No two cases are similar under the Georgia DUI process because of each case’s underlying facts and sequence of events. However, the court processes and other legal proceedings follow the same basic steps. Therefore, it helps to have a seasoned Atlanta DUI lawyer on your side to represent you, help you work through the legal process, and ensure you meet all court deadlines and hearings.
At Hines Law, we understand that Georgia driving under the influence (DUI) charges can be overwhelming and frightening without legal counsel. Therefore, our Atlanta personal injury and criminal defense attorneys are committed to serving all clients equally and providing the best legal representation possible.
At Hines Law, we also believe that informed clients help in their Georgia DUI case defense. Hence, in this post, we explain the steps involved in the Georgia DUI process and the steps involved, from the police stop to acquittal, sentencing, or appeal.
Georgia DUI Law
It is illegal to operate (drive) a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The state has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of .08%. Therefore, if the police find you driving with a BAC of .08% or more, they will arrest you for DUI.
What’s more, many Georgians don’t realize that the police can arrest a driver for being “less safe.” Under these provisions, the police and prosecution must prove that you were “less safe” to drive because you were drunk or intoxicated. In addition, this provision allows the police to arrest you even with a BAC of .05% to .07%.
Finally, Georgia DUI laws make it illegal for drivers under 21 years to operate or drive a vehicle with a .02 or higher BAC level.
A Two-Part Process
Apart from the BAC laws, it’s essential to understand the state’s two-part legal process. Once the police arrest you for a DUI offense, you face an automatic license suspension that you must contest. You face penalties from the following separate legal processes:
- Administrative License Suspension Hearing: You need to schedule a hearing and defend yourself before the Georgia Department of Driver Services. You have ten days to schedule the hearing or risk an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension.
- Criminal Case: You will also face criminal charges for your DUI offense, which involves a long and tedious process that requires the services of an Atlanta DUI lawyer.
The Georgia DUI Process
DUI offenses are criminal violations with severe consequences in Georgia. Additionally, various advocacy groups lobby heavily to the state’s judges and prosecutors to mete out punishments to the law’s fullest extent to discourage other offenders. Understanding the Georgia DUI process helps in preparing your defense.
1. The Stop
A traffic stop may occur while you are driving and a police officer pulls you over for some traffic violation, an accident, or erratic driving. Officers can also pull you over at a roadblock where they will perform a brief interview.
The officer will ask for your registration, driver’s license, and insurance. They will also observe any alcohol consumption. If the officer suspects you of DUI, they will ask follow-up questions and do field sobriety tests to ascertain and gather evidence of your intoxication. However, you don’t have to comply with field sobriety tests because officers primarily use them to gain probable cause of an arrest and build a case against you.
2. The Arrest
If the officer suspects a DUI offense, they will most likely arrest you and inform you of your rights plus the obligation to comply with blood, breath, and urine tests. Officers will require you to submit to a blood or breath test or both before booking you at the police station.
Booking involves fingerprinting, taking a photograph, and confiscating your driver’s license. Officers must issue you a form DDS 1205 for a license suspension.
The court and police may release you on your own recognizance, especially if it is your first offense, but a judge can ask you to post bond. You will then receive a citation with your first court appearance. If you or a bonding company fails to put up the money, you will remain in jail until you post it or your court date arrives.
3. The Arraignment
Before your arraignment (the first court appearance), it’s crucial to hire an Atlanta DUI lawyer who will handle your case professionally. First, the attorney will investigate your case to find out the facts, including procedural errors the police have performed up to that point. Your attorney will also negotiate a dismissal of charges or a reduced sentence with the prosecution.
At the arraignment, you can either:
- Plead guilty or no contest and have your license suspended. When the judge finds you guilty, the court clerk enters a conviction, which ends the process.
- Plead not guilty, and your case will proceed to trial. You have ten days to contest the legality of the arrest or evidence the police obtained by filing a legal motion.
Your Atlanta DUI lawyer will review the prosecution’s case against you during discovery, including evidence such as video, pictures, audio, and reports.
Your lawyer can opt for a motion to suppress and challenge the legality of the stop, your detention, standard field sobriety tests, arrest decision, and statements made.
4. Preparation for Trial
If the motion to suppress fails, your Atlanta DUI lawyer will prepare for trial by reviewing all the evidence again. They will also make calendar calls, reporting to the judge on the trial’s status and waiting for the court to call the case. The process can take months of moving on and out of court.
5. The Trial
At trial, the prosecution must prove your guilt (since it’s a criminal case) beyond a reasonable doubt. Your Atlanta DUI lawyer will get the opportunity to present expert defense witnesses, present defense evidence, utilize counter-arguments, and cross-examine the arresting police officers. The court will then either find you guilty or not guilty after the closing remarks. Of course, you can appeal a guilty judgment.
Hire an Atlanta DUI Lawyer from Hines Law
At Hines Law, we understand that a DUI charge is a scary and overwhelming experience. Thus, we can help you navigate the tedious legal process and offer legal advice. Contact us today if you face a DUI charge, have questions about the Georgia DUI process, or want a free initial consultation with an Atlanta DUI lawyer.