspension
IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE WHILE YOUR DULUTH DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your DUI criminal case pending in Duluth, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. 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 Duluth DUI officer’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your Duluth DUI 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 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 Duluth DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Duluth DUI arrest: In most cases we do not recommend this path as if you do nothing and your Duluth DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your Duluth DUI 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 as a result of your Driving Under the Influence arrest, our Duluth 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 Duluth 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 Duluth 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 first DUI arrest in five years drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Duluth 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 Duluth 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 Duluth 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 Duluth 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 Duluth DUI 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 Duluth 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 Duluth 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 Duluth 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 case 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 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 a 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 Duluth DUI lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our Duluth DUI defense lawyers are experienced in fighting DUI charges as well as handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your Duluth DUI criminal case and your license suspension action.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Duluth DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Duluth DUI criminal case 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 Duluth 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 Duluth 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 day care, or any other hardship you may if your license is suspended. The judge’s only role in a license suspension hearing is to determine if the following factors were met:
- Whether the Duluth 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 Duluth 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 your Duluth DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the Duluth DUI officer testifies first. Some jurisdictions allow the officer to have help from the prosecutor’s office, or if the officer is a Georgia State Trooper, an attorney paid by the State of Georgia assists the officer on direct examination. The officer is then subject to cross-examination. There are times when we may decide to place our clients or other witnesses on the stand for direct examination. Our witnesses would then be subject to cross examination from the other side. Once the testimony and presentation of the evidence is finished, each side can make a closing argument. The judge will then make a decision typically within 5 business days, and will transmit that decision to the parties and the Georgia Department of Driver Services. If there is an error in how the judge ruled, there is an appellate process available to review the court’s decision.
What happens if I win the hearing?
If the 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 Duluth DUI criminal case is being dismissed, but an OSAH hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Duluth DUI criminal case.
What happens if I lose the hearing?
If the judge finds that all of the applicable statutory factors were met by a preponderance of the evidence (a lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt), then the judge will issue an order affirming the license suspension action and will transmit the order to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, who will then impose the license suspension. Again, because the burden on the Duluth DUI officer is so low to meet in these license suspension hearings, there is a good possibility that your license may be suspended, but we still may be able to gain an advantage in the Duluth DUI criminal case based on testimony from the license suspension hearing. If the judge committed an error in ruling, the decision can be appealed. Also, if your Duluth DUI charge is reduced, dismissed, or you are found not guilty, the suspension is lifted and deleted off your driver’s history as a matter of law.
Can I handle the license suspension hearing myself in my Duluth 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 Duluth 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 Duluth DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Duluth DUI charge, license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Duluth 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.