I was arrested for DUI at a roadblock/checkpoint. What do I do?

Georgia law and the United States Constitution requires that police officers possess a certain level of suspicion in order to stop a driver. Police officers must have reasonable articulable suspicion that a driver is, has, or is about to break the law in order to pull them over. However, DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are an exception to this requirement, and police do not have to have any suspicion whatsoever to stop a car passing through a checkpoint.

If you have been arrested at a checkpoint, you may be wondering how to best defend your case. The good news is that the State must show that the roadblock was conducted in such a way that complies with Georgia law. In the case of Baker v. State, 252 Ga. App. 695 (2001), the Georgia Court of Appeals articulates the six prongs which must be shown to support a stop at a checkpoint. The Court in Baker held that a roadblock is valid when:

  1. The decision to implement the checkpoint in question was made by supervisory officers and not officers in the field;
  2. The supervisors had a legitimate purpose in conducting a checkpoint;
  3. All vehicles passing through the checkpoint are stopped, not just “random” vehicles;
  4. The delay to drivers is minimal;
  5. The checkpoint operation is well identified as a police checkpoint (think flashing lights, marked vehicles, and traffic cones);
  6. The screening officer’s training and experience are sufficient to qualify him to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be administered field sobriety tests.

This test is all-or-nothing. If the prosecutors cannot show each and every one of these elements, the stop and any subsequent observations, statements, or arrests may be suppressed.

If you have been arrested at a checkpoint, you may have a valid defense in your case. Call our office for a free consultation and find out what your best options are. 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine A. Edmonds.

Georgia Public Drunkenness Attorney

As holiday parties and events are in full swing, you may wonder the best way to stay clear of police encounters after a night out of drinking. The most obvious way to avoid trouble after a night out is to use a rideshare or designated driver, so as not to drive while intoxicated. But what about simply being drunk in public? Could that land you in jail for the night too?

Drinking to the point of being intoxicated is not always against the law. However, when your condition is made manifest by “boisterousness, by indecent conditions or act, or by vulgar, profaine, loud, or unbecoming language,” you can be arrested for the charge of Public Drunkenness.

Under O.C.G.A § 16-11-41 it is a misdemeanor offense to be intoxicated in a public place, or in the outskirts of a private residence other than your own, or one you are invited to be on. But it is only against the law if your intoxication  is manifested by boisterous, vulgar, loud, profane, or unbecoming language, or by indecent condition. Simply being drunk without an outward manifestation is not against the law in Georgia as mere drunkenness in a public place is not enough to be convicted.

As you can see there is a defense to the charge of Public Drunkenness in Georgia. If convicted, however, it is a misdemeanor crime that can remain on your criminal history forever. The maximum penalty in a Public Drunkenness case in Georgia is 12 months to serve in custody, and a $1,000 fine, or both.

If you have been arrested or cited for Public Drunkenness in Georgia, call W. Scott Smith for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999. A night out on the town should not have lasting consequences and our lawyers are on call to assist you.

HGN and Head Trauma

If you have been pulled over in Georgia on suspicion of DUI, the investigating officer will probably ask you to perform a battery of standardized field sobriety tests. This request may take the form of any number of questions, such as “can we just check to see if you are safe to drive?” or “we want to perform some tests before we let you on your way, is that alright?”. These tests are not required, and declining to perform these tests cannot be used against you in a prosecution of DUI. For this reason, it is better to decline to perform any tests, no matter how much reassurance the police officer gives you that they are “just to make sure you are safe on the roads.”

Still, many people opt to perform the tests, either because they don’t see the harm, they wish to be congenial with the officer, or because they don’t know that they can decline to perform the tests. If you choose to perform the tests, the officer may ask you if he can “take a look at your eyes.” This is an indication that he is about to perform the first of three standardized field sobriety tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus.

This test is considered to be a “scientific” test, and because of this, it is important that the officer comply with his training as exactly as possible. The test must begin with a number of questions designed to medically qualify the participant. The officer is trained that he must ask you whether or not you have recently had any head, neck, or brain injuries, as these kinds of trauma can affect whether someone exhibits nystagmus, even if not under the influence of alcohol. It is common practice to ask whether or not the subject has “any eye problems” or vision issues, but this is not enough. The officer must also determine that it is appropriate to use this test. If the subject has been in a recent accident, suffering from whiplash, a concussion, vertigo, or some other balance and coordination related condition, the HGN test may not be accurate or reliable.

If you have been in an accident at the time of your DUI investigation, the officer may have overlooked potential head trauma before administering this test. As a result, the “clues” of the test may be unreliable, and could be subject to suppression before trial.

It is important to understand your rights and protections when you are charged with DUI. If you want an attorney that is knowledgeable about DUI police training and procedure, call our office for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine A. Edmonds.

Reducing a Lifetime CDL Disqualification to 10 Years in Georgia

If you are convicted of two DUIs in Georgia, your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is disqualified for your lifetime. However, new rules provide a process to allow your CDL to be reinstated after only ten years. If you meet the following requirements, you are eligible to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to 10 years:

  • At time of application, you must possess a valid Class C Georgia driver’s license. The term “valid” means that the license is not expired and is not cancelled, suspended, or revoked.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification you are applying to have reduced must have been in effect for a period of not less than ten (10) years.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on a conviction for homicide by vehicle in the first degree or serious injury by vehicle, you are not eligible to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to ten (10) years.
  • Any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on the use of a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance; OR any Lifetime CDL Disqualification that is based on a conviction for Human Trafficking, is not eligible to be reduced to ten (10) years.
  • In addition to the $210.00 non-refundable CDL Restoration Fee, your application must include the following supporting documents:
    • A certified seven (7) year Georgia motor vehicle report (MVR) dated within 30 days of application. Your driving history must be free of any convictions for the five (5) year period preceding date of application.
    • If your Lifetime CDL Disqualification is based on a violation that was alcohol related, you must include a clinical evaluation dated within 90 days of the date of application reflecting no substance abuse treatment necessary.
    • If your Lifetime CDL Disqualification is not based on a violation that was alcohol related, you must include a certificate of completion from a DDS-certified driver improvement clinic dated within 90 days of the date of application.
    • A copy of your current, unexpired United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) medical certificate card.

If you are approved to have your Lifetime CDL Disqualification reduced to 10 years:

  • You will be eligible to obtain a Georgia Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which must be held for a minimum period of 14 days before becoming eligible to upgrade to a Georgia Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
  • You must complete and successfully pass all applicable knowledge and/or skills tests to obtain a Georgia CLP/CDL. You must also pay $35.00 for the CDL Application Fee, $10.00 for each CDL Knowledge Exam, and $50 for each CDL Road Skills Test attempt.
  • Any Georgia CDL you are issued will be restricted for first two (2) years to intrastate driving only.
  • You will not be eligible for a Passenger (P) endorsement on any Georgia CDL for the first two (2) years following issuance.
  • Restrictions may be removed after two (2) years if your driving history is free of any convictions.
  • No person whose Lifetime CDL Disqualification is reduced to ten (10) years shall ever possess a School Bus (S) or a HAZMAT (H) endorsement.
  • If you are convicted of a major traffic violation at any time after your Lifetime CDL Disqualification has been reduced to ten (10) years, you will be subject to a permanent lifetime disqualification.

 

If your CDL has been the subject of a lifetime ban, we can help you have the ban reduced.  This is a complicated process and having an experienced layer by your side is important. Please call our office at 404-581-0999 and let us help you have your driving privileges restored.

Theft by Shoplifting in Marietta Municipal

In Georgia, a theft by shoplifting charge can be prosecuted in municipal court, state court, or even superior court. The State of Georgia may allege that the accused violated a city municipal ordinance, a state law in which the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, or in more serious cases, a felony. Here, we will discuss when a shoplifting case lands in the Municipal Court of Marietta.

According to O.C.G.A. § 16-8-14, theft by shoplifting occurs when a person, working alone or with others, takes merchandise without paying for it and with the intent to either deprive the owner of any part of the value of the item or to appropriate the item for their own use.

When committing the offense of theft by shoplifting, it can occur in many different forms:

  • Concealing the goods;
  • Altering the price tag;
  • Transferring the item from one container to another;
  • Switching the price tag from another item to the item in question; or
  • Wrongfully causing the price to be less than the original price stated.

Value of Goods/ Property

In determining whether the theft by shoplifting charge will be characterized as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of the stolen goods. If an accused has been alleged to have shoplifted property or goods valued at less than $500, this will be characterized as a misdemeanor offense. However, if the accused has prior shoplifting convictions, it may impact his/her sentencing or punishment.

Penalties

In misdemeanor theft by shoplifting cases, a conviction may result in no more than a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. As stated above, past criminal history plays a role in penalties following a conviction for theft by shoplifting.

Due to the severity of the punishment, it is vitally important to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can defend these charges by either getting them dismissed, or reduced to another offense, by negotiating with the Marietta Municipal prosecutor, or by bringing forth affirmative defenses to such allegations, either during a bench trial in the municipal court, or during a jury trial in Cobb County State Court.

Contact Us

At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of theft by shoplifting, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge. We are experienced and skilled at defending such allegations and we work tirelessly to advocate for our clients and their constitutional rights. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for theft by shoplifting in Marietta, Georgia, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Super Speeder- DeKalb

If you are driving 85 MPH or more on any road or highway OR driving 75mph or more on any two-lane road or highway in Georgia, you are deemed to be a ‘super speeder.’ What does that mean? It means that in addition to the local fines and fees you pay to resolve your ticket you will also have to pay an additional $200 super speeder fee to DDS. You have 90 days from the date of conviction (i.e paying ticket or entering a plea) to submit the payment to DDS. If you fail to pay the $200 fee within 90 days your license will be suspended.  If you or someone you know has been arrested with a super speeder ticket, having a lawyer fight your case can result in a better outcome. Contact the Law Office of Scott Smith today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Governor Kemp Signs Bill that will Enhance Penalties for Fleeing and Eluding in Georgia

By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek

On April 25th, 2022, Governor Kemp signed legislation to further public safety efforts in the State of Georgia. One of the bills that he signed, which was passed in the House, as well as the Senate, will enhance or increase penalties and sentencing for individuals charged with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. This bill will go into effect on July 1st, 2022.

This bill states that:

  • It is unlawful for a driver to fail to stop his/her vehicle or attempt to flee or elude a police officer when he/she is given a visual or audible signal to stop.
  • Any person convicted of a first, second, or third violation of this law will be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor.
  • Any person convicted of a fourth or subsequent violation of this law will be guilty of a felony.

Sentencing:

  • The penalties for a first conviction will be a fine of at least $1,000 and 30 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a second conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $2,500 and 90 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a third conviction within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $4,000 and 180 days in jail.
  • The penalties for a fourth conviction, and any subsequent conviction, within a 10-year period will be a fine of at least $5,000 and 12 months in custody.

This bill will dramatically change the penalties for fleeing and eluding in Georgia. A high and aggravated misdemeanor generally means that the accused will have to serve the entire jail-sentence in custody without the possibility of receiving 2 for 1 credit. The fourth conviction of this crime in a 10-year period will constitute a felony offense. Furthermore, a nolo contendere plea will not avoid mandatory jail time, or a conviction.

Any arrests that occur prior to July 1st, 2022, for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer will still be pursuant to the prior statute that allows for lower penalties and sentencing. However, if an accused is arrested for fleeing and eluding on, or after, July 1st, 2022, the sentencing will be enhanced pursuant to this new law.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the punishment for fleeing and eluding based on this new legislation, 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 this new law, 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 fleeing and eluding, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

What is an arraignment and what happens after?

If you have been charged with a crime in Georgia, you will likely receive a court date in the mail, informing you that your case has been scheduled for an arraignment. An arraignment is an opportunity to have your charges read aloud in open Court, and for you to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo. If your case is in Dekalb, Cobb, Fulton, Douglas, Clayton, or another State Court, then you are able to waive this arraignment by filing a waiver of arraignment with the Court. Many attorneys typically waive arraignment on behalf of their clients as a matter of course. This is because State Court arraignments are typically formalities, and not really necessary if you have retained an attorney (you are pleading not guilty! That’s why you hired an attorney!).

If your case is located in Municipal Court, your court dates will likely all say “arraignment.” This is because many Municipal Courts hold arraignment calendars every day. Arraignment in Municipal Court, unlike in State Courts, cannot be waived, even if it is your first court date. If this is the case, you must be present at your first court date.

Some time after your arraignment date, if you or your attorney has filed a motion requesting discovery, the Prosecutor will send discovery. Discovery is the evidence that the prosecutor has which they plan on using in your case. If it has been several weeks since your arraignment and you have not received discovery after you have requested it, you should reach out to an attorney or to the Court to tell them that you have not received it.

The criminal legal process can be confusing and scary. You are not alone. We have an experienced team of attorneys who can guide you through the process from arraignment through trial. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation. Call us at 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.

What to expect during a DUI stop in Marietta, GA

By: Attorney Alex Henson

If you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol in Marietta, GA you might be pulled over and investigated by police. What can you expect during a DUI stop?

First, the officer might ask you if you’ve had anything to drink. You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer the question, but always be polite and respectful. Any statements you make could be used against you later in court.

Next, the officer might ask you to perform certain exercises to see if you are safe to drive. These exercises are called Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and your performance could be used against you in court later. The most common of these tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the one leg stand, and the walk and turn. It is voluntary to participate in field sobriety tests. Refusing to participate cannot be used against you in court later.

The officer may decide that you are under the influence and less safe to drive. If the officer decides to arrest you, he or she may read you Georgia’s implied consent statement and request chemical testing of your breath or blood. These tests are voluntary, but refusal can result in your license being suspended.

If you are arrested for DUI in Marietta, GA for DUI, your case will be sent to Marietta Municipal Court. In the Marietta Municipal Court, you will have the opportunity to resolve your case. However, if you decide you want a jury trial, your case will be transferred to the State Court of Cobb County.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Marietta, GA and would like a free consultation, call us at (404) 581-0999.

Georgia DUI Law – What a Georgia DUI Costs

In 2018, there were 21,784 DUI convictions in Georgia. A DUI arrest and conviction has serious consequences. Among those consequences, you can expect to pay a significant amount of money in defending the case. This article serves to provide a general idea of what it costs to be arrested and convicted of DUI.

  1. Bail/Bond: $150 – $2,500. Cost of bail in a DUI arrest depends on a variety of factors including but not limited to prior criminal history, case facts, and ties to the community.
  2. Towing: $50 – $200. The cost of towing and impounding a car can increase daily.
  3. Insurance Increase: $4,500 or more. Depending on your insurance carrier and driving history, your rates could double, triple or even quadruple over a period of three to five years.
  4. Legal Fees: $2,000- $25,000.
  5. Fines: $300 – $5000. These base fines vary depending on the nature of your offense and any prior DUI’s. These base fines do not include statutory court costs which can increase the base fine by 50% or more. 
  6. Alcohol Evaluation: $95 – $300. The law requires completion of an alcohol and drug evaluation and treatment if recommended by the evaluator.
  7. Classes: $500 – $4,000. As part of a DUI conviction you will be required to complete a Risk Reduction class (also referred to as “DUI School”). This class costs $350. You are also required to complete a Victim Impact Panel which costs roughly $100.
  8. License reinstatement fees: $210 – $410. License reinstatement generally costs $210. However, depending on your history, you could be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle in order to reinstate your license. You would have to pay for the installation of the device plus daily maintenance costs.

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.