Traffic Tickets and Young Drivers

Under 21 and Received a Ticket?

Traffic tickets happen to the best of us. There are very few people who have not been stopped by a police officer, whether it be for Speeding, Failure to Yield, or even Following too Closely.  The consequences of receiving a traffic ticket in Georgia vary depending on the severity of the traffic offense, as well as on the motor vehicle history of the driver. Georgia law may assess points on your license that can cause insurance increases, and will even suspend your driver’s license depending on the offense. However, there is nobody who is affected more harshly with a traffic ticket than a young driver. Drivers under the age of 21 are treated differently than adult drivers, and drivers under the age of 18 are treated even more severely than that.  

Mandatory Suspensions

There are certain mandatory suspensions for drivers under 21 years of age:

  • Hit and run or Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Racing on highways or streets
  • Speeding
  • Fleeing or Attempting to Elude
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper passing
  • Unlawful passing of a school bus
  • Aggressive driving
  • Driving Under the Influence

It can get worse

The suspensions for an under 21 driver are a minimum period of 6 months. In these scenarios, there is no limited permit for work or school available. If you get two or more of the more serious traffic tickets when you are under 21 years old, your license is suspended for a full 12 months. Thus, if you are a young driver charged with a traffic offense, it is imperative to have an attorney represent your interests in negotiating your case to a reduced charge that will not have the same affect on your driving privileges.

If you are a driver between the age of 15 and 17, Georgia law can be even more harsh. In addition to the above offenses that can suspend your license, even minor tickets can suspend your license when you are under 18 years old and still in high school. This is based on Georgia law that suspends young drivers’ licenses after only 4 points in a 12 month period. This can mean just 1 speeding ticket can suspend your license.

What’s next?

There are several options if you are a young driver in Georgia facing traffic offenses. Diversion programs allow young drivers to complete a driving course or community service in exchange for a dismissal of the ticket. Defense attorneys can negotiate with the prosecuting attorney to reduce the charge to fit within another charge that does not suspend your license or raise your insurance. If you or a young driver you know has been charged with a traffic ticket in Georgia, call us today for a free consultation. We have represented young drivers all over Metro Atlanta and Georgia with insurmountable success. 404-581-0999.

DUI: Drugs

DUI drugs charges can be a source of confusion for defendants and lawyers alike. This article will explore these laws and explain their meaning, what must be proven, how they are proven, and how to defend against them.

There are three ways to charge DUI Drugs cases: (1) DUI Drugs – Less Safe; (2) DUI Drugs – Per Se; and (3) DUI Drugs – Combined Effect.

DUI Drugs – Less Safe

Georgia law prohibits a person from driving a vehicle while 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(a)(2). This “less safe” statute requires proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the quantity or amount of the prescribed, illicit, or even over-the-counter drug in the person’s system caused impairment or rendered the person to be a “less safe driver.” Therefore, a person can be prosecuted even though the drugs were legally prescribed or were provided over-the-counter, so long as consuming those drugs caused you to be a less safe driver.

The “less safe” provision is the most common way DUI drugs charges are prosecuted. The State is not required to prove the accused had a particular level of drugs in their system. As a result, the State may prosecute even though no chemical test exists. The arresting officer will look for the following indications of impairment:

  • Admitting to using drugs
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Presence of drugs in vehicle or on person
  • Bad driving
  • Poor performance on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The key to defending these “less safe” drugs cases is raising doubt as to whether the drugs taken were the actual cause of the bad driving complained of. This causation element is something the State is required to prove. There are many reasons for bad driving unrelated to the consumption of drugs. In addition, defense counsel should raise challenges to the arresting officer’s training and experience in detecting and investigating DUI Drugs cases. In many instances, the arresting officer does not have the degree of training required to properly investigate these cases such as an officer who is qualified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Furthermore, defense counsel should raise a Harper challenge to the scientific validity of the Romberg Field Sobriety test if that test was performed by the accused. [1]

DUI Drugs – Per Se

Georgia law makes it illegal for a person to operate a vehicle while there is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-21, present in the person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391(a)(6).

Given the language of the law, the mere presence of a drug (prescribed or not) will constitute a violation of this code section. The question becomes how an arresting officer would know whether the accused had a valid prescription or not? Without an admission, this would be difficult for a prosecutor to prove.

Issues of proof aside, Love v. State, 271 Ga. 398 (1999), has essentially wiped out the “DUI Drugs – Per Se” law entirely. The Love case held that O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(6), was too broadly drawn, as it incriminates both legal and non-legal users of marijuana, constituting a violation of the Equal Protection clause of both the Georgia and United States Constitutions. This is the primary reason most DUI Drugs cases are prosecuted as “Less Safe” cases.

What remains of the DUI Drugs – Per Se statute is to punish those cases where someone is driving with drugs in their system which offer no lawful use (cocaine, heroin, etc.).

DUI Drugs – Combined Influence

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(4), a person is prohibited from driving a vehicle while under the influence of any two or more of the substances provided in the DUI code section (alcohol, drugs, or toxic vapors) to the extent it is less safe for the person to drive.

Again, we see the State being required to prove the accused was a less safe driver because of the combined effects of two or more intoxicants (alcohol and drugs – prescribed or not). Although these cases present greater challenges, a skilled attorney can raise doubt as to whether the combined effect of intoxicants actually caused less safe driving.  

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] The Romberg test consists of the subject tilting their head back, closing their eyes, and counting in their head until the subject believes thirty seconds has elapsed and then telling the officer when they believe those thirty seconds had elapsed.

Is DUI a Felony?

In most instances, the crime of DUI is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that has a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail. If this is your first time being charged with a DUI and no one was hurt, you will be facing a misdemeanor DUI.  Additionally, even if this is your second or third DUI in a short period of time, your DUI will still be charged as a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Punishments

Even if you are facing a misdemeanor-level DUI, the State can stack punishment, and request a longer sentence by adding additional jail time to an underlying charge. For example, if you are charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane, the Judge can sentence you up to 12 months on each charge, for a total of 24 months in custody. Additionally, misdemeanor DUIs do still appear on criminal histories and can require jail, probation, and a license suspension if you are convicted. The goal after a DUI arrest is to avoid a criminal conviction so you can avoid the harsh punishments associated with a conviction for DUI. 

When DUI is a Felony

There are situations where you will be facing a felony after a DUI arrest. A felony is defined as a crime that is punishable more than a year in jail. The first instance is when you are being charged with a fourth DUI within a 10 year period, measured from the dates of previous arrests. A fourth DUI within 10 years is a felony in Georgia, with considerable mandatory minimum jail time if convicted.

Another situation where a DUI is considered a felony in Georgia is if you were arrested for the crime of Serious Injury by Vehicle. This occurs when someone causes an accident resulting in bodily harm while Driving under the Influence. This felony is punished by imprisonment between 1 and 15 years. Bodily harm under Georgia law is defined as an injury to another person which deprives them of a member of their body, or renders part of the body useless, or seriously disfigures, or causes brain damage. There are certainly defenses to this serious crime including the causal connection as well as what constitutes a serious injury.

The final situation where a DUI is prosecuted as a felony offense is Homicide by Vehicle in the first degree, meaning you are arrested for DUI and someone actually dies in the accident. You can be charged with Homicide by Vehicle if it is your passenger who dies.  If convicted, the crime is punishable from 3-15 years. The law requires the State to prove a causal connection between the violation of the DUI statute and the victim’s death. However, under Georgia law, the person does not actually have to commit an unsafe act before facing this type of charge.

Call us today!

DUIs in Georgia require knowledgeable and skillful representation as the stakes are high. If you are facing a felony DUI, it is imperative to find a law firm with a track record of success, who are well-informed on the ever-changing aspects of DUI law in Georgia. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony DUI, call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. 

Driver’s License & New DUI Law

In May of 2019 the Georgia legislature approved a new implied consent warning for persons who have been arrested for DUI in Georgia. The implied consent warning informs drivers that Georgia law requires them to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test after they have been arrested for DUI; and submitting a sample that’s over the legal limit of .08 or refusing to submit to the requested test after arrest can result in a suspension of your drivers license.

What’s New?

This new implied consent notice removes a part of the old language that states “Your refusal to submit to breath testing can be used against you at trial.” This occurred after a Georgia Supreme Court opinion which stated that your refusal to submit to breath test evidence cannot be used against you at trial. However, this ruling is only related to the breath test option. Refusing to submit to blood and urine testing can still be introduced against you at trial.

What we have found after evaluating this new implied consent warning is that most well-trained officers are now just asking for a blood test instead of a breath test. Your refusal to submit to a blood test can be used to suspend your license as well as it can be used against you at trial.

Call us TODAY!

The law in relation to DUI cases in Georgia is constantly evolving. Having a well-trained lawyer on your side is the best way to maintain your ability to drive and keep a DUI conviction off your record. Our staff of attorneys is trained by the sane trainers who are teaching law enforcement officers to investigate DUI cases. Call our office today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

License Suspension & Points

Help! My license is suspended from having too many points.

The State of Georgia will suspend your license if you get too many traffic tickets. In fact, the suspension by the Department of Driver Services is automatic. Most people do not know there license has been suspended for accumulating too many points until it is too late. By simply paying your speeding and other traffic tickets, you are pleading guilty and the points are automatically assessed to your driver’s record. It is important to speak with an attorney to attend the court date whenever you receive a traffic ticket in order to avoid this from happening, and to avoid the points from racking up. If 15 points are put onto your record in a 24 month period, the license suspension is automatic. It is a one year suspension.

More About Points

              Points for traffic tickets range from 1 point to 6 points. For example, texting while driving is 1 point, whereas passing a school bus is 6 points. Speeding varies on the point scale depending on how fast you were going over the speed limit. So if over two years, you are pulled over and you either were convicted in court, or simply paid the fine ahead of time, and the amount of points reached 15 in a two year period, your license will be suspended. This suspension can be anywhere from one year to three years depending on how many times you have received this type of suspension.

A Special Warning

              Be aware that the 15 point limit applies to drivers over the age of 18. If you are under 18, accumulating just FOUR points in a 12 month period will suspend your license. This means that just one speeding ticket could suspend a younger driver’s license, and no permit would be available in that situation. An attorney can help in these situations negotiate something that would not have this affect.   

Am I eligible for a permit of any kind?

YES. If this is the first time in five years you have received this type of license suspension, you are in fact eligible for a limited permit. DDS will issue a limited permit immediately upon receiving a defensive driving course and a $210 reinstatement fee in addition to the $25 permit fee. This limited permit would allow you to drive to work, medical appointments, and other limited circumstances.

              If a points suspension occurs again within another 24 month period, within 5 years of the first one, the suspension is actually a full three years. However, just as in the first case, you can get a limited permit with a defensive driving course and a higher reinstatement fee.

Call us today!

              If you have been given a traffic ticket and want to know the affect it will have on your ability to drive or how your insurance may be affected, call the Peach State Lawyer attorneys and you will have the opportunity to speak with a knowledgeable attorney for a free consultation. 404-581-0999