Following Too Closely – Traffic Lawyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the defenses in a Following too Closely case?

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

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

Laying Drag

According to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-251, laying drag is defined as operating a vehicle “in such a manner as to create a danger to persons or property by intentionally and unnecessarily causing the vehicle to move in a zigzag or circular course or to gyrate or spin around.”

There are two exceptions to this law:

(1) If the driver lays drag as a necessary maneuver to avoid a collision, injury, or damage to their vehicle or person, they will not be prosecuted under this statute.


(2) If the driver is operating the vehicle in or on any raceway, drag strip, or similar place customarily and lawfully used for such purposes, it will not be construed as laying drag in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 40-6-251.

The State of Georgia has ample case law detailing how laying drag is made, and further, whether certain evidence of laying drag can constitute criminal conduct pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-251. For example, the following circumstances are not sufficient evidence to cite a driver for laying drag:

(1) It is not unlawful for a driver’s vehicle tires to cause smoke while he/she is making a turn, and it would not be sufficient evidence to prosecute a driver for laying drag.


(2) There also will not be enough evidence to prosecute a driver for laying drag if the only evidence of laying drag is the sound of an engine coupled with screeching tires. There must be additional evidence in order to prosecute a driver for laying drag.


The offense of laying drag will be characterized as a misdemeanor The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor in the State of Georgia is 12 months in custody, and a $1,000 fine.

In Georgia, laying drag also includes assessing three points on an accused person’s driver’s license. If he/she has assessed 15 or more points in any 24-month period, he/she will be at risk of a suspension of his/her driving privileges.

However, if the accused person is under the age of 18 these general rules are different. Drivers under the age of 18 will have their driver’s license suspended if they have accessed four or more points in any 12-month period. Thus, laying drag for a driver under the age of 18 can have much more serious consequences than drivers older than the age of 18.

Contact Us

Due to the severity of the penalties for laying drag, it is of vital importance to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable of all possible options for an accused dealing with such serious allegations. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we are skilled at defending such charges. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been cited or arrested for laying drag, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Georgia’s New Street Racing Law

Street racing and laying drag (  has long been illegal in the State of Georgia. However, in response to increased street racing incidents across the city of Atlanta, Governor Kemp recently signed new legislation creating even more harsh penalties for those who continue to engage in street racing.


First, the bill now criminalizes an act, that before, was not against the law: promoting or organizing an exhibiting of illegal drag racing.  The State of Georgia is now cracking down on Instagram and other social media accounts who promote meetups for illegal street racing events. Anyone charged and convicted under this new law, found at O.C.G.A § 16-11-43.1, will be guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor.


Second, the Georgia law adds a completely new code section titled Reckless Stunt Driving, at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390.1. Under Georgia law, it is now specifically illegal to drag race in reckless disregard for safety of persons. The law includes drag racing both on public roads, as well as on private property. The punishment for Reckless Stunt Driving includes a mandatory ten days in jail, up to 6 months for this charge alone, along with a minimum fine of $300.00.  It is considered a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. A second conviction within ten years increases the jail time to 90 days to 12 months, and a third conviction has a mandatory 120 days to 12 months in jail, and the base fines can go up to $5000.00. A fourth conviction of Reckless Stunt Driving in a ten year period becomes a felony and a mandatory one year in prison.


Historically, a conviction for reckless driving did not suspend a Georgia driver’s license. This has now changed, drastically. Under Georgia’s New Street Racing Law, if you are convicted of reckless stunt driving in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390.1, your license will be suspended for up to 12 months, however you can apply for early reinstatement after 120 days. On a second conviction, it is a mandatory 3 year license suspension, but you may be able to reinstate your license after finishing an 18 months hard license suspension. A third conviction in five years will lead to a Habitual Violator status, whereby the license suspension will be five years, with a potential probationary license after two years.


The new law even allows for forfeiture after being declared a habitual violator. This means that the State of Georgia can confiscate your car, forever, if you have been convicted three times of reckless stunt driving in five years.


Street racing, laying drag, and reckless stunt driving are being taken more seriously in Georgia than ever before. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with street racing in Atlanta, call the Law Office of W. Scott Smith PC at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. A criminal conviction is forever, so engage an experienced lawyer to assist in avoiding the harsh consequences of jail-time, and license suspension, that come with Georgia’s New Street Racing Law.

Habitual Violator Conviction and License Suspension in Georgia

Being declared a habitual violator can have very long-term and harmful effects on drivers in Georgia. Habitual violator is a status that occurs when convicted of certain traffic offenses, and it results in an immediate five year license suspension. It is also an offense that goes onto a person’s criminal history and can even lead to felony charges and prison time.


Convictions arising from a single incident or separate incidents to any three of the following violations within a 5-year period, as measured from date of arrest will cause the driver to be declared an Habitual Violator in accordance with O.C.G.A. §40-5-58:


  • Homicide by Vehicle (1st Degree) as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-393 (a) or (b)


  • Homicide by Vehicle (2nd Degree) as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-393 (c)


  • Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used


  • Hit & Run – Leaving the scene of an accident as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-270


  • Racing on Highways or Streets as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-186


  • Using a Motor Vehicle in Fleeing or Attempting to Elude an Officer as defined by

O.C.G.A. §40-6-395


  • Operating a Motor Vehicle with a Revoked, Canceled, or Suspended Registration as

defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-15


  • DUI and DUI Child Endangerment


  • Feticide by Vehicle (1st Degree) as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-393.1 (a) (1)


  • Serious Injury by Vehicle as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-394


All three offenses can be from the same incident, or on the other hand, can be still be counted if they occurred within a five-year period. For example, it is possible to become a Habitual Violator if convicted of DUI, Hit and Run, and Child Endangerment in one incident. However, even if you pled nolo contendere to Hit and Run five years ago, and are later charged on different dates for any of the above crimes, this too will trigger Habitual Violator status. In order for due process to be met, the State must comply with specific notice requirements to drivers as it relates to Habitual Violator status.


Even if you pled guilty in Court under Georgia’s First Offender Statute to the above offenses, the Department of Driver Services still counts it as a conviction. Likewise, a Nolo Contendere plea is also considered a conviction under this statute and will not save your license.


A person who is declared a Habitual Violator immediately undergoes a five-year long driver’s license suspension. There may be a limited permit available after first serving a two-year hard license suspension.


Can I get a limited permit after being declared a Habitual Violator?


A 3-year limited driving permit may become available after the first two year suspension so long as the person has not been convicted or pled nolo to any moving traffic offense in the two years prior to applying. An approved Defensive Driving course or Risk Reduction course is also required to obtain a probationary license. Additionally, the person applying for a limited permit must submit a sworn affidavit that he or she does not use alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs. In cases involving two or more DUIs, an Ignition Interlock is required to be installed on the vehicle for a period of 12 months. In order to be granted a probationary limited permit after being declared a Habitual Violator, it must be shown that the “refusal to issue such a permit would cause extreme hardship to the driver.”


So long as the above conditions are met, and a fee in the amount of $210.00 is paid, the probationary license may be issued by Georgia Department of Driver Services. These probationary limited permits may have restrictions that limit the specific places the licensee is allowed to drive, or the routes and times of travel, as well as the specific vehicle the licensee may operate.


What happens if I drive after being declared a Habitual Violator without a permit?


            Georgia law makes it a felony offense to drive while being declared a habitual violator. Under O.C.G.A. 40-5-58(c), if convicted of driving after being declared a habitual violator, the punishment is a minimum fine of $750, or 1 to 5 years in prison, or both. In order to be convicted of Felony Habitual Violator, the State must prove the offender was declared a habitual violator, was properly notified of that status, and that he or she operated a vehicle without having obtained a valid license. Georgia law does allow defense of Justification at trial in Habitual Violator cases.


            Similarly, if convicted for any of the above offenses, including DUI, after having been declared a habitual violator is a serious felony offense in Georgia that can carry prison sentences of up to five years and a base fine between $1,000 and $5,000 on top of any sentencing from the new crimes.


While driving as a Habitual Violator is a felony offense in Georgia, it is a misdemeanor offense to be convicted of any minor traffic offense, after having been given a probationary limited permit. A conviction for a traffic offense while on the probationary limited permit can carry fines and up to 12 months in jail.


Being declared a Habitual Violator in Georgia is the most serious of traffic and license issues you can encounter in Georgia. This is why it is important to be represented in all traffic cases as you can unknowingly become a Habitual Violator by paying tickets on any of the above offenses (even a Suspended Registration). The life-long consequences of being declared a Habitual Violator are severe, so make sure to have a Georgia traffic and criminal attorney advocate for you in such traffic cases. If you or a loved one has been arrested for Habitual Violator status, or any of the contributing crimes to Habitual Violator, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.

Racing or Drag Racing Arrests and Citations in Atlanta, Georgia

Street racing is considered major traffic violation in Georgia. Throughout 2020, there was a significant increase in Street Racing and Laying Drag in Atlanta. In response, the Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State Patrol implemented a substantial coordinated effort to reduce street racing and laying drag on highways. According to the Atlanta Police Department, there were over 2,000 911 calls made between January and October 2020 to report street racing, or laying drag in Atlanta.[1] This blog will explain in detail the law on Racing in Georgia.


Racing on Highways or Streets, defined by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-186, means the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to outgain, outdistance, or prevent another vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long-distance driving routes. Georgia law prohibits any vehicle on a highway or street to engage in any race, or speed competition. It is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense. Officers in Georgia can either issue a citation or make an arrest for Racing. After citation or arrest, there will be an arraignment hearing where you will be asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. During the course of the criminal case, there may be plea negotiations, a bench trial, or a jury trial.


What is the punishment for Racing in Georgia?


Since it is a misdemeanor offense, the maximum penalty is 12 months in jail for this charge.  In addition to Racing, the officer may also cite you with speeding and reckless driving, which each can carry another 12 month sentence consecutive. In addition to probation or jail, there will be insurance premium increases, and a mandatory license suspension. If you are convicted of Racing in Georgia, the license suspension is a minimum 120 days. A limited permit is an option that can be explored.


However, the driver’s license suspension could be much longer depending on any previous tickets on your motor vehicle report. This is because Racing is a contributing offense towards Habitual Violator status. For example, if in the past five years you were convicted of Suspended Registration, DUI, and Racing, it would be a five-year habitual violator suspension. (Check out our blog on Habitual Violator here: ___________). A skilled defense lawyer will evaluate your motor vehicle report to help advise you on license consequences as well as negotiate favorable resolutions where license suspension, points, and jail are always avoided where possible. Lastly, bench and jury trials are also an option in Racing and other traffic cases.


If you or a loved one has been cited or arrested for Racing in Atlanta, give us a call for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999. With increased focus throughout Atlanta on these types of charges, it is imperative to have an advocate in court if you are charged with Racing or Laying Drag in Georgia.

[1] Reckless Driving, Laying Drag, and Racing on Highways/Streets Charges Issued by APD

Laying Drag Arrests and Citations in Atlanta, Georgia

This past year saw a new illegal trend in Atlanta: Laying Drag. We saw it everywhere from local news coverage to live streamed social media posts of cars driven in a circular course while bystanders gathered to look on. In response to the increase in Laying Drag in Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department and the Georgia State Patrol has cracked down by issuing hefty citations and making arrests for those involved. In fact, Atlanta Police Department has a specific street racing detail that “aggressively monitors and pursues” those involved in laying drag or street racing. Likewise, there has been a sharp increase in prosecutions for laying drag.


Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-251, Georgia law prohibits drivers from operating their vehicle in a manner that creates a danger to persons or property by intentionally and unnecessarily causing the vehicle to move in a zigzag or circular course or to gyrate or spin around. Citations or arrests can be made if laying drag was on highways, streets, or even in parking lots.


The exception under Georgia law for driving in such a way is to avoid an accident or collision. Otherwise, laying drag in Georgia is a misdemeanor criminal offense. The penalty for misdemeanors in Georgia is jail time up to 12 months or a $1,000 fine, or both. Paying a ticket online or at court for laying drag is a guilty plea and admission of guilt.


If convicted of Laying Drags in Georgia, the Department of Driver Services will also assess 3 points onto your driver’s license. This can cause insurance premium increases and even a license suspension depending on what other citations you have on your record, or are given at the same time as Laying Drag. For example, most police officers will issue at a minimum BOTH a Laying Drag ticket simultaneously with a Reckless Driving ticket. Reckless Driving is a charge that is reported to your criminal history and would assess an additional 4 points on your motor vehicle report.


Given the increase in police patrols and news coverage on this type of driving behavior, it is imperative to have an attorney advocate for you in court if you are cited or arrested for laying drag. Skilled lawyers can negotiate favorable resolutions. Both bench trials and jury trials are an option in Laying drag cases. Give us a call today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999 to discuss your case.

No Proof of Automobile Insurance in Georgia

Georgia law requires that drivers maintain minimum motor vehicle liability insurance. Additionally, drivers must carry proof of that insurance in their vehicle at all times. Georgia law does allow proof of insurance via electronic format or paper.


What is the Required Minimum Georgia Insurance Coverage?

  • Bodily Injury Liability: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
  • Property Damage Liability: $25,000 per accident

If you are pulled over driving a vehicle that does not have minimum insurance, you can be arrested or cited and charged with violating Georgia’s No Insurance statute under O.C.G.A. 40-6-10.  Georgia law requires that police officers determine if the driver has minimum insurance coverage every time the law enforcement officer stops a vehicle or requests driver’s license. You can be charged under this statute even if you were not the driver so long as you “authorized” someone to drive your vehicle without insurance.

What is the Penalty for Driving with No Insurance in Georgia?

Driving without insurance is a misdemeanor criminal offense that carries minimum fines and the possibility of 12 months in jail, or both. The minimum base fine for No Insurance is $200.00 and the maximum fine is $1,000.00.

Convictions for No Insurance will result in a license suspension.  On a first conviction, it is a 60 day license suspension, with no limited permit available. In order to reinstate after this suspension, you must pay a $210.00 reinstatement fee, show proof of having prepaid for six months of minimum insurance coverage, and maintain that policy for three years. On a second conviction within 5 years, it is a 90 day license suspension, the same prepaid policy requirements as the first, and a higher reinstatement fee of $310.00.


No Proof of Insurance in Georgia


Failure to keep proof of insurance in the vehicle is a separate charge from having no insurance at all.  If you in fact did have valid insurance at the time of the citation or arrest, the Judge must reduce the fine to $25.00 and not submit your license to be suspended. However, if you simply pay the fine on the No Proof of Insurance ticket, you will still incur the license suspension as if you had no insurance at all.


There are numerous defenses and mitigating factors if you or a loved one is charged with No Insurance or No Proof of Insurance in Georgia. Skilled lawyers can use new insurance policies in mitigation to try to have the Court reduce or dismiss the charge and sentence.


Paying a ticket on these offenses will result in license suspension, high fines, potential jail, and lengthy probation sentences. If you have been cited or arrested for No Insurance or No Proof of Insurance, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.


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.

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.

Traffic Tickets while Traveling through Atlanta, Georgia

by Ryan Walsh

We receive calls every day from people who receive traffic tickets while driving on the highways of Georgia. Due to traffic, congestion, construction, and rural police departments, out of state residents are targeted and ticketed every day.

These local courts think they can make money off of you since you live out of state. They think you will just pay the fine and move along. Sometimes the officer will even tell you that it is a non-points violation and can just be paid online when that isn’t actually the case.

Georgia is a points state, meaning every conviction for a moving violation involves points that may be added to your out of state license. Also, the conviction may be reported on your driving history and affect insurance rates.

Traffic tickets in Georgia involve more than just a payment of a fine. It is important to understand the risk of just paying the citation on your driving history. It may cost you a lot more than just the fine amount.

Common traffic tickets we see involving out of state drivers include move-over violations, super speeder tickets, hands-free device citations, and accident cases.

I work every day in the traffic courts around Georgia and can give you the best advice on how to approach your citation. Call us today at 404-581-0999 and ask for Ryan Walsh or e-mail me anytime at