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 ryan@peachstatelawyer.com.

Georgia DUI Law: Challenging the Stop, Defective Equipment

Georgia DUI investigations usually begin with a routine traffic stop. At a minimum, in order to stop you and your vehicle, the stopping officer needs to have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to believe a crime has, or is about to be committed. An officer normally satisfies this requirement by observing a traffic or equipment violation. However, if it is determined the officer did NOT have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle; this could result in the suppression of evidence and the ultimate dismissal of a DUI charge.

Therefore, it is crucial to examine the most common types of traffic violations that result in a DUI investigation. This article serves to inform you of the nature, methods of proof, penalties, and challenges to a defective equipment offense in Georgia.

The Offense

O.C.G.A. §§ 40-8-7(a) and (b) state:

(a) No person shall drive or move on any highway any motor vehicle, trailer, semi trailer, or pole trailer, or any combination thereof, unless the equipment upon any and every such vehicle is in good working order and adjustment as required in this chapter and the vehicle is in such safe mechanical condition as not to endanger the driver or other occupant or any person upon the highway.

(b) It is a misdemeanor for any person to drive or move, or for the owner to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved, on any street or highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles:

(1) Which is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person;

(2) Which does not contain those parts or is not at all times equipped with such lights and other equipment in proper condition and adjustment as required in this chapter; or

(3) Which is equipped in any manner in violation of this chapter.

Even if you are driving perfectly, a police officer may still stop your vehicle if any of its equipment is non-operational. Examples include, but are not limited to, missing taillight, broken tag light, or a low hanging bumper. Although the spirit of this law is to protect other motorists from defective vehicles on the road, this traffic offense is often used as a “pre-textual stop,” meaning the officer stops you for this offense in hopes of discovering another criminal offense, particularly DUI. Although the law used to criticize these types of stops, a line of United States Supreme Court cases has weakened these types of challenges.[1]   

Penalties

Under Georgia law, technically, these equipment violations are misdemeanors and are therefore punishable with up to a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail. Although these are the maximum punishments, equipment violations generally do not result in jail time. Normally, if you get the defective equipment fixed, and provide proof of such to the prosecuting attorney, your case will likely be dismissed.

Challenging the Stop

If an officer pulls you over for an equipment violation and ultimately arrests you for DUI, you may lodge a challenge to the stop of your vehicle through a motion to suppress or a motion in limine. These challenges are designed to attack the stop, arrest, or any evidence gathered as a result of an unlawful stop and/or arrest.

If you are facing a DUI-Less Safe case, the State will have to prove “less safe driving.” If you have only been cited for defective equipment, the State will have great difficulty in proving alcohol caused you to be a less safe driver because there is no “less safe” driving act (ie. speeding, failure to maintain lane, improper turn, etc.). This is a major issue a defense attorney should raise during trial.

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] See, Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 121 S. Ct. 1536 (2001); Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806, 116 S. Ct. 1769  (1996); Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 117 S. Ct. 417 (1996); and Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 117 S. Ct. 882 (1997).

Do I Need an Attorney for Traffic Court?

The answer to that question is, it depends. In Georgia, all traffic citations, whether you were arrested or not, are misdemeanors and carry a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That being said, most traffic offenses will not involve jail time or show up on a background check or criminal history.

How Can an Attorney Help?

In my experience, attorneys can help you in traffic court in Atlanta in a few ways. One, attorney cases are often handled at the beginning of the calendar, allowing you to get in and out of court quickly, and on your way to the rest of your day. Two, attorneys have relationships with the prosecutors in court and can often negotiate a better resolution than you might be able to on your own. Three, some citations in Georgia, such as No Insurance, or Driving with a Suspended License or Registration carry with them additional license suspensions or mandatory jail time. If you enter a plea of guilty to those offenses without understanding the potential punishments, you may impact your freedom or your ability to drive. Finally, an attorney may offer defenses to the charge that can get your traffic citation dismissed completely.

This advice is especially true for Smyrna Municipal Court, Cobb County State Court, the Municipal Court of Atlanta, Gwinnett County Recorders Court, and DeKalb County State Court – Traffic Division.

These are just a few of the reasons it is beneficial to talk to an attorney before going to traffic court. Our free consultation will give you valuable information to  help you decide whether you need an attorney in traffic court. Call us today at 404-581-0999.

by Ryan Walsh

Atlanta Pre-Trial Intervention

The Municipal Court of Atlanta has a special program for minor traffic offenses and some accident cases that involves dismissing these cases without them going on your driving history, without any points going on your drivers license, and without you using your nolo contendere plea. It is called the pre-trial intervention program – traffic division, and you can use the program once a year in the Municipal Court of Atlanta for certain citations.

What qualifies?

Some offenses that qualify are:

  1. Speeding offenses UNDER 34 miles per hour
  2. Minor traffic accidents without any injuries
  3. Three point moving violations that do not involve accidents

Entry into the program is voluntary and involves the payment of a fee and potentially completing a driver improvement course or other requirements. You can choose not to handle your case through the PTI-T program and preserve your right to a jury trial in your case. 

Call us today!

Finally, we’d love to help you navigate your traffic citation in the Municipal Court of Atlanta. Call our office for a free in-depth consultation of all your options to resolve your citation. During that consultation we will explain to you the possible and likely outcomes and what we can do for you to save you time and money. Many traffic citations in Atlanta can be handled by us without you ever going to court. Call us today for a free consultation regarding your traffic ticket at 404-581-0999.

Police Roadblocks

Even the most seasoned motorists may never encounter a police sobriety roadblock or checkpoint during their entire driving history. Nonetheless, you should be armed with information regarding their validity and how to best approach them if you happen to drive towards one.

What is a Roadblock?

            In addition to the above factors,those arrested should urge their attorneys to be aware of local requirements regarding roadblocks, and subpoena all relevant records; although the road block may satisfy federal and state guidelines, it may fail the local arresting agency’s own policies.

            In determining the validity of a police roadblock, our courts analyze the following factors[1]:

  1. The roadblock was implemented pursuant to a checkpoint program that has, when viewed at the programmatic level, an appropriate primary purpose other than general crime control;
  2. The decision to implement the specific roadblock in question was made by a supervisor in advance, and not by an officer in the field;
  3. All vehicles that passed through the roadblock were stopped, rather than random vehicle stops;
  4. The delay to motorists was minimal;
  5. The roadblock was well-identified as a possible police checkpoint;
  6. The screening officers staffing the roadblock possessed sufficient training and experience to qualify them to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be subjected to field sobriety testing; and
  7. Under the totality of the circumstances, the stop of the defendant was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

What Should I Do?

            Now that we have seen what constitutes a valid police sobriety roadblock in theory, it is time to put the roadblock scenario into practice. If I see a roadblock coming what do I do? Am I allowed to evade it? The answer is . . . it depends. Drivers who violate a traffic law in order to avoid a police roadblock may be pulled over,arrested for said violation, and may be subject to further investigation by the police. However, drivers are entitled to take legal actions to avoid a roadblock, and police may not stop a driver from doing so, as long as the driver does not commit any traffic violations or other offenses while doing so.

An Example of a Roadblock

            For example, you are driving down a one lane road and you see a valid police roadblock ahead. However, the entrance to your apartment building happens to be 200 feet before the roadblock commences. You execute a legal turn into your apartment complex. A police officer at the roadblock sees you turn into the complex, follows your vehicle,and stops your vehicle. The officer’s hunch that you were avoiding the roadblock because you were intoxicated is, by itself, an insufficient basis to stop your vehicle.[2] As a result, most roadblocks are conducted on remote single lane roads so that an individual would necessarily have to break a traffic law in order to avoid them.

Call Us Today

             If you have 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.

by Casey Cleaver


[1] Brown v. State, 293 Ga. 787 (2013); Williams v. State, 293 Ga. 883 (2013); Baker v. State, 252 Ga. App. 695 (2001); LaFontaine v. State, 269 Ga. 251 (1998); Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000).

[2] Jorgensen v. State, 207 Ga. App. 545 (1993).

Georgia Court Dates

Months ago, you had one of your worst days ever: you were arrested. The time it took to bond out seemed like an eternity. But you’re finally out of jail, and you swear you’ll never be back. Weeks pass, and it all seems like a bad dream. Until one day you check your mail and find a letter from a superior, state or municipal court. The letter is about your arrest. It says you have to be in court on specific days for arraignment, motions, and calendar call. The letter also says if you don’t appear as instructed, you may be issued a bench warrant. But what do these terms mean?

Arraignments

Then and Now

Let’s start with arraignment. Arraignment is a word from British common law adapted into the U.S. Criminal Justice System. Literacy was at an all-time low during the olden days of England. Arraignment was created by their judicial system to tell illiterate defendants their pending charges. Prosecutors would do this by reading defendants’ charges to them in open court, since they couldn’t read the law themselves. Defendants would then be given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Similarly, modern arraignment is the court date at which defendants enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Should you choose Peachstate Lawyer as your legal representation, we will file the appropriate paperwork to ensure you do not have to be in court for arraignment. That paperwork is called a “waiver” of formal arraignment. The waiver we file enables you to enter a plea of not guilty without having to go in front of a judge. The waiver also preserves your attorney’s right to file motions in your case and receive discovery (i.e. evidence) from the state about your case.

Motions

That brings us to the next most important court date in your case: motions. Depending on the county, you may or may not have to be in court for motions. But rest assured that Peachstate Lawyer will file appropriate motions in your case. Motions are important pre-trial steps to contest the state’s evidence against you. Sometimes motions can get a case thrown out all-together. So, it is very important that you have legal defense, like us, who know which motions to file, and ultimately argue, on your behalf.

Calendar Call

Finally, the last court date referenced in the judicial notice you received is for calendar call. My rule of thumb is to instruct all of my clients to be present at calendar call. Most counties in Georgia issue bench warrants for those who do not appear as instructed. And while that is something our firm can take care of, it is in your best interest to avoid having a bench warrant issued for you. (After all, you swore you’d never go back to jail after bonding out months ago.)

Calendar Call is the date at which your attorney tells the Judge how you plan to resolve your case. Even though you initially entered a plea of not guilty, you may decide to resolve you case by guilty plea if don’t want to have a jury trial & your attorney secured a plea offer that you want to accept. Alternatively, your attorney may also announce ready for trial and your case will be added to the Judge’s next trial calendar.

If you’ve received judicial notice in the mail and do not know what to do next, contact our office today for a free consultation.

by Sarah Armstrong

Atlanta DUI Lawyer

by Mary Agramonte

If you or a loved one has been charged with an Atlanta DUI, picking the right criminal defense attorney can be challenging. You need to look to the credentials, success rate, and reputation of the attorney in the field. Even if you believe you are guilty of the DUI, it is still important to contact an attorney experienced in complex area of DUI law as having a knowledgeable DUI attorney can be the difference in saving and losing your driver’s license. There are some DUIs that if you plead guilty, your license is suspended without a limited permit. The license repercussions of a DUI conviction are one of many reasons to contact a DUI attorney.

Call our firm to speak with experienced DUI attorneys on how to best defend your case. Experienced Atlanta lawyers in our firm are available any time, including nights and weekends, to provide you with the best possible outcome and advice. We can be contacted 24/7 at 404-581-0999 and provide free consultations.

Our firm consists of six highly trained Atlanta and Fulton County attorneys. We have an office near the Municipal Court of Atlanta – and have successfully defended against hundreds of Atlanta DUIs. W. Scott Smith has 18 years of DUI under his belt. He is active The National College of DUI Defense, Georgia Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers, The Lawyer Club of Atlanta, the Cobb County Bar Association and the Sandy Springs Bar Association.

The address of the Atlanta Municipal Court is 150 Garnett Street. This court handles all cases where defendants are charged with traffic misdemeanors and local ordinances within the City of Atlanta in Fulton County. Atlanta has its own police department, and so if you are arrested for a DUI in Fulton County by an Atlanta Police Officer, your case will begin in the Atlanta Municipal Court. Additionally, if you are pulled over and arrested by a Trooper with the Georgia State Patrol within the City of Atlanta, your case will also begin in the Atlanta Municipal Court. DUI Court is currently held by Judge Bey at 1pm and 3pm daily. If you’ve been arrested and are in custody, Atlanta Muncipal Court Judges hold bond hearings Sunday through Friday, daily. The Atlanta Municipal Court does not always hold bond hearings Saturdays, so if you were arrested late Friday night or early Saturday morning you may not see a Judge until Sunday.

If you have been arrested with a DUI in Atlanta or in Fulton County, our lawyers are ready to fight to avoid a DUI conviction. We are a group of knowledgeable attorneys prepared to defend against your Atlanta DUI in order to best protect your freedom and your license. If you have been charged with Driving under the Influence and your case is in the Atlanta Municipal Court, call a law firm with the experience necessary to achieve the most favorable result for you.  We are available 24/7 to speak with you about your Atlanta DUI at 404-581-0999.

 

How Do I Get Out of the City of Atlanta Jail?

by Ryan Walsh

You’ve been arrested in the City of Atlanta. You’re in the back of the patrol car and being transported to Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center. What do you do?

First, do not make any statements to the police while you are being transported to the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center.

Second, do not make any statements about the facts of your case to anyone at the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center. This is not the time to plead your innocence. Your sole focus should be on getting out on bond.

You’ve been taken to the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center because your case is going to be beginning in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. The City of Atlanta Municipal Court has jurisdiction (or responsibility) in handling all traffic offenses, some state law misdemeanors including possession of marijuana, theft by shoplifting, and disorderly conduct; and all City of Atlanta ordinance violations.

You are entitled to a bond on all of these charges. Your bond will be set after first appearing in front of a Judge in most circumstances. City of Atlanta holds first appearance hearings Sunday through Friday. They do not hold first appearance hearings on Saturday, so if you’ve been arrested after first appearance on Friday, you may have to wait until Sunday to go in front of the Judge to get a bond.

The City of Atlanta Judge is required to consider four factors when setting a bond.

  1. Poses no significant risk of fleeing from the jurisdiction of the court or failing to appear in court when required;
  2. Poses no significant threat or danger to any person, to the community, or to any property in the community;
  3. Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial;
  4. Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice.

There are several types of bonds available for your case.

  1. Cash Bond: The first option in the City of Atlanta is to pay a cash bond. This means that you pay the entire bond yourself. The benefit to this bond is that it is refundable to you once you resolve your case.
  2. Bail Bondsman: The second option is to call a bonding company. You will pay between 10% – 15% of the total bond to the bonding company. The bonding company will then post the entire bond and you will be released. This 10% – 15% is non-refundable. The City of Atlanta jail will provide you with a list of approved bonding companies.
  3. Signature Bond: In certain circumstances you will be released on Signature bond. A signature bond means you are signing your own bond, promising to appear in court on the next scheduled date.

If you or your loved one is arrested and taken to the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center, please contact us any time and we can assist you in helping get a bond set.

Our office is located in downtown Atlanta at 100 Peachtree Street, Suite 2060, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. Feel free to call us at 404-581-0999 anytime day or night. Also, please go to our website at www.peachstatelawyer.com