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The Atlanta DUI Process

If you have been arrested for DUI in Metro Atlanta, including Buckhead, Midtown, or Downtown, you will want a lawyer who practices a majority of DUI law to defend your case in court. With Georgia’s current DUI laws, drivers accused of DUI face not only administrative penalties like license suspension, but also face jail time, community service, court mandated treatment and the like for DUI convictions.

On a first DUI in Atlanta, your case will start in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court where you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to begin gathering evidence and negotiating with the Atlanta Solicitor’s Office. The solicitor is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor and city ordinance crimes in court. Whether your case closes in Atlanta will be a question for your lawyer to guide you on after thoroughly reviewing the ins and outs of your arrest.

If a deal is unable to be negotiated in Atlanta’s court, you have the right to a trial in Fulton County. When I discuss this with clients, I make sure to inform them that transferring a case to Fulton County will likely result in at least a 9-12 month delay before the court has your new file. For most clients, this is not a huge deal, however, if your case is time sensitive for one reason or another, you will want to take this into account.

Atlanta DUI Lawyer Evan Watson

After you have been arrested, it is important to begin the process of looking for a lawyer who you feel comfortable with representing you.  A good DUI lawyer in Atlanta can range dramatically in price, and price shopping is never the best method for acquiring your lawyer.  Additionally, you will want to select a lawyer who you feel truly cares about and understands the key issues in your case.  At a minimum, you should make sure to discuss:

  • Your career background information, including all schooling, job fields, and positions held
  • Your personal goals and home life situation
  • The day or evening before your arrest and what transpired beforehand
  • The actual arrest itself including details about how you were driving, how field sobriety tests were performed and what happened after arrest
  • The events when you arrived at jail, including conversations had w staff or other officers
  • If you took a breath or blood test, be ready to discuss everything about it- did the machine seem to be having problems? did you change your mind about a test?
  • Your license status and any anticipated work related or driving problems that you foresee

Typically, a first interview with a client last somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour, so make sure you have this time set aside.  Also, ask questions.  Wanting to know the timeline of your case, expected issues and the lawyer’s overall experience with cases similar to yours is not unreasonable.  I encourage potential clients to write things out- the more details you have down on paper, the better you will be, especially if your case ends up dragging on for months or even more than a year.

If you have questions, or would like to speak to me 1-on-1 about your DUI arrest, give me a call or contact me through this website.  I will be happy to set aside time to speak to you and schedule an appointment to meet.

 

 

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Forty-nine year old Sharon Mitchell-Golden has been charged with second degree vehicular homicide for striking and killing 17-year-old Dakota Waters as he crossed Lawrenceville Highway on Wednesday morning.  On Thursday, Mitchell turned herself in to the Gwinnett County Detention Center where she was booked on charges of vehicular homicide 2nd degree and a turn lane violation.

In Georgia, second degree vehicular homicide is a misdemeanor crime that can carry up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.  Additionally, probation, court ordered classes and community service can be ordered for drivers convicted of vehicular homicide.  Typically, where an investigation does not reveal any aggravating factors like excessive speed or recklessness, alcohol, or drug use, misdemeanor charges are levied.  In serious cases, Georgia law does permit felony vehicular homicide charges.

 

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City of Atlanta Municipal Court

Current for December 2012:

Courtroom 1A: PTIT, Traffic Pretrial Program

Courtroom 3A: Attorney Pretrials

Courtroom 3B: Judge Gaines

Courtroom 5A: Judge Ward

Courtroom 5B: Judge Harris

Courtroom 5C: Judge Sloan

Courtroom 5D: Judge Mickle

Courtroom 6A: Judge Carslile

Courtroom 6C: Judge Graves

Courtroom 6D: Judge Jackson

 

Contact Information:

Municipal Court of Atlanta

150 Garnett Street SW

Atlanta, Georgia 30303

Tel: 404.658.6940

municourt@atlantaga.gov

 

 

 

 

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If you have been arrested by the Georgia State Patrol or City of Atlanta Police Department in Buckhead, you probably received a form that notifies you that your license is going to be suspended.  This notice is given if you blow over the legal limit, or refuse to take a state test.  Once you have received this form, you must draft an appeal letter if you want to have any chance of keeping your driving ability in Georgia.  When this appeal letter is properly drafted and sent, you will be scheduled for a hearing to determine if the officer has sufficient grounds for suspending your license.  These hearings are conducted at the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings in Midtown, Atlanta.

Officers patrolling Buckhead for DUI drivers take these license hearings very seriously.  Because the hearing is usually only 30-60 days from your arrest, it is important to have your case prepared quickly so you are ready for this hearing.  Open records requests, informal requests and even subpoenas can be used to ensure that the evidence is produced in your case before you face a license suspension.

If you have been arrested in Buckhead, call my office today or email me directly to discuss how to approach the license suspension hearing in your case.  Remember, suspensions can range from 30 days to over a year, depending on your criminal history and facts of your case.  For more information, I can be reached at (404) 642-6333.

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So you’ve been arrested in Buckhead for a DUI.  Now what?  There are two stages you must prepare for in your defense.  The first stage is starting the appeal process for your driver’s license, while the second stage is defending your misdemeanor DUI charges.  I divide these stages up because you will usually have a shorter timeline for your driver’s license hearing, though with Atlanta Municipal Court’s current policies, that may not be the case.

If your license was taken- and sometimes even if it is not- you will only have 10 business days to send an appeal letter to the Department of Driver Services.  Otherwise, your license will be suspended for the prescribed time period, depending on your record and the facts of your current case.  You will want an attorney to draft this letter and send it to DDS certified, with the required $150 hearing fee.

The second stage of your DUI defense will include defending against your charge in Atlanta Municipal Court.  While you do have the right to a trial in Fulton County, currently, most first court dates, known as arraignment dates, are in Atlanta’s court.  The process in Atlanta can range from 30 days to months, depending on how long it takes to get full discovery in your case and negotiate with the solicitor (prosecutor) assigned to your case.  The City of Atlanta Solicitor’s Office is responsible for all prosecutions in Atlanta Municipal Court.

If you have a pending DUI arrest, and your citations were issued within Atlanta’s city limits, call or use the contact form on this website for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.  I have defended into the hundreds of cases in Atlanta’s court and will be happy to walk you through how I can assist in your defense.

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Bills aimed at lowering Georgia’s legal limit in Boating Under the Influence cases have so far failed to be passed in recent years.  In this past session, a bill made it through the House, but fizzled out in a Senate committee.  Currently, the legal limit is a .10 for boaters 21 and older.  The legislation is aimed at bringing BUI limits down to the .08 threshold already used to prosecute DUI cases.  There is already a zero tolerance law for boaters under 21 years old, who cannot have an alcohol content of more than .02.

With the summer season heating up in Georgia, there have already been tragedies on the water and enforcement of boating laws will surely be ramped up.  For boating safety tips and information, visit: http://www.georgiawildlife.com/boating.  The Dept. of Natural Resources has put a lot of useful information and safety tips on this page that will help all boaters have a safer summer on the water.

 

 

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If you have been charged with a disorderly conduct crime in Atlanta, you are usually scheduled to appear back in court within a few days of your arrest.  For business travelers or vacationers, this can mean having to unexpectedly extend your stay in Atlanta in order to attend court in the following days.  It is not uncommon for someone arrested on a Friday or Saturday night to be scheduled for a hearing the following Monday.  The potential hardships of extending a stay to attend court are obvious, yet you cannot reset this court date beforehand.

Your first court date is an arraignment where the judge and prosecutor list the charges against you and expect you to enter a plea.  Pleas are typically guilty, not guilty, or no contest, if the court accepts a no contest plea.   Fortunately, your defense lawyer can usually stand in for you at this first hearing and get an extension of time for you to come back and personally appear with your attorney.  Additionally, I frequently am able to negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf and sometimes secure an outcome in your case without you making another appearance in Atlanta.  This alone saves thousands in travel costs for most of my clients.  In a recent case, the court agreed to dismiss the charges against my client, in exchange for a few conditions being completed before the next court date- avoiding an appearance by the client.

If you have been arrested for disorderly conduct, disorderly under the influence, obstruction, DUI, or similar charges in Atlanta and have a court date in the Atlanta Municipal Court, call me to discuss your possible defenses and the possibility of avoiding having to personally appear in court on short notice.  I will also be happy to discuss possible pretrial program options, pleas, and the possibility of a dismissal of your case, depending on the evidence and facts of your case.

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As I was recently checking emails, I came across the following misleading paid ad link:

 

Unfortunately, with the way current Georgia law is written, your chances of having a DUI expunged are slim to none.  For example, if a DUI is dropped, but you plead to a lesser charge, your DUI arrest is not eligible for expungement.  Additionally, if your case is dismissed because a witness cannot be found or evidence of your DUI is suppressed or thrown out by the Judge, your arrest is not eligible for expungement.  Guilty pleas, no contest pleas, and even not guilty verdicts do not currently allow for record expungments in Georgia.

With this being said, the Georgia legislature recently passed and the Governor signed into law House Bill 1176, which would be more liberal with expungments in all criminal cases.  Expungements will now be possible in certain situations where the DA or Solicitor has not commenced a prosecution after an expiration of time, where a person is acquitted of all charges at trial, and where a person successfully completes a conditional discharge probation period or drug court program (without further trouble for 5 years).

While this will allow more Georgian’s to be eligible to have their future charges expunged, it will not apply retroactively and it makes no specific provisions for DUI arrests.  In January 2012, one Georgia  legislator proposed a bill aimed at DUI arrests specifically.  For now though, it appears as if being acquitted of all charges at trial could yield the largest benefit to DUI defendants fighting for a clear record.

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As you celebrate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, remember that DUI task force officers for the Georgia State Patrol and many municipalities will be out in full force to deter DUI drivers.  Holidays like Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day, Memorial Day and the like are seen by DUI officers as high-traffic holidays that yield more arrests than usual.  Here are a few tips to follow if you do plan on celebrating Cinco de Mayo out:

-Have a D/D or a taxi company handy and lined up before you make it out, this will increase the likelihood that you follow through and don’t get behind the wheel after drinking too much.

- If you do drink, do it in moderation.  If you feel buzzed or impaired, play it safe and call a cab.

If you do get pulled over, remember that even the slight odor of alcohol will likely lead to you being further investigated for DUI.  You have the right to decline to take any field sobriety tests, and you should.  These test, like standing on one leg and walking a line are designed for failure and hardly ever exonerate you.  You also have the right to decline any preliminary breath test.  Decline.  These handheld devices are not accurate and there is no standard procedure in place for checking their calibration.  In fact, they are generally only admissible in court for the limited purpose of showing whether you showed positive or negative for any alcohol.

If arrested, you will likely be read your Georgia Implied Consent rights.  You are legally obligated (but able to refuse) testing of your blood, breath, or urine under Georgia DUI laws.  While the chemical test is almost always a DUI officer’s strongest evidence against you- assuming you are over the limit- if you refuse testing, you typically face more harsh license penalties.  These laws get very convoluted very fast.  In general, the advice is to decline this testing.

If all else fails and you are arrested for DUI on this Cinco de Mayo, remember that you have deadlines to meet in defending your case.  Once you are arrested, booked in and bonded out, you will need to start building your defense.  If you are put in this situation, call me directly.  I handle DUI and other traffic and criminal cases throughout Metro Atlanta and will give you honest, solid advice on how to defend your case and how I can help you.

If you want to read more before calling, please see my helpful information on Georgia DUI laws and defending your case.  Also, see my recent client reviews for people that were in your situation.

 

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Almost all Metro Atlanta cities and the State of Georgia have a disorderly conduct law.  While disorderly conduct laws very slightly depending on where you are, they basically all outlaw the same type of actions.  These are usually catch-all laws that can be stretched around almost any type of conduct, but are commonly used to prosecute people under the influence and unruly and those disturbing the peace.

Typically, those charged with disorderly conduct violations are arrested, which can lead to long term problems with criminal background checks, as arrests and convictions could be reported to the State of Georgia and even Federal government.  If charged with disorderly conduct, it is important to understand the difference between a local ordinance charge and a state law charge; the differences in how the crimes are reported can be vital in securing the best result possible for your case.

Frequently, plea bargains can be obtained on disorderly conduct charges that result in the charges being dropped.  Sometimes, if your record is clear, and you have a strong case, expungment is also obtainable.  Community service, fines, probation, and some amount of counseling and/or classes are all things I have seen clients sentenced to in disorderly conduct cases. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, or a similar charge (disorderly under the influence, drunk and disorderly, interference with public property, obstruction) give me a call today to discuss your defense options.  Remember, how you plea and the fine print on any negotiated pleas can have lifelong effects on your record.  Call me or email me today and I will be happy to review your case with you.

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