If you have been arrested in Woodstock for a DUI, we are available to discuss your case anytime, including after-hours, weekends, and holidays! Call Chestney & Sullivan today: 404.816.8777
If you have been arrested for a DUI in Woodstock, 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 Woodstock DUI lawyers offer a free in-office consultation to discuss how we effectively defend your Woodstock DUI charges. Call us today at 404.816.8777.
Woodstock Municipal Court is located at 12453 Highway 92, Woodstock, Georgia 30188. It is in the annex building along with the Woodstock Police Department. Our Woodstock DUI lawyers appear in Woodstock Municipal Court on a regular basis. It is important for Woodstock DUI lawyers to be familiar with this jurisdiction. The Chief Judge of the Woodstock Municipal Court was Judge Phillip P. Taylor, however, Judge Taylor has just been appointed as a Federal immigration judge and stepped down as municipal court judge. Judge Robert Tidwell was appointed by the Woodstock City Council as the new Woodstock Municipal Court Chief Judge effective January 6, 2020. Associate Judge Luke Mayes may occasionally fill in. There is one main solicitor (prosecutor) for Woodstock Municipal Court, Jeff Rusbridge, however, it is not unusual for other part-time prosecutors to assist in that court.
Woodstock Municipal Court is a court of “limited jurisdiction,” meaning that they do not have jury trials there. If you want your case to be kept in Woodstock Municipal Court for trial, it will be a “bench trial,” meaning that a judge decides whether the prosecution has met its burden beyond a reasonable doubt rather than a jury. Sometimes a “bench trial” is a sound strategy, many times it is not.
There are many times when a jury trial is the best possible option to avoid a DUI conviction on your Woodstock DUI case. Because the Woodstock Municipal Court does not conduct jury trials, your Woodstock DUI case would need to be transferred to Cherokee County State Court, located in the Cherokee County Justice Center. Cherokee State Court currently has three state court judges. They are Chief Judge W. Alan Jordan, Judge Allen Dee Morris, and Judge Michelle L. Helhoski (formerly Michelle Homier). Your case will be assigned to one of the three judges once your case is filed with the Cherokee County State Court Clerk’s Office. Todd Hayes is the current elected State Court Solicitor (prosecutor) of Cherokee County. The Solicitor General has assistant solicitors that operate in each courtroom. Each judge handles their caseloads differently in State Court. Because our Woodstock DUI lawyers frequently contest DUI cases in Cherokee County State court, we are familiar with the judges and prosecutors who will be handling your Woodstock DUI case.
How our skilled Woodstock DUI lawyers build a successful DUI defense:
To build a strong DUI defense in Georgia, our Woodstock DUI lawyers start by learning everything possible about your case from you. Based on this information, our Woodstock 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 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, accident reconstructionists, private investigators, breath test/field sobriety experts, medical professionals, and video illustrators, to name a few, to help build a solid DUI defense in your case. Our Woodstock 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 Woodstock DUI charges.
Can I just enter a guilty plea myself and avoid hiring an experienced Woodstock 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 Woodstock Municipal Court or in Cherokee 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 Woodstock DUI defense lawyer is better able to handle than someone representing him or herself. Here are some reasons why you may consider hiring our Woodstock 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 Woodstock DUI. If you have been arrested by a Woodstock DUI Task Force 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 the suspension action is conducted properly.
- If your license is suspended for refusing the State’s chemical test from losing a license suspension hearing or failing to 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 along with the license suspension action can improve your chances of being able to drive.
- Other charges in addition to your Woodstock DUI charge may be more serious and carry more punishment than the DUI charge itself.
- Sometimes the prosecutor gives a bad plea offer. Even if you decide not to contest your case, an experienced Woodstock DUI defense attorney who is familiar with Woodstock Municipal Court and Cherokee 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 a trial.
- If you decide to represent yourself at trial, the Georgia Rules of Evidence still apply to you. Lawyers go to law school for years to learn these rules and you will be at the mercy of a skilled prosecutor and judge if you are not careful.
Administrative License Suspension
IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE WHILE YOUR WOODSTOCK DUI CRIMINAL CHARGES ARE PENDING IN COURT
Besides your criminal case pending in Woodstock Municipal Court or Cherokee County State or Superior Court, you are likely facing an administrative license suspension. There is only a limited time to request this separate hearing with the Office of State Administrative Hearings to preserve your driving privileges. If you have been charged with a DUI in Cherokee County, chances are your officer served you with a notice of a license suspension action. If you were arrested by a Woodstock DUI Task Force Officer, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy, or Georgia State Patrol, you can be sure that your officer served you with a notice of a license suspension action. 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 Woodstock 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 officer may have had you sign it. Sometimes this paperwork gets lost (you may have received it, but may have been misplaced, or it may have been lost at the jail).
- We strongly suggest that you set up an online account with the Georgia Department of Driver Services to monitor the status of your driver’s license: https://dds.georgia.gov/online-services
Regardless of whether you have actually received a DDS-1205 form from your Woodstock 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 Woodstock DUI lawyer]:
- Do nothing within 30 days of the date of your Woodstock DUI arrest: In most cases, we do not recommend this path. If you do nothing and your Woodstock DUI officer initiated an administrative license suspension action, then on the 46th day after the date of your Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock DUI case and have an ignition interlock installed: This track came into effect July 1, 2017. This allows the first DUI arrest in five years for drivers to be able to drive in the state of Georgia and fight their Woodstock 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 approved ignition interlock device on your vehicle by a certified ignition interlock provider 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock DUI 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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.
As the title of the ignition interlock device limited permit suggests, there are limitations on where you can drive while on the IID permit:
- Going to his or her place of employment or performing the normal duties of his or her occupation;
- Receiving scheduled medical care or obtaining prescription drugs;
- Attending a college or school at which he or she is regularly enrolled as a student;
- Driving to regularly scheduled sessions or meetings of treatment support organizations for persons who have an addiction or abuse problems related to alcohol or other drugs, which organizations are recognized by the commissioner;
- Attending under court order any driver education or improvement school or alcohol or drug program or course approved by the court which entered the judgment of conviction resulting in suspension of his driver’s license or by the commissioner;
- Appearing in court, reporting to community supervision, juvenile probation, or Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 42 probation office, reporting to a community supervision officer, county or Department of Juvenile Justice probation officer, or probation officer serving pursuant to Article 6 of Chapter 8 of Title 42, or performing community service;
- Transporting an immediate family member who does not hold a valid driver’s license for work, to obtain medical care or prescriptions, or to school;
- Attending any program, event, treatment, or activity ordered by a judge presiding in an accountability court, as such term is defined in Code Section 15-1-18; or
- Going for monthly monitoring visits with the permit holder’s ignition interlock device service provider.
Contact us today to discuss your Woodstock DUI case with our experienced Woodstock DUI defense lawyers at 404.816.8777. Our dedicated Woodstock DUI lawyers are experienced in fighting DUI charges and handling license suspension actions. We can review your case and prepare a strategy for your criminal case and your license suspension action.
So I made a proper request for a license suspension hearing in my Woodstock DUI case, what happens next?
The license suspension action is a civil action separate from your Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 your arrest. Once a hearing is requested, the Department of Driver Services will extend your driving privileges until there is an order entered from an OSAH judge.
The scope of the 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 daycare, 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 your Woodstock DUI 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 your Woodstock 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 refuse 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 your Woodstock DUI officer to establish that the statutory factors were met, the Woodstock 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. Your Woodstock DUI officer, Georgia State Patrol Trooper, or Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy is then subject to cross-examination. There are times when we may decide to place our clients or other witnesses on the stand for direct examination. Our witnesses would then be subject to cross-examination from the other side. Once the testimony and presentation of the evidence are finished, each side can make a closing argument. The judge will then make a decision typically within 5 business days and will transmit that decision to the parties and the Georgia Department of Driver Services. The decision will also be 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 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). This does not mean that your Woodstock DUI criminal charges are being dismissed, but a license suspension hearing can be a great tool to gain an advantage in your Woodstock DUI criminal case.
What happens if I lose my 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 Woodstock DUI officer is so low to meet in these hearings, there is a good possibility that your license may be suspended. However, we still may be able to gain an advantage in your Woodstock DUI criminal case based on testimony from the hearing. If the judge committed an error in a ruling, the decision can be appealed.
Can I handle the license suspension hearing myself in my Woodstock 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 Woodstock 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 hearing through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
As a warning to drivers, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety annually conducts safe driver campaigns, including the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over program. Georgia State Patrol, along with the Woodstock Police Department, enforces its 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T and Operation Zero Tolerance campaigns during the summer from around Memorial Day through Labor Day. Operation Zero Tolerance is typically enforced from the latter part of June through the 4th of July holiday weekend. With the Downtown Woodstock shopping and dining district being a popular destination to dine and drink, the Woodstock Police Department, Cherokee Sheriff’s Department, and Georgia State Patrol are actively patrolling the area for impaired drivers. Georgia State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued a press release cautioning motorists to drive safely during this Thanksgiving holiday. Here is a recent Facebook post from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) to drive sober during the Thanksgiving Holiday:
Call our experienced Woodstock DUI lawyers today:
If you are facing a Woodstock DUI charge, a license suspension action, or have been ticketed for a serious traffic offense, contact our experienced Woodstock 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.