By: William C. Head, DUI Georgia Lawyer
Pitfalls for the Unrepresented Driver With a DUI in Georgia
DUI in Georgia is a very serious motor vehicle criminal offense. The acronym is for “driving under the influence,” a serious motor vehicle crime in Georgia. Standing alone, the DUI laws in Georgia are devastating, by virtue of NOT offering a youthful offender alternative, no expungement, no “aging off” of a conviction, no first offender record restriction, and no diversion or holding of probation, before judgment. Most of our clients facing a Georgia DUI tell our DUI attorneys that protecting their Georgia driver’s license is their main goal in hiring a criminal defense attorney.
At every step of the way, Georgia DUI laws create obstacles, barriers, and statutory deadlines that an unrepresented person facing driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs needs to know and follow. By not crossing every “t” and dotting every “i,” the person accused of driving drunk risks loss of driving privileges long before the issue of guilt or innocence of driving while intoxicated gets to a criminal court.
Just for a refusal to submit to testing, the accused driver faces a DUI license suspension of one full year, with no opportunity for a DUI work permit, or an interlock restricted Georgia driver’s license. Starting July 1, 2017, a new statute will offer better options for installation of an ignition interlock, for restricted driving privileges.
Many people think, “I can handle this without the help of a knowledgeable Georgia attorney who is intimately familiar with all of the nuances and vagaries of Georgia DUI law.” Read further, before risking your right to drive and a possible DUI conviction that stays on your criminal record FOR LIFE. If you need to retain your Georgia driver license, the answer to that question, “Do I need a DUI lawyer?” is a resounding YES.
First, navigating the administrative license suspension laws in Georgia is a path that is fraught with potential problems, starting with screwing up the 30-day letter.
Errors such as not sending the thirty day letter in a timely manner, with the required $150 check enclosed, or not being able to prove delivery (which can be done by taking it to any US Post Office and getting a receipt for certified mail delivery, which constitutes “service” on DDS Georgia).
Even the initial arrest for a first offense DUI in Georgia can have a significant, immediate impact on the accused person’s employment, since the arresting officer is required by Georgia DUI laws to take the arrested citizen’s GA drivers license. Because the law enforcement officer replaces the driver’s license with a temporary permit that is printed on an 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet of paper, it is immediately obvious that you now lack a basic document in our modern world: your license to drive.
This paper document (called the DDS Form 1205) signifies a pending administrative, DUI license suspension, for either refusing the implied consent test, or (after submitting to the Intoxilyzer 9000 breath test under the Georgia implied consent law, having blown a breath alcohol test number that equals or exceeds the “legal alcohol limit.”)
That prohibited breath alcohol test Intoxilyzer 9000 result can be 0.020 grams per cent or more for drivers under age 21, 0.040 grams per cent or more for anyone holding a CDL license and operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or school bus, and (for all others) a 0.080 or more breath alcohol level for all other drivers age 21 and older.
This “no-plastic-license” hurdle stresses out many accused drunk drivers from the moment they bond out of jail. That is why many facing a DUI in Georgia immediately seek out a DUI attorney with top lawyer reviews, to represent them.
Our DUI law firm Atlanta attorneys know that a DUI refusal can handicap a driver who wants to fight his or her DUI in Georgia. Assuming a 30-day letter is filed, once that hearing for the refusal to take a breath test occurs, if that driver is suspended, he or she goes through tremendous inconvenience and cost, by not being allowed to drive. Under DUI laws in GA, no limited permit, restricted license or DUI work permit can be issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Safety.
This “hard” license suspension for a DUI breath alcohol test refusal can be CURED by your DUI lawyer winning your case, or by dismissal of the charges, or by getting the DUI charge reduced to any other offense (e.g., DUI reduced to reckless driving). The best DUI lawyers in Atlanta work very hard on balancing the DUI criminal case, with the path of the DUI administrative law case.
By the arresting officer taking the plastic Georgia driver’s license, at the time of arrest can create barriers to the person entering military installations or bases, or gaining entry at other types of security gates for businesses that mandate a high level of restricted clearance for important purposes such as deterring business espionage or other high security risks.
Plus, many people must fly on commercial flights for their jobs, or rent cars, or both and the lack of a valid, plastic driver’s license creates obstacles and hurdles, or at least a red flag about you being a possible security risk. Recent TSA guidelines have now disapproved a state ID card, or a interim driver license as being sufficient ID for TSA clearance. This means a passport is needed, or some other sufficient TSA-approved identification.
Homeland security wants to see a FULL Georgia license, and not a Georgia ID card, for going through airport security clearance. The DUI arrest alone can cause Homeland Security to cancel any express security clearances, which creates other embarrassment and delay for people dealing with a pending DUI in Georgia.
The first hurdle in a Georgia DUI case is to timely file AND pay for the appeal of the pending administrative license suspension. Missing the deadline of filing a DDS appeal within “30 days” cannot be appealed or later be waived by the officer, by a person at DDS in GA, or by any judge. To lift that suspension, you either have to WAIT until the suspension is over, or win the DUI case (by dismissal, acquittal or reduction to another offense).
This DUI license suspension goes into effect at Georgia DDS “by operation of law” and without any right to a hearing, if you miss the deadline. For Georgia implied consent law “refusal” cases, not filing a timely DUI administrative license appeal causes a full 12-month license suspension, with no work permit possible. The start date of that 12 -month “hard suspension” is on the 46th day after your DUI arrest date.
Call a DUI lawyer immediately, to get this appeal letter filed. Then, you get to continue driving until the hearing is resolved. A drunk driving lawyers at our office can typically avoid this painful suspension, by either settling the criminal case favorably for you, or finding a way to get the administrative license suspension rescinded.
When the DDS appeal is timely made, a filing fee of $150 must accompany the DUI license appeal, or the filing is incomplete. Georgia DDS accepts personal checks or any other type of money order or check, so long as it is not a “starter” check, lacking your name and address. No credit card payments or other method of payment like PayPal can be used. This pitfall is one that causes some attempts to obtain an appeal hearing to fail. No provision under Georgia DUI laws allows for an indigence exception to paying this fee.
The next challenge or hurdle is to deliver the ALS appeal and the $150 check to DDS GA on time. The easiest way is to take the letter and check to a post office, get the post office to give you a receipt showing tracking of that letter, and the recipient’s name and address.
Of course, getting the correct address and zip code for GA DDS is important, but that address is found on your DDS 1205 form, the paper that replaced your plastic drivers license. If you hand deliver the ALS appeal form and the payment (cash is accepted at GA DDS headquarters in Conyers, or a check), the street address is 2206 Eastview Pkwy NE, Conyers, GA 30013. The GA DDS 1205 form will show a Post Office Box address in Conyers, Georgia for any mailings.
The timely filing of the appeal of the DUI administrative suspension will trigger the Georgia Department of Driver Services to mail out a letter telling you that your driving privileges are extended until the administrative hearing resolves your ALS appeal.
This form letter from Georgia DDS should be part of what you keep in your vehicle, along with the DDS 1205 form issued at the time of your arrest. Not having these papers with you if pulled over at a DUI checkpoint or for a minor traffic offense will result, most likely, in a new arrest for driving without a license.
This pitfall means you have to bond out of jail again.
Once you properly file the appeal and have paid the filing fee on time, you will soon get a regular mail notice of the administrative license suspension hearing date. This is sent out by the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings, or OSAH.
In receiving this notice, your case has been assigned to an OSAH administrative law judge, and your arresting will be coming to your civil license forfeiture hearing. This notice can schedule your hearing date within 30 days of the date of your arrest, or possibly as much as 60 days after your date of arrest.
PITFALL: Don’t confuse this court proceeding date with your criminal court arraignment or first appearance date. That DUI arraignment date will be a DIFFERENT criminal law judge, on a different date, and for a different purpose: the first appearance on the criminal case for drunken driving.
If convicted of a DUI in the criminal case, a DUI license suspension will follow, but for a first offense DUI, the adult driver will have limited driving privileges immediately available that day, or the next day that DDS offices are open, to GA licensees.
Why You Need a Skilled and Knowledgeable DUI Attorney
If you go to this OSAH hearing without a DUI lawyer at your side, then you are at high risk of suspension of your Georgia driver license if you lose that hearing.
This pitfall is one that you cannot risk screwing up. For out of state licensees, total suspension of your right to drive in Georgia is the penalty, and this notice can be sent to your state driver’s license authority, causing similar problems in your home state.
Most significantly, in an implied consent refusal case, if you lose, you have no further right to drive in Georgia until your twelve month suspension has run its course.
You cannot go into court and plead guilty quickly, and get your right to drive reinstated. No criminal court judge and no administrative law judge can reinstate your ability to drive, regardless of whether you enter a guilty plea. This is because the Georgia legislature wrote the harsh GA DUI laws in a fashion that the total suspension stays in place “by operation of law.”
The rules for getting a limited driving permit are different in many other states (e.g., Florida), but you are NOT facing a DUI charge in another state. You face a DUI Georgia charge.
If you want to SPEAK with an experienced and well-versed DUI attorney in GA, call us NOW at 1-888-DUI-HEAD [or 1-888-384-4323] for a professional assessment of your driving under the influence case. Our Georgia DUI lawyers cover the entire State of Georgia.
Or, if you can’t call right now, send us some basic case details and arrest information and we will call you back when you request us to do so.
Since our FLAT fees cover both the administrative and the criminal aspects of the drunk driving arrest, and since we are able to keep almost 100% of our DUI law firm clients driving (with at least a limited driving permit), why not make the FREE call?
Ask for my DUI book for people facing a drunk driving arrest, and we will give you a FREE PDF copy. It is a $99 hardcover, 430-page book on Georgia DUI law. Does every DUI lawyer know how to get DUI charges dropped? Absolutely not! Call DUI lawyer Bubba Head and let him show you how to beat a DUI.