Our Henry County DUI lawyers are available to speak with you about your Henry County DUI case anytime, including after hours, weekends, and holidays! Call Chestney & Sullivan today: 404.816.8777
If you have been arrested in Henry County for a DUI, we are available to discuss your case! If you are visiting from out of town, we can appear in Henry County State Court or any Municipal Court in Henry County on your behalf, so you don’t have to!
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Henry 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 Henry County DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your Henry County DUI charges. Call us today at 404.816.8777.
Whether you have a DUI in Hampton, Stockbridge, McDonough, Locust Grove, or anywhere in Henry County, our experienced Henry County DUI lawyers are prepared to vigorously fight your Driving Under the Influence charges in municipal court or Henry County State Court to avoid a conviction in your Henry County DUI case. As a warning to drivers, this upcoming summer season, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety will mobilize its 100 days of Summer H.E.A.T. and Click It or Ticket campaigns. Also, the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will run from June 20 through the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Georgia State Patrol, along with the Henry County Police Department, will enforce its 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T and Operation Zero Tolerance campaigns from May 17 through Labor Day. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) recently announced a large grant to the Henry County Police Department that will help fund its HEAT unit (DUI Task Force). Henry County Police Officers Matt Palmer, Tyler Stone, and William Parks are assigned to the three person unit. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety typically activates area H.E.A.T. units, including Henry County’s for major outdoor events, concerts, and holidays.
Because the HEAT unit is supported by funding from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS), we monitor social media from GOHS:
— Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (@gohsgeorgia) March 30, 2021
When your Henry County DUI case begins in any one of the municipal courts in Henry County, if you demand a jury trial, the municipal court loses jurisdiction over your case. Your case is then transferred to the Henry County court system. Sometimes preserving your right to a jury trial is the best option if the prosecutor in municipal court refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case. There are also some Henry County municipal courts that simply will not allow a DUI case to be tried in their jurisdiction. If that is the case, then the only option to try to avoid a Henry County DUI conviction is to send your DUI case to Henry County State Court.
If your misdemeanor Henry County DUI case was made by the Henry County Police Department, then your case will likely begin in Henry County State Court. The Henry County Solicitor’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your Henry County DUI in Henry County State Court. The current elected Solicitor General of Henry County is Pam Bettis. Generally, several prosecutors are assigned to each courtroom in Henry County State Court.
Henry County State Court currently has four state court judges. Your case will be assigned to one of the four judges by a selection formula set up by the Henry County Court. The current judges are Judge Ben W. Studdard, Judge Vincent “Vinny” Lotti, Judge David Brown, and Judge Danielle Roberts. Each judge handles their caseloads differently so it is important that Henry DUI lawyers know how each particular courtroom operates. Our DUI lawyers contest cases in Henry County on a regular basis.
Even though your case may have been sent to Henry County State Court to preserve your right to a jury trial from a municipal court, or your case originated in Henry 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). Sometimes a “bench trial” is a sound strategy, sometimes it is not. There are many times when a jury trial is the best possible option to avoid a DUI conviction on your Henry County DUI case if the prosecution refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
The Henry County Police DUI Task Force or H.E.A.T. Unit operates in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. The Henry County Police DUI Task Force receives grants to supplement their budget through Federal and State funding, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety including the H.E.A.T. program (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic), and other sources. The primary goal of the Henry County Police DUI Task Force/H.E.A.T. Unit is to combat impaired drivers/drunk drivers. The DUI Task Force frequently utilize programs through the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety such as Operation Zero Tolerance, Click it or Ticket, 100 Days of Summer Heat, Thunder Task Force, and others.
The DUI Task Force/H.E.A.T. Unit regularly patrol major roadways within the county, including Interstate Highway 75. The Henry County DUI Task Force is known for conducting frequent sobriety checkpoints (roadblocks).
The Henry County Police DUI Task Force, like all Henry County police officers, have received at a minimum 16 hours of DUI training in the police academy. Most Henry County Police 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 DUI Task Force officers have received additional DUI training such as ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement), or DRE (Drug Recognition Expert). Most, if not all the Henry County DUI Task Force/H.E.A.T. Unit officers are certified on Georgia’s newest breath testing instrument, the Intoxilyzer 9000.
One of the benefits of a Henry County DUI Task Force 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 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 Henry County officers will run their video until it is turned off when they have completed their investigation. Videos can be viewed through the court process.
Current members of the Henry County Police DUI Task Force/H.E.A.T. Unit include: Officers Matthew Donaldson, Jason Jones, Kenneth Palmer, and Tyler Stone.
How our skilled Henry County DUI lawyers build a successful defense in your Henry DUI case:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, our Henry County DUI lawyers start by meeting with you about your Henry County 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 DUI defense in your case. Our Henry County DUI lawyers then analyze your Henry County 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 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 Henry County 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 Henry County DUI case.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Henry 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 Henry County municipal courts or Henry 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 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 Henry County DUI Task Force/H.E.A.T. Unit officer, uniform patrol officer, or a Georgia State Trooper, you should have been served notice of a 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 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 Henry County DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the DUI charge.
- Sometime the prosecutor gives a bad plea offer. Even if you decide not to contest your case, an experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with McDonough Municipal Court, Stockbridge Municipal Court, Locust Grove Municipal Court, Hampton Municipal Court, and Henry 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 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 HENRY COUNTY DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your DUI criminal case pending in Henry County, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. There is only a limited time to request this separate hearing the the Office of State Administrative Hearings to preserve your driving privileges. Whether you refused the State’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your Henry County DUI officer to serve you notice of an administrative license suspension. If you have been arrested by a Henry County DUI Task Force Officer, you can be sure that they initiated a license suspension action against you, especially if you have been arrested by Officers Matthew Donaldson, Jason Jones, Kenneth Palmer, and Tyler Stone. 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 Henry County DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Henry County DUI arrest: In most cases we do not recommend this path as if you do nothing and your Henry County DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your arrest, your driving privileges will automatically be suspended by 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 Henry County DUI arrest, our Henry County 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 Henry 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 Henry 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 first DUI arrest in five years drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Henry 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 Henry 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 Henry 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 Henry 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 Henry County 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 Henry 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 Henry 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 Henry 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 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.
So I decided to make a proper request for a hearing within 30 days of the date of my Henry County DUI arrest, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Henry County DUI 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 Henry 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 Henry County 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 Henry 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 Henry 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 OSAH hearing conducted?
The judge will enforce the Georgia Rules of Evidence, similar to other court proceedings. Because the burden is on the Henry County DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the Henry County DUI officer testifies first. Some jurisdictions, like Henry County 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 Henry 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. 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 Henry County DUI criminal charges are being dismissed, but an OSAH hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Henry 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 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 Henry County 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 Henry County DUI criminal case based on testimony from the hearing. If the judge committed an error in ruling, the decision can be appealed. Also, if your Henry County 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 Henry County DUI case?
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 Henry 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 30 days to request a license suspension hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Contact our experienced Henry County DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Henry County DUI charge, license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Henry 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. Call us today at 404.816.8777
Henry County State Court is located at 44 John Frank Ward Blvd., McDonough, Georgia 30253. It is near the square in downtown McDonough.