If you have been arrested in Rockdale 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, we may be able to appear in Conyers Municipal Court or Rockdale County State Court on your behalf, so you don’t have to. Call Chestney & Sullivan today! 404.816.8777
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Rockdale, experienced Rockdale County DUI lawyers 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 Rockdale prosecutor. Our experienced Rockdale DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation on how we can effectively defend your Rockdale DUI charges. Call us today at 404.816.8777.
Whether you have a DUI in the City of Conyers, or anywhere in Rockdale County, our experienced Rockdale County DUI lawyers are prepared to vigorously fight your DUI charges to avoid a DUI conviction in your Rockdale County or City of Conyers DUI case.
In a recent press release by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, The Rockdale Sheriff’s Department has been awarded a $300,000 grant for three specialized HEAT (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic) Unit deputies, three specialized vehicles and other equipment. The HEAT Unit also concentrates on DUI patrols, checkpoints, and traffic enforcement. Deputies that will be assigned to the unit are C. Lickliter, L. Tate, and Sgt. D. Peek. With fall here, outdoor events are still happening and we can expect the Rockdale Sheriff’s Department and Georgia State Patrol to step up DUI enforcement. Below is a recent Tweet from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety:
For most people, November means Thanksgiving, watching the leaves change and drinking pumpkin spice lattes. But for us, November means Click It or Ticket and seat belt awareness. So #buckleup! #seatbeltssavelives #buckleupamerica #clickitorticket pic.twitter.com/zmPrwuRbvE
— Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (@gohsgeorgia) November 2, 2020
When your DUI case is in Conyers Municipal Court, if you demand a jury trial, the Conyers Municipal Court loses jurisdiction over your case and it is automatically transferred to the Rockdale County court system for prosecution. Sometimes that is the best option if the prosecutor in Conyers Municipal Court refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
If your case is either sent over for a jury trial from Conyers Municipal Court, the Rockdale County District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of your Rockdale County DUI. Also, if your case begins in the traffic division of Rockdale County State Court and a jury trial is requested, the case is also sent to the Rockdale District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Once your case is received by the Rockdale County District Attorney’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office will open up a file and conduct an investigation before filing an accusation or indictment in court. Once an accusation or indictment is filed, then the Rockdale County Clerk of Court will place your case on an arraignment calendar, which may be followed by a motions hearing date, a calendar call date, and finally a trial date.
The current District Attorney of Rockdale County is Alisha Adams Johnson who was appointed by Governor Deal to succeed Richard Read who retired as District Attorney effective December 31, 2017. Alisha Adams Johnson ran uncontested in the 2018 Rockdale County District Attorney election. Currently, there is one elected judge in State Court, Judge Nancy N. Bills. Other judges may fill in from time to time, but that is a rare occurrence in Rockdale County. If your Rockdale DUI either starts off in Rockdale County State Court or is transferred to Rockdale State Court from Conyers Municipal Court, Judge Nancy N. Bills will preside over your case unless there is a felony charge associated with your case. If you have a felony charge, your case will be randomly assigned to either Chief Judge Robert Mumford or Judge David Irwin’s replacement. Judge Irwin retired from the bench effective October 30, 2020. We are awaiting Governor Kemp to appoint a replacement to fill the vacancy. In most cases, the assigned judge will preside over your case until a final resolution is reached. The majority of DUI cases our Rockdale County DUI Lawyers sends over for jury trial are in Rockdale County State Court.
Each judge handles their caseloads differently so it is important that Rockdale County DUI lawyers know how each judge runs their individual courtrooms. Mr. Sullivan was a prosecutor in Rockdale State Court for 4 years before becoming a DUI defense attorney in 2006 and is familiar with how each courtroom and the District Attorney’s Office operates.
Sometimes the facts of a particular DUI in Rockdale 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 Rockdale County DUI case if the prosecution refuses to negotiate an acceptable resolution in your case.
How our skilled Rockdale County DUI lawyers build a successful defense in your DUI case:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, our Rockdale DUI lawyers start by meeting with you about your DUI case and learn 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 Rockdale DUI case. Our Rockdale 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 meet as a group to 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 Rockdale DUI. All of our DUI lawyers are involved in your case. Our Rockdale DUI 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 Rockdale DUI case.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Rockdale 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 Conyers Municipal Court or Rockdale 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 Rockdale DUI lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring us rather than representing yourself:
- You can put your driving privileges in jeopardy if you simply go to court and enter a guilty plea by yourself. If you have been arrested by a City of Conyers DUI officer, Rockdale Sheriff’s Deputy, or Georgia State Patrol (or any Georgia police officer), you should have been served notice of a license suspension action. If you enter a guilty plea to DUI 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 suspension action is conducted properly.
- If your license is administratively suspended for refusing the Rockdale DUI officer’s chemical test from losing a license suspension hearing 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 Rockdale DUI criminal charges and the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Rockdale 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 DUI attorney who is familiar with Conyers Municipal Court as well as Rockdale 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 ROCKDALE DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your Rockdale DUI criminal charges pending in Conyers Municipal Court or in Rockdale County State Court, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. 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 Rockdale, chances are your officer served you with a notice of a license suspension action. If you were arrested by a City of Conyers, or Rockdale DUI Task Force Officer, or Georgia State Patrol, you can be sure that your officer served you with a notice of a license suspension action. Whether you refused your Rockdale DUI officer’s chemical test, or the breath test results indicated an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, Georgia law requires your Rockdale DUI officer to serve you notice of a license suspension action. The form that is used is called a DDS-1205 form. This form is either yellow or white and the Rockdale DUI 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 from your Rockdale DUI Officer, 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 Rockdale County DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Rockdale DUI arrest: In most cases we do not recommend this path as if you do nothing and your Rockdale DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 in your Rockdale DUI case 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 Rockdale 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 your Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale County DUI lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our DUI defense lawyers are experienced in handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a defense strategy for your Rockdale DUI criminal case and your license suspension action.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Rockdale DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Rockdale DUI criminal charges and only deals with your license or privilege to drive in this state. As a matter of fact, the administrative license suspension action is litigated by a completely separate court from your Rockdale 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 DUI arrest in Rockdale. 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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. The decision is also posted online. 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 your Rockdale DUI criminal charges are being dismissed, but an OSAH hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale 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 Rockdale DUI case?
Because a license suspension hearing from a Rockdale County 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 Rockdale DUI charges. 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 Rockdale County DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Rockdale DUI charge, license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Rockdale 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.