If you have been arrested in Forsyth County 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, there are many court hearings we can appear in Forsyth 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 Forsyth County, 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. Our experienced Forsyth County DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your Forsyth County DUI charges. Call us today at 404.816.8777.
Our experienced Forsyth County DUI lawyers are prepared to vigorously defend your Forsyth County DUI case whether you have an arrest for Driving Under the Influence in the City of Cumming, Forsyth County State Court, or anywhere else in Forsyth County. As a warning to drivers and boat operators this past summer season, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety instituted its Belts and Buoys program targeting drivers and boaters as well as its Drive Sober or Get Pulled over program. This fall, Georgia State Patrol will be enforcing its Operation Zero Tolerance campaign and we expect a concentrated effort to continue over the fall holiday period from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Years.
If your Cumming DUI case begins in Cumming Municipal Court, if you demand a jury trial, Cumming Municipal Court loses jurisdiction over your case. Your Cumming Driving Under the Influence case is then transferred to the Forsyth County court system for prosecution. Sometimes that is the best option if the prosecutor in Cumming Municipal Court refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
If you were arrested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, then your Driving Under the Influence case will be handled in Forsyth County State Court if there are no felony charges. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has a Traffic Specialist Unit that is essentially a DUI task force. The Sheriff’s Department receives funding from the Georgia Office of Highway Safety’s H.E.A.T. program. Once your case is in Forsyth County State Court, the Forsyth County Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your DUI case. The current elected Solicitor General of Forsyth County is William “Bill” Finch. Generally in Forsyth County State Court, two prosecutors are assigned to each courtroom, although other prosecutors may assist in a courtroom on any given court day. There are two elected Forsyth County State Court Judges that preside over misdemeanor DUI cases: Chief Judge Russell McClelland and Judge Leslie Abernathy-Maddox. Your case will be assigned to a judge once your case is filed with the Forsyth County Court Clerk’s Office. Cases have traditionally been assigned by alphabet beginning with the first letter of a defendant’s surname, but the policy of case assignments are subject to revision. The assigned judge typically will preside over your case until a final resolution is reached in most cases, however, during the jury trial weeks, both state court judges may assist the other and preside over criminal jury trials. Also, an additional judge may be brought in to assist in presiding over trials.
If your case may have been sent to Forsyth County State Court from Cumming Municipal Court to preserve your right to a jury trial, or your case began in Forsyth County State Court, sometimes the facts of a particular Forsyth Driving Under the Influence charge may be best suited for a “bench trial” (a trial where the judge decides the case instead of a jury). 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 Driving Under the Influence conviction in your Forsyth County DUI case – especially if the prosecution refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case in Cumming Municipal Court.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has a specialized DUI Task Force. The Forsyth County DUI Task Force, like all Forsyth County police officers, have received at a minimum 16 hours of DUI training in the police academy. They even received a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety that included three new Ford Explorers. Most Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers trained have received an additional 24 hour standardized field sobriety course endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers have received additional DUI training such as ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement), or DRE (Drug Recognition Expert). All of the Forsyth County DUI Task Force officers are certified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to operate Georgia’s newest breath testing instrument, the Intoxilyzer 9000.
Our DUI attorneys know how to challenge a Forsyth County DUI case. All of our DUI attorneys are trained in Standardized Field Sobriety evaluations and have also received training on the operation and limitations of the Intoxilyzer 5000 and 9000. We currently own three Intoxilyzer 5000 breath testing devices. Mr. Sullivan was certified in Standardized Field Sobriety evaluations by members of the Conyers Police Department and Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. One of the benefits of investigating a Forsyth County DUI arrest is that most of Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department 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 video equipment is continuously recording, but will not preserve anything until the officer either manually activates recording, or the officer activates his or her emergency equipment (lights). Then the video will preserve somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds of time before activation and typically Forsyth DUI officers will run their video until their investigation is complete. Some will run their videos until they reach the jail. Videos can be obtained through the court process.
How our skilled Forsyth County DUI lawyers build a successful DUI defense:
To build a strong Driving Under the Influence defense in Georgia, our DUI lawyers start by learning everything possible about your case from you. Based on this information, our Forsyth County DUI attorneys and investigator can search for more favorable evidence by using specialized resources as needed to determine if all testing and other details of your Forsyth DUI arrest were accurate and legal. This forms 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 even 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 Forsyth County DUI case. Our Forsyth DUI lawyers analyze a case from the initial stop or reason why the police were involved, looks for suppression issues with the admissibility of field sobriety tests or state chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine tests), and develop strategies in how to best conduct administrative license suspension hearings, preliminary/committal motion hearings and trial. Our team approach is an effective way to ensure we are thorough in defending your Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence charges.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself to Driving Under the Influence and avoid hiring an experienced Forsyth 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 Cumming Municipal Court or in Forsyth 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 Forsyth County DUI defense lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring our Forsyth County 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 to your Forsyth County DUI. If you have been arrested by a Forsyth 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 Forsyth 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 Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence charges along with the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Forsyth County 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 case, an experienced Forsyth County DUI defense attorney who is familiar with Forsyth County State Court or Superior Court can assess a plea offer to determine if it is worth taking or rejecting 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 FORSYTH COUNTY DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your Forsyth County DUI criminal case pending in Cumming Municipal Court or in State Court in Forsyth County, you are likely facing a license suspension action. There is only a limited time to request this separate hearing to preserve your driving privileges. Whether you refused your Forsyth County DUI officer’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your Forsyth County DUI officer to serve you notice of an administrative license suspension. If you were arrested by a Forsyth County DUI officer or HEAT officer, you can be sure that the officer initiated an administrative license suspension action against you. 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 whether you have actually received a DDS-1205 form from your Forsyth County DUI officer or Georgia State Patrol, 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 Forsyth County DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Forsyth County DUI arrest: In most cases we do not recommend this path as if you do nothing and your Forsyth County DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence 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 from your Forsyth County DUI officer, 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 very 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 Forsyth County 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 Forsyth County 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 first Driving Under the Influence arrest in five years Georgia licensed drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Forsyth 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 officer’s request for a state administered chemical test. If you choose this track, we highly advise that you install the ignition interlock by a registered provider first, then go to DDS within 30 days from the date of the Forsyth DUI 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 Forsyth 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;
- A driver must be licensed in Georgia and not have any other suspensions, cancellations, or revocations against his or her Georgia driver’s license;
- If the driver 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;
- A driver cannot have any prior convictions for DUI in the 5-year period preceding application for the permit. If there is a Driving Under the Influence arrest with a DUI conviction within 5 years of the current Forsyth 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 arresting officer at time of arrest or to DDS prior to issuance of the permit; and,
- There is 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 Forsyth 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 Forsyth County DUI charge, or the underlying Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence 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 Forsyth 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.
Contact us today to discuss your Forsyth County DUI case with our experienced Forsyth County DUI defense lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our dedicated Forsyth County DUI lawyers are experienced in contesting Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence cases and handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your Forsyth County DUI criminal case and your license suspension action.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Forsyth County DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence criminal charges 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 Forsyth 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 (OSAH) where a hearing will be scheduled in front of an OSAH judge. Typically a hearing date with OSAH is set roughly 60 days from the date of you being arrested in Forsyth County for Driving Under the Influence. 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 license suspension hearing is very limited:
At a license suspension hearing, the 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 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 Forsyth 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
- Was 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 Forsyth 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
- Did 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 OSAH judge will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence, similar to other court proceedings. Because the burden is on the Forsyth County DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the Forsyth County DUI officer testifies first. Some jurisdictions, like Forsyth County allow the officer to have help from the prosecutor’s office (the prosecutor’s office actually appears at the administrative hearings), or if the officer is a Georgia State Trooper, an attorney paid by the State of Georgia assists the officer on direct examination. The Forsyth 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 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 and it will be posted on their website. If there is an error in how the judge ruled, there is an appellate process available to review the court’s decision.
What happens if I win the hearing?
If 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 (no administrative license suspension) and your driving privileges will be reinstated pending the final outcome of the criminal case. This does not mean that the Forsyth County criminal charges are being dismissed, but a license suspension hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Forsyth County 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 suspension. Again, because the burden on the Forsyth County DUI officer is so low to meet in these hearings, there is a good possibility that your license may be suspended, but we still may be able to gain an advantage in your Forsyth County Driving Under the Influence criminal case based on testimony from the hearing. If the judge committed an error in ruling, the decision can be appealed.
Can I handle the license suspension hearing myself in my Forsyth County DUI case?
Because a license suspension action from a Georgia DUI arrest is a very complex subject that even many lawyers don’t understand, we strongly encourage you to contact us right away to discuss your arrest for Driving Under the Influence in Forsyth County. 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 hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Call our experienced Forsyth County DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Forsyth County DUI charge, a license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Forsyth 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 at 404.816.8777.