What Does It Mean If I Have Been Charged With “DUI Less Safe”?

It is commonly known that driving with a BAC above 0.08 is considered driving under the influence in Georgia. But, the police may still charge you with DUI if your BAC is below 0.08 if they feel that you are less safe to drive than you would have been if you had not consumed alcohol.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 (a)(1) states that “a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive”. This simply means that you may still be charged, and convicted of, DUI even if your BAC registers at a level below 0.08.

If you have been charged with DUI less safe, it is important that you hire an experienced DUI attorney to fight to protect your driver’s license and to prevent the long-term consequences that come with a DUI conviction. The lawyers at W. Scott Smith are experienced with the nuances associated with a DUI case and will work to protect you and resolve your case with the best possible outcome. Call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

License Consequences for DUI Convictions in the Municipal Court of Atlanta

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

In Georgia, an individual may be charged with DUI under the following circumstances:

  • If he/she was in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while he/she was under the influence of alcohol to an extent that it was less safe for them to drive.
  • If he/she was in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while he/she was under the influence of any drug to an extent that it was less safe for them to drive.
  • If he/she was in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while he/she was under the influence of a combination of any two or more controlled substances, which does include alcohol, to an extent that it was less safe for them to drive.
  • If he/she was in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while his/her alcohol concentration was .08 grams or more, or at any time within three hours after such driving ended.
  • If he/she was in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while there was any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined by O.C.G.A § 16-13-21, present in his/her blood or urine.

If an accused is convicted of a DUI in the Municipal Court of Atlanta, pursuant to O.C.G.A § 40-6-391, his/her license will be suspended. This is a mandatory suspension required by the Department of Driver’s Services. The length of the suspension is decided by how many prior DUI convictions he/she has had in the last five years. Those suspensions are as follows:

  • If the accused has not had a prior DUI conviction in the last five years:
    • The suspension will be for a period of 120 days.
    • During that suspension, the accused will be eligible for a limited permit to drive if he/she is a resident of Georgia, and he/she has not had a prior DUI conviction in the last five years.
    • After the 120-day license suspension, the accused will be eligible to get their permanent license back if he/she has completed a Risk Reduction Course, otherwise known as DUI school, and paid a $210 reinstatement fee.
  • If this is the second DUI conviction in the last five years for the accused:
    • The suspension will be for a period of 18 months.
    • For the first 4 months of the suspension, there will be a hard suspension with no eligibility for a limited permit. This means for the first 4 months, he/she will not be able to drive.
    • After the first 4 months, he/she may be issued a limited permit if he/she installs an ignition interlock in their vehicle.
    • After the full 18 months, the accused will be able to reinstate their permanent license if he/she has completed a substance abuse evaluation, and recommended treatment, and has shown proof of that completion to the Department of Driver’s Services.
  • The most serious license suspension happens to drivers who have been convicted of a third DUI in the last five years.
    • If that occurs, the driver will be considered a Habitual Violator.
    • This will require a 5-year license suspension, and there is no eligibility for a limited permit.
    • Only after two years can an accused be eligible for a probationary license to drive.
    • It is very important that the accused not drive if he/she is a Habitual Violator, as he/she could be arrested for a felony, if caught driving, that carries at least one year in jail.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the license suspension consequences of a DUI conviction, it is of vital importance to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know every aspect of defending a DUI, we understand the defenses to the charge, we take pride in advocating for our clients’ constitutional rights, and we detail all options for our clients when defending their case. If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI in Atlanta, and you are worried about the license consequences associated with a conviction, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia DUI

When you are pulled over for suspicion of a DUI, the officer will conduct a test called “horizontal gaze nystagmus” or HGN for short. This is the test where an officer will ask you to follow either their finger or a pen to see if the eyes involuntarily jerk or twitch as your eyes move laterally.

The test must be done correctly. The officer must place the stimulus (usually a pen or their finger) 12 to 15 inches away from your nose and slightly above eye level. Then the officer must move the stimulus in a stage consisting of 14 passes. The first stage of passes has the officer moving the stimulus from left to right to center for at least two seconds to check or equal tracking of the pupils.

The second stage has the officer place the stimulus from the center position to your left and back to the center. They will repeat this for the right eye. The stimulus should be moved at a speed that takes at least two seconds from the center position to the side position.

The third stage of passes is designed to determine whether the person has distinct nystagmus at the point in which your eye is fully moved to one side and cannot move any further. The stimulus moves from center to the side taking at least two seconds, holding at the side for at least four seconds, and then moved back to the center in at least two seconds.

The final stage is a set of four passes designed to determine if the onset nystagmus occurs before your eye moves to a 45-degree deviation. It must take at least four seconds to move the stimulus from your center to a spot around your shoulder. The stimulus must be held long enough to confirm the onset nystagmus. Each of the passes in this phase must take at least eight seconds, with a three second count out, a two second count hold, and a three second count back.

 

It is vital to note that the entirety of the HGN test must take AT LEAST 82 seconds- usually around 90 seconds. If the officer is well under that time, then they employed the test incorrectly and the HGN test can be excluded from any evidence that could indicate potential impairment. The stimulus must also remain in the 12 to 15 inch range from your nose and its path cannot loop or curve. If it does, then the officer did not administer the test properly. If you’re pulled over for a DUI, make sure you know the process for HGN evaluation and call our office today.

Decriminalized weed does not mean legal weed

Some cities in Georgia, including Atlanta, have decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of weed. However, it is still very much illegal in the state of Georgia. So, what does that mean? It means that police officers and prosecutors have a choice; they can charge you with a city ordinance violation OR a violation of state law. The difference is the penalty. In Atlanta, the city ordinance violation for possession of weed less than one ounce is a $75 fine. The state law violation is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 12 months to serve and a $1,000 fine.

Any drug charge can have serious consequences, even simple weed charge. For example, it can affect your job, housing, or driving privileges. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug offense it is important to have a knowledgeable advocate on your side. Call for a free consultation today.

I have a case in the Municipal Court of Atlanta and I missed a Court date. What do I do?

If you have a traffic or misdemeanor citation pending in the Municipal Court of Atlanta and you received notice that you missed a Court date, there is a chance that, unless you act quickly, your driver’s license will be suspended. Don’t panic! People make mistakes, forget to mark their calendars, pay a ticket online, or have moved and did not receive notice of the Court date. You can get your license reinstated or prevent the license from going into suspension by following these steps:

The quickest way to resolve the issue is to go directly to the Courthouse and fill out a “Waiver of Arraignment” form in the front office. These forms are located on the right side of the ground floor of the Courthouse, right past the metal detectors. It is in a room past the clerk’s windows, with vending machines and a snack bar. The form is located on a table in the front of the room. You can fill out the form with your name, citation number, and address. Once you complete the form, you must turn it into the clerk’s window, located immediately to the left of the vending machines. Once you submit this form, the Court will place you on a calendar so that you can come to Court to address the failure to appear. Once you appear in Court, the Judge will lift the FTA and issue you a form that you take to the Department of Drivers Services. Once DDS receives that form, the suspension or pending suspension on your driver’s license will be lifted. It is very important to remember that if your license has already been suspended, you MAY NOT DRIVE to the Courthouse, and will need to arrange alternate transportation.

You should also keep in mind that even if the FTA is lifted, your citation may not be resolved, and you may still need to go back to Court to resolve the case with a plea, trial, or diversion agreement.

If you live out of State or you are not able to attend Court, you should consider hiring an attorney who can complete this process for you. Do not put off addressing your FTA, and seek to handle it as quickly as possible. Failures to do so can result in consequences such as fees, warrants, and/or the loss of driving privileges. If you have an FTA in the Municipal Court of Atlanta, give us a call for a free consultation. Our office is only blocks away, and we can help you address the FTA and get your driving privileges reinstated. For questions or a free consultation, call us at 404-581-0999.

Teen and Young Adult Traffic Tickets in Georgia

By: Mary Agramonte, W. Scott Smith PC

If you are a high school or college aged student with a traffic ticket pending in Georgia, it is important to note that young drivers have much different penalties in traffic court than adult drivers. There are several traffic citations in Georgia that can have harsh consequences to those convicted if under the age of 21.

The following offenses will suspend a driver’s license if the driver is under the age of 21 at the time of the conviction:

  • Speeding 24-mph or more over the limit
  • Hit and Run
  • Racing
  • Fleeing or Attempting to Elude
  • Reckless Driving
  • Improper Passing on a Hill or a Curve
  • Unlawful Passing of a School Bus
  • Driving under the Influence
  • Aggressive Driving

In addition to the offenses listed above, if the driver is under the age of 18, accumulating 4 or more points in any 12-month period will also suspend driving privileges. This can occur by being cited in two separate incidents. For example, if a driver is first convicted of Following too Closely at one point, and within the year, a minor speeding ticket, this would put the teen driver over four points, thereby suspending his or her license.

Simply paying the ticket and not attending court is considered a conviction and will count towards the points accumulation.

In the above scenarios, there is no limited permit available for driving privileges. The State will issue a minimum 6-month license suspension. There is one exception to that rule: if the driver is convicted of driving 24-mph over the speeding ticket, and they are between the ages of 18 and 21, the sentencing judge may issue a limited permit in their discretion.

In addition to the license suspension, penalties for under 21 teen and young adult drivers may include probation, driving classes, community service, and fines (and jail, in some scenarios like hit and run, fleeing and attempting to elude, reckless driving, DUI, and more).

Due to the consequences of traffic tickets on teen and young adult drivers, it is highly beneficial to consult with an experienced traffic defense lawyer. A skilled criminal defense lawyer knows the repercussions of traffic tickets on under 21 drivers, and can potentially negotiate amended charges and reduced penalties. This will not only protect young drivers from license suspensions, but can also avoid points being assessed and reported to insurance companies, thereby avoiding rate increases.

If you are a driver under the age of 21 years old, or the parent of one, reach out to the lawyers at W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999

Following Too Closely – Traffic Lawyer

Fender benders happen all over Georgia every day. If you were involved in a car accident where your vehicle struck a vehicle in front of you, the police officer likely issued you a citation for Following too Closely, and gave you a court date to attend.

Georgia law states that drivers shall not follow another vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” This means that causing a fender bender accident, or hitting the vehicle in front of you, is a violation of the Following too Closely law. On the other hand, an officer can issue a citation for Following too Closely even if there was no car accident. This occurs where a police officer observes you travelling too closely “than is reasonable and prudent” to the vehicle in front of you. Even with no accident, following another vehicle too closely is a sufficient legal basis for an officer to stop and investigate you and the vehicle.

Do I have to go to Court for a Following too Closely ticket?

In most courts in Georgia, a court appearance is required. In some cases, an attorney can appear on behalf of someone charged under this law.

What happens if I am charged or convicted with Following too Closely?

Following too Closely is a misdemeanor in Georgia. This means the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine plus court costs and fees. Additionally, if you plead guilty to Following too Closely, it will be reported to your Motor Vehicle Report and three (3) points will be assessed, and insurance can be notified. If a driver gets 15 points in a 2 year period, your Georgia driver’s license will be suspended. A Following too Closely citation can raise insurance rates.

What are the defenses in a Following too Closely case?

It is a jury question whether or not you followed the other vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” An experienced lawyer can use this statute in negotiations with the prosecutors. Plea negotiations can occur where the Following too Closely charge gets reduced to a different violation that does not carry points, or get reported to your insurance. A jury trial, or a bench trial in front of the Judge, are options in a Following too Closely case in Georgia.

If you have been cited for Following too Closely and issued a citation, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

What type of trial should I have?

A trial is when you present all the facts in your case and it is heard by, either a judge or jury, who then determine whether you are guilty or innocent. You get to decide what type of trial you would like. There are two types of trials: a jury trial or a bench trial. In a bench trial, the judge determines whether you are guilty or innocent. In a jury trial, people from the community, that you have a say in choosing, determine whether you are guilty or innocent. Depending on your case, we can help you decide which trial is best for your case. Typically, jury trials are best but consulting with an attorney can better advise you of which type of trial is best for your specific case.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime and are deciding between what type of trial to have, having a lawyer help you through the process can ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

What is Arraignment?

If you are charged with committing a crime, there are many different hearings that you might have to attend. One of those is an Arraignment. What is an Arraignment? An arraignment is the first court appearance or first court date someone receives after they get out of jail on bond or after they receive a traffic ticket. Some counties don’t give you a court date immediately. Other counties will mail you a court date. Sometimes it can be a while before you have your first court date.

What is the purpose of Arraignment? Arraignment is to notify you what your charges are and give you an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. In Georgia, every defendant has the right to an arraignment in a felony and misdemeanor case.

Sometimes the charge you were originally given or arrested for is not the same charge that the prosecutor is going forward on. This means that they can charge you with something more serious or charge you with something less serious.

Arraignment is not the time where you can present evidence or argue your case to the judge.  It is simply the time to enter guilty or not guilty and hear the formal charges the prosecutor is moving forward against you on. In all, not much happens at Arraignment. Ideally, you should have an attorney to represent you at arraignment. A lawyer can appear in court on your behalf and waive arraignment to excuse you from court.

If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with a crime or is under investigation, having a lawyer help you through the process can ensure your rights are protected. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

 

Disorderly Conduct in Fulton County, Georgia

If you have been charged with Disorderly Conduct in Fulton County, you are facing a misdemeanor charge for which the maximum penalty is a year in jail and a fine of $1000. Disorderly conduct should not be taken lightly, as a conviction can have consequences on your employment, immigration status, probation, and future cases.

Georgia law defines disorderly conduct as “acting in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby he/she is placed in reasonable fear of the safety of his/her life, limb or health, or whereby his/her property is placed of being damaged or destroyed.” It is also defined as “without provocation, using opprobrious or abusive words which by their very utterance tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace (i.e. fighting words – which will naturally tend to provoke violent resentment); or, without provocation, uses obscene and vulgar or profane language in the presence of or by telephone to a person under 14 which threatens an immediate breach of the peace.” OCGA 16-11-39(a).

If you have been charged with committing disorderly conduct in any of those four ways, –acting in a violent manner towards a person or a person’s property, using fighting words, or using obscene language towards a child 14 and under– you need quality legal representation to help resolve your case. Oftentimes, an attorney can help you to find a legal defense in your case. Perhaps the State cannot prove every element charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps the alleged victim has some serious credibility issues. Whatever it is, an experienced attorney can help to find weaknesses in the State’s case which would benefit you at trial. Sometimes, trial is not a good option for you if you have some criminal history, if the alleged victim is credible or a special class (children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc.) or because the case against you is very strong. In situations like these, a plea deal may be in your best interest. In this case, our attorneys have had success in negotiating reductions with Fulton County prosecutors to less serious crimes like reckless conduct, or can arrange for you to enter into a diversion program which would result in your case being dismissed.

These are strategies which an experienced attorney can utilize to get a good outcome in your case. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct in Fulton County, our firm offers free consultations. Feel free to give us a call to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your case. 404-581-0999.