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.

Georgia DUI Law – Necessity Defense to a DUI Charge

There are many legal challenges and defenses available to defendants in a DUI case. One of these defenses is an “affirmative defense.” An affirmative defense is one in which the defendant argues that, even if the allegations of the indictment or accusation are true, there are circumstances that support a determination that he cannot or should not be held criminally liable. In the context of a DUI, the defendant would be arguing to the judge or jury that the defendant was in fact DUI, but the defendant is justified or excused in driving under the influence. One justification defense[1] to DUI is “necessity.”   

Under federal law[2], the doctrine of necessity requires:

1) the defendant reasonably believed that a danger or emergency existed that he did not intentionally cause; 2) the danger or emergency threatened significant harm to himself or a third person; 3) the threatened harm must have been real, imminent, and impending; 4) the defendant had no reasonable means to avoid the danger or emergency except by committing the crime; 5) the crime must have been committed out of duress to avoid the danger or emergency; and 6) the harm the defendant avoided outweighs the harm caused by committing the crime.

In 1991, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed a conviction for DUI because a jury could have found driving under the influence was justified when Defendant was driving 8 ½ month pregnant wife to the doctor.[3] 

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.


[1] O.C.G.A. § 16-3-20

[2] Manners v. Cannella, 891 F.3d 959, 11th Cir. (2018)

[3] Tarvestad v. State, 261 Ga. 605 (1991)

Georgia DUI Law: Calendar Call

There are several court dates in the life of a DUI case. The first court date is arraignment. This is where the court formally notifies the defendant of the charges and asks the defendant whether they plead guilty or not guilty. After arraignment, the case is then scheduled for a “calendar call,” court date.

What is Calendar Call?

The purpose of calendar call is for the parties to appear in court and “announce” to the judge the status of the case. This way, the judge will know whether the case is going to be a trial, a plea, or if the case needs to be continued due to an outstanding issue (missing evidence, witness unavailability, accountability court applications, scheduling conflicts, etc.). Calendar calls promote judicial efficiency.

Who Must Appear?                                                             

Unrepresented defendants must appear at calendar call. Failure to appear will cause a bench warrant to be issued for your arrest and forfeiture of your bond. At calendar call, an unrepresented defendant who does not desire to hire an attorney may announce “pre-trial” at calendar call. This announcement signals to the judge that the defendant wishes to have a brief conversation with the prosecuting attorney about the case in an effort to reach a resolution. In this “pre-trial” conference, the defendant should ask the State what their offer is on the case. If acceptable, then accept. If the offer is unacceptable, or confusing, or seems fishy, the defendant should hire a lawyer. It is important to remember any statements the unrepresented defendant makes to the prosecutor can be used against the defendant at trial.

Represented defendants may have to appear at calendar call, depending on the judge. Most judges will allow the attorney to appear and make an announcement on the defendant’s behalf. Therefore, it is critically important attorneys know the judge’s preferences in advance of court as to avoid a possible bench warrant. If a judge is particular about represented defendants appearing in court, the attorney may still be able to excuse the defendant by filing a “waiver of presence,” with the court. This is simply a notarized document signed by defendant stating they waive the right to be present. Furthermore, some judges will allow attorneys to make their calendar call announcements via email in advance of court. This saves the attorney and possibly the defendant a trip to court.

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.

Georgia DUI Law: How a DUI Becomes a Felony

The vast majority of DUI arrests are charged as misdemeanors in Georgia. There are certain circumstances, however, that will cause the DUI charge to be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. This article serves to explain the three major ways a driver in Georgia could obtain a felony DUI charge.

Multiple Prior DUI Convictions

A fourth DUI arrest within a ten year period[1] that results in a conviction is punishable as a felony. A first, second, or third DUI conviction in a ten year period will be treated as a misdemeanor, although the third conviction will be a high and aggravated misdemeanor.

If convicted of a fourth offense within a ten year period, the judge has the authority to impose a prison sentence between one and five years (all of which may be on probation except 90 days).

Causing Serious Injury or Death

You can be charged with a felony if you seriously injure another person while driving under the influence. Under O.C.G.A. 40-6-394(b), “[a]ny person who, without malice aforethought, causes an accident that results in bodily harm while violating Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391 commits the crime of serious injury by vehicle. A person convicted of violating this subsection shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than 15 years.” Bodily harm is defined as, “an injury to another person which deprives him or her of a member of his or her body, renders a member of his or her body useless, seriously disfigures his or her body or a member thereof, or causes organic brain damage which renders his or her body or any member thereof useless.”

Similarly, “[a]ny person who, without malice aforethought, causes the death of another person . . . [while driving under the influence] shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than 15 years. O.C.G.A 40-6-393.

High Risk Operator

The law recognizes people who are convicted of DUI should be punished more severely because they are transporting children at the time of impaired driving. This occurs in two ways.

A third conviction of DUI child endangerment will result in a felony charge. This offense is punishable by one to five years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.

Finally, under O.C.G.A. 40-6-391.3, a school bus driver convicted of DUI while driving a school bus is punishable as a felony. The school bus driver will face a one to five year prison sentence and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000.

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.


[1] Measured from the dates of arrest (but only since July 1, 2008). Arrests resulting in convictions prior to this date do not apply towards the total number of arrests for this purpose.