Hiring a Georgia DUI Lawyer in Atlanta to Fight a DUI Case

By: Lawrence A. Kohn, an Atlanta DUI Lawyer and Partner with Bubba Head for Over 20 Years

 

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This article is written to explain WHY you need to FIGHT a DUI case. Surprisingly, few Georgia DUI attorneys have a full knowledge of dozens of proven DUI defenses and challenges available in impaired driving cases. Most don’t know how to SUPPRESS the State’s legal blood alcohol limit test results or the breathalyzer legal limit “test card.”

In contrast to that situation, our criminal defense attorneys in Atlanta encourage our clients to CHALLENGE the Prosecution’s case. For those willing to give their DUI lawyer a chance to WIN, we are the firm you want to hire. Plus, protecting a drivers license is critical, since a DUI conviction suspends driving privileges.

Read defense attorney William C. Head’s article about the “Top 11 Questions Clients Ask About DUI Defense in Georgia“. As a book author for over 28 years, Mr. Head has written on every criminal law topic from bail bonds to appeals, and 50 ways to beat a DUI.

GA DUI Blood Test

Trying to self-assess how GOOD or BAD your DUI case in Georgia may be is foolhardy. Our lawyers for DUI defense have won cases with alcohol readings on a breathalyzer of over .30 (more than TRIPLE the legal limit), plus cases with accidents, or arrests when the client failed the field sobriety tests requested by police, and every other possible set of facts. If you don’t FIGHT, you CAN’T WIN.

Georgia DUI laws change every year and DUI penalties get more severe, even for a DUI first offense case. Plus, the loss of driving privileges is part of our laws on DUI in Georgia. Included in our fees will be all administrative license suspension issues with Georgia DDS.

A Georgia DUI misdemeanor conviction requires mandatory jail time up to 24 hours, court fines, Risk Reduction School (DUI classes), community service hours, alcohol and drug screening by a Georgia licensed professional counselor, and probation for 12 months, minus any days spent in custody at a detention center. Worst of all, IF CONVICTED, you carry that conviction to the GRAVE. A DUI in Georgia cannot be expunged or “record restricted.”

GA DUI Jail Time

Repeat DUI convictions, especially if occurring within the last 5 years (measured by dates of arrest) means that a Court MUST escalate your DUI penalties. Twelve months of jail time is possible, thousands of dollars of fines and state of Georgia surcharges, 240 hours of community service, total driver’s license loss (with no limited driving permit) for at least 120 days on a 2nd DUI in 5 years. Your sentencing judge can add other penalties, tailored to the extenuating circumstances of your drunk driving case.

Second DUI GA

Initial Drinking and Driving Arrests in Georgia Are for DUI “Less Safe”

When a motorist is investigated by a law enforcement officer and arrested for drunk driving or drugged driving, this type of crime is ALWAYS for “DUI less safe” by virtue of some impairing substance. Alcohol is the leader for the IMPAIRING substance in cases involving DUI in Georgia. Marijuana is a distant second. Other drugs (including prescribed medications) rank third, and other impairing substances take up less than 1% of DUI arrests. At the point in time that an arrest is affected, a police officer is only GUESSING that you are over the legal limit.

GA DUI Alcohol

Only three types of DUI per se crimes are part of GA DUI laws:

Alcohol [as defined under OCGA 40-6-391 (a)(5)] for drivers age 21 and over, or O.C.G.A 40-6-391 (k)(1) [underage drivers], and operators of a commercial motor vehicle, under OCGA 40 6 391 (i);

Marijuana [as defined under OCGA 40-6-391 (a)(6) marijuana AND/OR

Controlled Substances, as defined in 16-13-1 (4): “Controlled substance” means a drug, substance, or immediate precursor in Schedules I through V of Code Sections 16-13-25 through 16-13-29 and Schedules I through V of 21 C.F.R. Part 1308.

In simple terms, a contraband (illegal) substance like crystal meth or cocaine OR any medically-prescribed substance for which you don’t have a prescription OR have taken an EXCESSIVE amount your prescribed medicine OR combined it with another impaired substance that is “impairing” your ability to drive safely.

To enable the police to accuse you and prosecute you for exceeding the DUI limit (alcohol, marijuana or other controlled or illicit drugs), SOME TYPE of post-arrest test must be obtained, via your consent, under the legal coercion of the implied consent laws, or via a judicial search warrant. Absent the availability of a “DUI legal limit” forensic reading, only the “less safe” DUI can be prosecuted, which is easier to defend than when TWO types of DUI charges are given to a jury to consider for guilt or innocence.

How A DUI Per Se “Count” Is Added as Another Georgia DUI Charge

As soon as the arrest for an Atlanta DUI is made the officer (under Georgia implied consent law) must immediately read the implied consent notice. This is a special statute that threatens to take away your driving privileges UNLESS you SAY YES and consent to letting the police officer collect a forensic sample of blood, breath or urine IN ORDER TO ALSO be able to determine WHAT IS IN YOUR SYSTEM.

This information, if given, will be the State’s evidence for prosecuting you for being over the legal drinking limit (if alcohol is the substance.) If the blood alcohol content is low, the GBI will further test the blood to see what drugs are present, plus quantitate the concentration of each drug that is in your bloodstream (if any substance other than alcohol is in your blood or urine test).

DUI Blood Test

If the test is obtained by your consent, Georgia DUI laws for administrative license suspension treat you more fairly than if you have a DUI refusal. If you REFUSE the implied consent test, an officer can use another Georgia DUI statute, OCGA 40-5-67.1 (d.1) to secure a judicial search warrant to forcibly take your blood. In this second scenario, the driver faces a potential 12-month total driver license suspension AND may have to face BOTH a DUI less safe “count” in the accusation PLUS the DUI per se “count.”

Legal Alcohol Limit in GA

GA Legal Limit Driving Drunk

Once arrested, many citizens (for the first time in their life) want to know “what is the legal BAC limit in Georgia?” It is common knowledge that DUI-DWI laws across America restrict the amount of alcohol a driver can have in his or her bloodstream when operating a vehicle (a measurement known as blood alcohol content, or BAC level.)

GA BAC Blood Alcohol Content

The limit in all states except Utah, for adult drivers age 21 and over, is 0.08 grams percent. Utah passed a new, lower BAC limit of 0.05 grams percent which became effective in January of 2019.

Our laws proscribing DUI in GA do not want a person to drive if any substance is altering his or her ability to drive. The legal alcohol limit in GA varies based upon the driver’s age, and type of vehicle. Three BAC legal limit numbers need to be remembered, inasmuch as Georgia laws for intoxicated driving define what amount of alcohol can be in a person’s bloodstream before being DUI “per se” alcohol, under THREE separate scenarios:

Drivers age 21 and over – 0.08 grams or more present + per se DUI;

Commercial motor vehicle operators are charged at 0.04 grams percent or more; and

Underage motorists, under age 21, are prosecuted at 0.02 grams percent or more, for the under 21 per se BAC legal limit.

Under the state’s blood alcohol content limits, driving with a BAC of 0.08% is considered grounds for an arrest, regardless of signs of impairment. Thus. a sleeping driver, parked on the shoulder of the highway who has the keys to that vehicle, can be convicted of DUI in Georgia.

Similarly, individuals under 21 can be charged with DUI if they are caught driving with a BAC level of 0.02% or more. Commercial vehicle operators driving their commercial truck bus or passenger van are also subjected to a maximum BAC limit of just 0.04%.

DUI-Drugs Or DUI-Marijuana

Drivers who consume alcohol or drugs to the point of impairment will be prosecuted for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Drunk driving is not something taken lightly by the State of Georgia. DUI laws are vigorously enforced, and violations carry hefty DUI penalties and related DUI consequences (e.g., possibly not being allowed to travel to Canada after a conviction), if that driver is convicted of impaired driving in GA.

Georgia DUI law, under OCGA 40-6-391, allows the Prosecutor to seek conviction on as many TYPES of DUI GA crimes as possible. Georgia DUI laws prohibit any person from operating or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle if he or she is under the influence of any substance—including alcohol, drugs, marijuana, glue, and/or toxic vapors.

Six different subsections of the Georgia Code for DUI apply to these varying substances or impairing products. The even numbered sections (a)(2), (a)(4), and (a)(6) all relate to DUI-drugs of one type or another. Drugs can be contraband, like cocaine, PCP or crack, or marijuana, or even prescription drugs that a person takes under doctor’s orders. Also, over-the-counter products like Benadryl can cause enough impairment to support a Georgia DUI.

Confusing Field Sobriety Testing With Implied Consent Testing

Almost EVERY client who hires us has mistakenly thought that he or she HAD to try to perform roadside field sobriety test exercises that the investigating officer OFFERED THEM. That is FALSE. Everything being requested of a DUI suspect prior to arrest is OPTIONAL, VOLUNTARY and no license suspension can occur for DECLINING such pre-arrest, roadway evaluations. Human factors scientists who have studied the field tests have found that reliability hovers around 45% to 60%, which is a dismally poor score.

All REAL standardized tests, like the SAT, ACT, IQ and other well-known, universally accepted standardized tests have a 90% or better reliability score. These so-called “field tests” used by police were never validated by independent biometric scientists to be highly reliable. In fact, in 1984, the NHTSA DWI Field Sobriety Test Manual was released for use without first subjecting it to “peer review” and feedback from clinical psychologists or medical doctors.

After arrest, THAT test that police ask you to take, can determine whether you can drive in Georgia IF YOU REFUSE IT. Once the cuffs are applied to your wrists, or you are TOLD you are under arrest for driving while intoxicated. Next, the officer reads you a “notice” called the implied consent law. THIS chemical test of blood, breath, urine or ALL 3 types of testing, is required, else you could lose your right to drive for a FULL YEAR.

Testing under The Georgia Implied Consent Law After Arrest For DUI In GA

So, DUI “tests” must be separated into two different categories, with the pre-arrest testing defined as field sobriety tests or roadside evaluations. The three standardized NHTSA field sobriety tests (SFSTs) include: horizontal gaze nystagmus, one-leg-stand test, and the walk-and-turn test.

GA DUI Arrest BAC

Many officers also will offer a hand-held breath alcohol test, but THIS IS OPTIONAL, too. Chemical tests on the Intoxilyzer 9000 at the police station are typically more accurate, and are, therefore, more likely to be admissible in court. Your need a law firm near me that knows how to exclude a breath alcohol test under implied consent law challenges or constitutional and statutory motions to exclude the alcohol breath test.

GA DUI Breathalyzer

Blood alcohol content is obtained from testing blood, breath or urine. Though more scientific in nature, good defenses can be asserted for each of these various types of chemical test results.

DUI Penalties and Consequences of a First Offense DUI

A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor in Georgia. Although a misdemeanor conviction, the long-term DUI consequences and impact on your career, your driving privileges, and the cost of insurance can be immense.

If convicted, even of a DUI first offense in GA, you may face:

  • Jail Time (24 hours to 12 months)
  • Hefty fines and surcharges (can exceed $2,000 in a DUI drugs case)
  • Extensive community service hours to be performed
  • Driver license suspension, limited driving privileges and reinstatement costs later
  • Probation for at least 12 months
  • Mandatory Alcohol and Drug Evaluation and Treatment as Required
  • Random screening
  • Possible attendance of a MADD VIP (or equivalent course)
  • Permanent criminal record that CANNOT be expunged or restricted

You may be tempted to give up and just plead guilty, thinking that you have no chance of winning your DUI case anyway. However, it you settle for pleading guilty without fighting your DUI case, you will experience all the criminal sanctions, loss of license, and civil penalties mentioned above.

Multiple DUI Offenses Causes HUGE Problems

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To the foregoing 1st DUI penalties and consequences, ADD the following other conviction penalties for a second DUI in 5 years, or subsequent GA DUI conviction:

  • Publication of your conviction record, sentencing and mug shot in the local newspaper (see above);
  • Confiscation of all motor vehicle tags from your vehicle(s);
  • Having to comply with the Interstate Compact law that curtails your ability to leave the state of GA for any reason, without permission from the incoming state, and from Georgia probation;
  • Possible loss of professional licensing (e.g., nursing, medical doctor, dentist, cosmetology, real estate license) in certain fields for which State of Georgia licensing is required;
  • Being banned from getting a bartending license in certain municipal locations;
  • Being unable to obtain a liquor license for a restaurant or bar; and
  • Being barred from driving your minor children anywhere, at any time, for any purpose

If this is not your first DUI charge, then you need to pay close attention. Second offenders may face a three-year administrative license suspension and ignition interlock. The potential administrative license suspension is raised to five years if a suspect is convicted a third time with five years, plus you are then declared a “habitual violator.” Vehicle confiscation and sale as an instrument of a felony crime may be initiated by the District Attorney upon a fourth arrest or conviction of a DUI felony.

This is all in addition to your insurance being cancelled, or paying higher insurance rates, substantial fines and surcharges and a greatly increased possibility of significant jail time. It should be obvious that if this is not your first driving while impaired case, your DUI charges need to be taken even more seriously, and only the best DUI lawyers in Georgia considered.

How a Georgia DUI Lawyer Can Help

Many ways exist for a skilled and experienced DUI attorney to reduce or potentially eliminate a DUI charge. Many DUI arrests begin in a municipal court but can be transferred to a jury trial court (a state court or superior court) if no “deal” can be negotiated in the lower court. But if you are considering not hiring a lawyer or just choosing a lawyer at random by searching all lawyers near me, you should probably think again.

DUI law is one of the most complicated areas of law, partly because it’s always changing. In fact, the Georgia DUI Laws and related Code sections has over 30,000 words in its various provisions! Considering the LIFETIME criminal record a DUI conviction brings, why would you NOT fight to keep a conviction off your record?

At Georgia Criminal Defense, our criminal justice attorneys have been practicing DUI defense across the state of Georgia for decades. Our criminal defense lawyers know the judges and prosecutors. Our attorneys in Atlanta know how state troopers and local police officers operate. Our DUI defense lawyers know the ins and outs of the legal system and our lawyers in Atlanta know how to prepare effective and aggressive DUI defense.

What you need is a team of lawyers who work with DUI cases in Georgia just like yours every single day. You need lawyers that know the “ins and outs” of the courtroom, from what papers need to be file to be suppress wrongfully obtained evidence to which “jury charge” requests are proper before jury selection.

And you need a team of lawyers with a dedicated staff to help research and investigate your case from interviewing witnesses to speaking with police. The three partners at Georgia Criminal Defense, Georgia DUI attorney Cory Yager (and ex-cop for nearly a decade), Atlanta DUI attorney Larry Kohn (who has over 450 AVVO 5-star ratings from former clients, endorsing his skills as a DUI attorney).

William C. “Bubba” Head, is one of only 4 Board-Certified DUI attorneys in Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1976 and spending 14 years in practice in Athens GA, he moved to Atlanta. Bubba Head has achieved Top Ratings as the Best DUI lawyer in Georgia by more Legal Attorney ratings services than any other Georgia attorneys, is ready to handle your case!

Look For a DUI Specialist With at Least 1,000 Prior Successful Cases to His or Her Credit

Our goal at Georgia Criminal Defense is to obtain an acquittal, a dismissal or reduction of your DUI charge so you can resume your life and be able to sleep soundly at night. In a nutshell, our Georgia DUI lawyers take the burden off your shoulders and shift it over to our shoulders. Every one of our partners have achieved success for our clients in over 1,000 Georgia DUI cases, so you know you are in the right place for your criminal defense.

A DUI conviction can mean loss of license, higher insurance rates, mandatory ignition interlock, travel limitations, and possibly jail time. Do not leave the task of fighting a DUI case to chance, or merely letting a search engine deliver the names of unknown DUI lawyers near me. You would not do that for finding the best surgeon, so why do it for your worst legal problem in your life?

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Knowledge is power, and few lawyers in Atlanta know GA DUI laws better than our three law partners. What other Atlanta law firm or office with Georgia lawyers anywhere in the State of Georgia has THREE different, legal book authors in NATIONAL publication? What other DUI law office has 100% of its DUI attorneys as Georgia Super Lawyers? En Español.

2019 Overcoming Hardship Scholarship

Attorneys Lawrence Kohn and Cory Yager are proud to introduce the Overcoming Hardship Scholarship. Students who have faced hardships in their life and worked hard to overcome and achieve their goals deserve to be recognized. For more information about eligibility and the application process, please visit our scholarship page.

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