Georgia Marijuana DUI

According to Georgia’s DUI statute as it relates to marijuana and other drugs, a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while they are under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391. This means that the prosecution must prove, beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt, that the driver charged with DUI Drugs was impaired by marijuana or any other controlled substance. This standard is difficult for the prosecution to establish.

There are numerous governmental studies that have analyzed whether it can be determined from a blood or urine test, as well as from field sobriety tests, whether an officer can find that a driver was in fact impaired based on consumption of marijuana or other drugs. According to a 2017 congressional study, traditional law enforcement tools related to detecting drivers impaired by marijuana, and most other drugs, is significantly less valid or effective as those developed for alcohol. NHTSA, Marijuana Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress, 2017. In this study, it found that there was a poor correlation between THC concentrations in the blood and impairment. It concluded that a blood or urine sample from the driver, which tested the presence and amount of marijuana consumption, was not a reliable indicator of impairment. It further stated that there is not a reliable test used to determine how an average person eliminates drugs from the body as there is for alcohol. Therefore, an experienced criminal defense attorney could successfully defend a charge of DUI Drugs by arguing that a blood or urine test is not reliable to prove that the driver was in fact impaired.

Another possible defense for an attorney defending a DUI Drugs case is tolerance. In general, field sobriety tests, used by officers to determine whether a driver is under the influence while operating a motor vehicle, are sensitive to the effects of THC depending on dose and marijuana use history. The tolerance defense also can be used for most other drugs, as well as for alcohol. However, unlike for alcohol, field sobriety evaluations do little, if anything, to aid law enforcement in correctly identifying drivers who are impaired by drugs. Furthermore, low doses of marijuana for heavy cannabis users would not affect field sobriety test performance. W.M. Bosker, A Placebo-Controlled Study to Assess SFST Performance During Alcohol and Cannabis Intoxication in Heavy Cannabis Users, 2012. Additionally, many experts have found that human beings vary wildly in their sensitivity to marijuana, as well as for other drugs. See Love v. State, 271 Ga. 398 (1999). Without understanding exactly what phase and how the body is reacting to the drug, any assumption of the amount of the drug in the body would be a guess, and likely, not even an educated one at that. Furthermore, there are numerous factors that could determine how marijuana or other drugs will affect the driver, such as body size, gender, age, genetics, dosage, tolerance, etc. Thus, without knowing the full picture, any blood, urine test, or field sobriety evaluation would not be reliable and could not be applied in a fair and efficient manner that could justly convict a driver of DUI Drugs.

Therefore, it is of vital importance to hire a criminal defense attorney who understands these potential defenses, as well as the deficiencies of traditional law enforcement tools related to DUI detection. Here, at the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we are very experienced in the area of DUI Drugs, we understand the potential defenses, as well as all of your possible options. If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI Drugs, please call our office at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

 

 

Georgia DUI by Driver with Out of State License

A Georgia DUI arrest is a serious issue, even, and perhaps especially, for out-of-state drivers. Not only can a mere DUI arrest affect your ability to drive in Georgia, a conviction of DUI can also be reported to your home state and cause a driver’s license suspension. This article will discuss the implications of a DUI arrest and conviction for drivers licensed outside the state of Georgia.

Administrative License Suspension Upon an Arrest

The administrative license suspension (ALS) process begins when the arresting officer takes your driver’s license and issues you a “1205 Form” which acts as a 45 day driving permit upon a DUI arrest. DDS must receive a copy of the 1205 Form from law enforcement before a hearing can be scheduled or a limited driving permit can be issued.

Despite the arrest, the driver’s license is still valid until DDS receives the 1205 Form and 45 days have passed since the 1205 Form was served. The suspension is “pending” once DDS receives the 1205 form until the outcome of the administrative hearing.

There are two approaches to dealing with an administrative license suspension: (1) request a hearing to appeal the suspension; or (2) elect to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. DDS must receive the request for a hearing or application for an ignition interlock permit within 30 actual days (not business days) of the service of the 1205 Form.

Failure to timely file or losing an ALS hearing will cause your driving privileges in Georgia to be suspended in GA (for how long depends on whether you refused the request for a chemical test under the implied consent warning). Importantly, your home state may adopt this suspension for your out-of-state license.

Criminal Conviction Suspension

O.C.G.A. § 40-5-63 provides for the terms and conditions governing the driver’s license suspension for any person convicted of DUI. Upon the first conviction, the suspension period is for 12 months. For drivers licensed in Georgia, you can get a limited driving permit by receiving an “Affidavit of First Conviction” from the sentencing judge which will allow you to drive for certain limited purposes.

However, Georgia law only allows for the DUI suspension of a Georgia driver’s license.  Therefore, technically, an out-of-state driver can only have their privilege to drive in Georgia suspended by a sentencing court.

So, to the extent a Georgia driver is able to obtain a limited driving permit, an out-of-state driver does not qualify for such permit. Furthermore, Georgia will report the suspension to authorities in your home state which may have greater license suspension penalties for DUI than Georgia.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.

Smyrna, GA DUI Defense Attorney

Smyrna, Georgia is home to the Smyrna Municipal Court where Solicitor Tim Williams prosecutors DUI, traffic, and marijuana cases made by the Smyrna Police Department. Judge Phyllis Gingrey Collins presides over the Smyrna Municipal Court which is located at 2800 King St SE, Smyrna, GA 30080.

 

One of the most common cases we see in Smyrna Municipal Court are people charged with Driving under the Influenc. In Georgia, DUI can be charged in either two ways under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391. Driving under the Influence Per Se means the State is charging the individual with being over the .08 legal limit for drivers over 21 years old. It is a .02 legal limit for DUI cases involving drivers under 21. The second way a DUI can be charged is DUI Less Safe. Under Georgia law, DUI Less Safe means the person is accused of driving under the influence to the extent they were a less safe driver. We typically see DUI Less Safe cases where there is no chemical test, or where there is a chemical test but it is below the legal limit.

 

There are numerous defenses to DUI to be explored and raised. A skilled DUI defense attorney must fiercely evaluate and raise issues starting at the purpose of the stop and ultimately the probable cause in making the arrest. Factors to be assessed are the performance of field sobriety tests if any were conducted, the lack of odor or admissions, and the driving that was observed. Additionally, the Implied Consent portion of the DUI case is highly relevant in DUI defense because in order for the chemical test to be admissible in Court, the proper Implied Consent must be read after arrest, and there must be true knowing and voluntary consent to submit to the chemical test. Under Georgia law, mere acquiescence to authority is not voluntary consent. It should be noted that any refusal to submit to breath testing following an arrest is deemed inadmissible evidence given the Georgia Constitution gives the right to decline incriminatory acts. This law was clarified and confirmed in Elliott v. State, 305 Ga. 179 (2019).

 

In all DUI defense cases, the mandatory minimum sentence is 24 hours in jail, 12 months on probation, a $300.00 fine plus court costs (nearly doubles it), 40 hours of community service, a Risk Reduction course, and an alcohol and drug evaluation and treatment if deemed necessary. The maximum sentence is 12 months in jail. DUI is a misdemeanor crime that goes onto your criminal history. In Georgia, DUI can never be expunged or restricted, and thus a conviction will remain on your history forever. A DUI charge also has intense license repercussions.  If there is a refusal on the chemical test, the Officer can suspend your license for at least a year. This must be challenged within 30 days of your arrest, so time is of the essence in DUI cases.

 

The options in Smyrna Municipal Court are to enter into pretrial negotiations with the goal of avoiding the harsh consequences of a DUI, or to enter a Not Guilty plea and send the case to the Cobb County State Court where motions and a trial can occur. As experienced DUI lawyers practicing in Smyrna regularly, we have the skill and knowledge to accomplish your goals both in Smyrna and in Cobb County. We are trial lawyers constantly staying on top of DUI law. If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI in Smyrna Municipal Court, call us now for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Georgia DUI Lawyer – Peach County

If you have been charged with driving under the influence (“DUI”) in Peach County, you have come to the right place.  Our firm has a strong record at successfully defending all kinds of DUIs ranging from alcohol to marijuana to prescription drugs cases.  Peach County is known to aggressively patrol their roads and prosecute these DUI arrests, but their aggressiveness also leads to many wrongful arrests.

 

As with most DUIs, the initial stop of the vehicle is usually based on an alleged violation of some traffic law like speeding or failure to maintain lane.  A technical violation such as window tint or expired tag can also serve as the basis of the stop, but there’s nothing inherently unsafe about a technical violation. Therefore, a skilled defense attorney will argue that a technical violation is not evidence of impaired driving.  If someone is so impaired that they are unable to drive safely, then why is it that the officer could not find one single traffic infraction to support their assumption that you are impaired!?  A very reasonable theory is that you were not impaired, the officer made some false assumptions, and you should be found not guilty of DUI.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, there is actually a lot of training that goes into DUI detection, and your attorney needs to understand that training before he can skillfully use that training against the officer.  The law is constantly evolving, and the training that goes into DUI enforcement is updated every year or two.  So you need a lawyer who has performed the tests himself/herself (in a classroom setting), and you need the best possible DUI attorney in Peach County.

 

So if you have been charged with a DUI in Peach County, then you need to call our office today at 404-581-0999 for your free consultation.

Butts County Georgia DUI Lawyer

If you have been charged with driving under the influence (“DUI”) in Butts County, you have come to the right place.  Our firm has a strong record at successfully defending all kinds of DUIs ranging from alcohol to marijuana to prescription drugs cases.  Butts County is known to aggressively patrol their roads and prosecute these DUI arrests, but their aggressiveness also leads to many wrongful arrests.

As with most DUIs, the initial stop of the vehicle is usually based on an alleged violation of some traffic law like speeding or failure to maintain lane.  A technical violation such as window tint or expired tag can also serve as the basis of the stop, but there’s nothing inherently unsafe about a technical violation. Therefore, a skilled defense attorney will argue that a technical violation is not evidence of impaired driving.  If someone is so impaired that they are unable to drive safely, then why is it that the officer could not find one single traffic infraction to support their assumption that you are impaired!?  A very reasonable theory is that you were not impaired, the officer made some false assumptions, and you should be found not guilty of DUI.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, there is actually a lot of training that goes into DUI detection, and your attorney needs to understand that training before he can skillfully use that training against the officer.  The law is constantly evolving, and the training that goes into DUI enforcement is updated every year or two.  So you need a lawyer who has performed the tests himself/herself (in a classroom setting), and you need the best possible DUI attorney in Butts County.

So if you have been charged with a DUI in Butts County, then you need to call our office today at 404-581-0999 for your free consultation.

Criminal Defense in Newton County, Georgia

If you have been charged with a crime in Newton County, then you have come to the right place.  We specialize in criminal defense and stand ready to defend you.  The first question that needs to be answered is where your case will be heard.  If you are charged with a felony, then your case will begin in magistrate court and finish in superior court.  The first appearance, initial bond hearing, and preliminary hearing are all heard by a magistrate judge at the Newton County Jail located at 15151 Alcovy Road, Covington, GA 30014.  After these initial hearings, your case will be transferred to Newton County Superior Court in the Newton County Judicial Center located at 1132 Usher St, Covington, GA 30014.  The Judicial Center also houses the Magistrate Court, Juvenile Court, and Probate Court of Newton County.

Unlike some of the larger metropolitan counties, Newton County does not have a state court so even misdemeanor offenses will be heard in the Superior Court.  If you are charged with a serious misdemeanor, then your case will go straight to Superior Court.  Otherwise, your case will likely begin in Newton County Probate Court or one of the three municipalities in Newton County:  Covington, Porterdale, or Oxford.  

If you are charged with a traffic ticket or low-level misdemeanor within the city limits of Covington, your case will begin in the Municipal Court of Covington located at 1143 Oak Street, Covington, GA 30015.

If you are charged with a traffic ticket or low-level misdemeanor within the city limits of Porterdale, your case will begin in the Municipal Court of Porterdale located at 2800 Main Street, Porterdale, GA 30014.

If you are charged with a traffic ticket or low-level misdemeanor within the city limits of Oxford, your case will begin in the Municipal Court of Oxford located at 110 West Clark Street, Oxford, GA 30054.

If you have been charged with a crime in Newton County, call us today at 404-581-0999 to ensure you get the best outcome possible.

Henry County Georgia DUI Attorney

            If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI in Henry County, you may be wondering what will happen next. Upon being arrested for DUI in Henry County (or given a citation if incident occurred during COVID-19), the first matter to focus on is your ability to continue driving. Within 30 days of your arrest, certain decisions must be made in order to preserve your right to drive during the pendency of your DUI case. You will need to either submit what is known as an Administrative License Appeal (“30 day letter”) or opt for an Ignition Interlock Permit. Several factors, including whether or not there was a chemical test taken, go into the decision of which route to go. An experienced DUI defense attorney will guide you to make the best decision for your individual circumstance.

            Your case will begin in either Henry County State Court, or one of the local Municipal Courts (Stockbridge, McDonough, Hampton, or Locust Grove). The first court date that occurs in a Henry County DUI case is your Arraignment date. At your arraignment, you will be given the option to enter a Not Guilty plea to the charges. It is imperative you have a DUI Defense Attorney at this stage as the Arraignment date triggers certain deadlines. Under Georgia law, a Motion to Suppress must be filed within 10 days of Arraignment. This means that in order to preserve arguments of suppressing blood, breath, or urine tests, or incriminating statements made to law enforcement, that a Motion to Suppress must be filed, or the ability to argue it later is waived.

            Following the Arraignment will come the Discovery process where the State will serve its evidence including any police reports, body cam and dash cam footage, and results of any chemical test. The Defense will be doing its own investigation and analysis in the case in preparation for a Motions hearing, Pretrial Negotiations, and Trial. The Law Office of W. Scott Smith will appear at all hearings to protect your rights and defend you. We fight for you and come up with a comprehensive strategy to accomplish your goals in your DUI case in Henry County.

If you or a loved one is facing a Henry County DUI, do not go through it alone. Jail time, license suspension, and lengthy probation sentences are all at stake in a DUI case. A guilty conviction lasts forever in the State of Georgia, and can never be expunged.

Attorney W. Scott Smith is the Founder and Principal of the W. Scott Smith P.C. law firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Scott has been recognized as one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the State and he and his firm are leaders in DUI and Drug related cases. The lawyers of W. Scott Smith routinely are invited to speak to other lawyers on DUI-related topics and have handled hundreds of Henry County DUI cases. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Georgia DUI Law – Department of Driver Services COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates

On March 30, 2020, the Department of Driver Services (“DDS” also known as the DMV) issued an update regarding court proceedings in a letter addressed to criminal defense attorneys in Georgia. This article serves to summarize those important updates provided by DDS.

What Services Are Available?

As of right now, DDS remains open for non- customer-facing services. These include online services, DDS 2 GO mobile app, and other services requiring headquartered staff. Customer-Facing services across the State will be closed until April 1, 2020. After April 1, services will resume, but by appointment only.

Reinstatements, replacement licenses, and driving history and reinstatement eligibility  may be processed online and through the DDS 2 GO app. You can check the status of your driver’s license at online.dds.ga.gov/dlstatus.

Driver’s License Expirations

All Georgia driver’s licenses with set to expire from March 14, 2020, through June 30, 2020, will receive an automatic 120 day extension. Cardholders should expect to have new credentials sent to them via mail.

FTA Suspensions

DDS recognizes those individuals with pending FTA suspensions will not be able to resolve their FTA issues with the courts since courts are closed or are offering only limited services at this time. Therefore, DDS is delaying FTA suspensions for an additional 60 days.  DDS urges customers to check their driving history through their online services.

ALS Hearings and Driving Privileges

Because the Office of State Administrative Hearings has suspended ALS Hearings, DDS has decided to extend the 45 day temporary driving permit (issued with 1205 form) for 90 days. This extension will enable drivers to continue driving until normal operations resume. Additionally, DDS will continue to process ALS hearing requests and has also extended the filing deadline for ALS hearings from 30 days to 120 days (measured by the date of arrest).

Requesting Ignition Interlock Driving Permits

DDS is granting customers requesting Ignition Interlock Limited Driving Permits more time for their requests given DDS Customer Service Centers will be closed until April 1. Once the Service Centers re-open, customers these permits will be able to obtain a permit beyond the 30 day deadline.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf.

Can I get a DUI if I am under .08 in Georgia?

            Most of us are aware that the legal limit for a DUI for a driver over 21 years old is .08. What comes as a surprise to most, however, is that you can also be charged with DUI even if you were well below the legal limit. How is this possible? You can be arrested and charged with DUI, even if you blew below the legal limit, under Georgia’s DUI Less Safe law. In practice, it is a very common way to be charged with DUI in Georgia.

            Georgia law has criminalized DUIs into a few different categories. The two most common ways to be charged with DUI are DUI Per Se and DUI Less Safe. DUI Per Se occurs when a person is arrested after being alleged to be in control of a moving vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams or more. This means that after he or she was arrested, law enforcement obtained a blood alcohol reading either by a breath, blood, or urine test taken typically at the jail or a hospital.

What happens if I don’t blow or take a breathalyzer?

            In this situation, you can still be charged with DUI Less Safe. DUI Less Safe in Georgia means you were in control of a moving vehicle, after having consumed alcohol, to the extent it made you a less safe driver. Evidence in this situation may not include an actual BAC number, but the State will attempt to prove DUI with other pieces of evidence. For example, the State may bring forward evidence of an odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, open containers, and/or poor performance on field sobriety tests.

            In some instances, if you decline or refuse the breath or blood test at the officer’s request, the police officer will take out a search warrant to take your blood over your objection. In this situation, you can be charged with both DUI Less Safe and DUI Per Se if the BAC comes back as over .08.

What happens if I blow below the legal limit?

            In Georgia, you can still be arrested and charged with DUI Less Safe. This is because a BAC greater than .08 is not a requirement in DUI Less Safe cases. If you blow a .07, a .06, or even a .05, you can and will still be prosecuted for DUI. This seems shocking to some, but we see it happen regularly. The State, in this situation, still has to prove impairment- meaning the prosecutor must still prove you were a less safe driver because of the alcohol.

Georgia’s Law on Alcohol Content

In Georgia, you are Per Se impaired if your blood or breath test shows a result of .08 grams or more. If your BAC is more than .05 but less than .08 grams, there is no inference of impairment. This means it is up to the judge or the jury to consider whether or not you were actually a Less Safe driver or not. In Georgia, a BAC of even less than .04 can get you into court fighting for your life and freedom. In a scenario where the BAC was les than a .04, Georgia law has a presumption that you were NOT impaired. The State can rebut this inference through other evidence in a trial. A different BAC applies in cases where the driver is under 21 years old. In that situation, an under 21 DUI ‘legal limit’ is .02 grams.

We routinely see drivers with a ‘below the legal limit’ DUI have their cases prosecuted. Do not assume that the prosecuting attorney will throw the case out based on having been less than .08 grams. If you were arrested, the State will most likely bring the prosecution’s case with any other evidence they have, even if they do not have a BAC or if the BAC was below a .08 grams.

DUI cases are one of them most litigated cases in Georgia courtrooms. This is because there is so much at stake with a DUI conviction: jail time, lengthy and involved probation sentences, suspended licenses, and a criminal history that cannot be expunged. There are numerous defenses to DUI Less Safe and DUI Per Se cases, no matter what the BAC is or what county you were arrested in. If you or a loved one has been arrested for Driving under the Influence, call W. Scott Smith today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Georgia DUI Law: Binding Your Case Over

A great deal of misdemeanor cases in Georgia, such as DUI, shoplifting, possession of marijuana, and minor traffic infractions begin in Municipal Court. This is because municipal courts exist separately from the State Court system. As an individual sovereignty, the various cities (or “municipalities”) across the state are free to adopt their own laws, called ordinances. These ordinances may or may not also be State law violations. This is the key determination in whether you are permitted to “bind your case over” to State Court. The law controlling whether a case may be bound over will be discussed below.

What does “binding a case over” mean?

Imagine yourself seated in a municipal courtroom appearing for a DUI charge. The judge will instruct you that when your name is called you are to make an “announcement” on what you want to do with your case. The judge will likely say your options are: (1) guilty; (2) nolo contendere; or (3) not guilty. If you answer (3) not guilty, the judge will normally tell you your case will be scheduled for a bench trial in municipal court where the same judge will be deciding your case (rather than a jury). What the municipal court judge often does not tell you is that one of your options in pleading “not guilty” is to request a jury trial on the case. When you request a jury trial, and the charge is eligible to be bound over, the case is then removed from the hands of the Municipal Court and is bound over to the State Court system to the county in which the Municipal Court resides.

For example, if your case begins in the Municipal Court of Atlanta, Municipal Court of Dunwoody, Municipal Court of Alpharetta, or any other Municipal Court within Fulton County, your case will be bound over to Fulton County State Court. Once the case is bound over, the case essentially hangs out in limbo for a while (could be weeks or several months depending on jurisdiction) unless or until the case becomes “accused” in State Court. When a case becomes “accused,” this simply means the State Court (through the prosecutor’s office) has picked up the case and charges have now been formally brought in State Court.

It is important to note that for misdemeanor cases in Georgia, the State has two years to accuse the case measured from the date of arrest. If the case is not accused within this two year period, the State is prevented from prosecuting the matter under the statue of limitations. Also, the State Court prosecutor has the authority to add, amend, dismiss, or reduce the charges. Therefore, the charges in State Court could be different than the ones you were facing in Municipal Court.

There is a great benefit to binding the case over to State Court. Not only are you entitled to a jury trial, but you also have a better opportunity to fight the case through motions challenges. These are largely unavailable in Municipal Court. Furthermore, State Court prosecutors seem to be more receptive to plea negotiations for more serious charges where their Municipal Court counterparts rarely budge. You also get two bites at the apple by starting the case in Municipal Court. If the Municipal Court prosecutor is unwilling to reduce or dismiss the charges, then the decision is easy, bind the case over to State Court and renew negotiations there.

Is My Case Eligible to Be Bound Over? 

Article I, Section I, Paragraph XI of the Georgia Constitution of 1983 guarantees a defendant in a criminal case the “inviolate” right to a “public and speedy trial by an impartial jury.” GA CONST Art. 1, § 1, ¶ XI. However, Georgia courts recognize that some cases are not eligible to be bound over to State or Superior Court by distinguishing crimes, “which are solely violations of local or municipal ordinances[,]” versus crimes where the offense is a violation of an ordinance as well as a misdemeanor under State law. Geng v. State, 276 Ga. 4825 (2002). Where the offense is both a violation of local ordinance and a state level offense, the State Court of the county where the alleged incident took place would have “concurrent jurisdiction” over the case. O.C.G.A. § 15-7-4. If the State Court has concurrent jurisdiction over the matter, then the case is eligible to be bound over.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence, contact the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.