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Peach State Lawyer’s Marijuana Blog Series Part 1: Don’t Smoke and Drive

When you google: “legal marijuana in Georgia” the results seem endless.  That’s probably because the legalization of marijuana has become one of today’s hottest political and social issues.  Everywhere you turn, the “marijuana” debate is front and center. In fact, CNN, Fox News, and other major news sources have been exploring the topic on a daily basis–presenting opinions about and predicting the effects of marijuana legalization.

Georgians have also joined the debate.   Supporters of marijuana legalization in Georgia have been vocal about the drug’s medicinal benefits and the industry’s potential profitability. Additionally, supporters have been calling for an end to the criminalization of marijuana possession, comparing it “Prohibition,” which ended in 1920. Those who are against the legalization of marijuana argue that marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to widespread drug abuse and make our communities less safe.

What makes this debate so fascinating is the fact that there is bipartisan interest in legalization. Just recently, Georgia House Speaker, David Ralston, a conservative Republican, announced that even he would be interested in learning more about the medical benefits to marijuana and how Georgia can incorporate the legalization of marijuana into its own law.

Since we are still a few years away from legalization of marijuana in Georgia, it is important to understand how Georgia handles DUI-marijuana cases in the meantime.

CURRENT GEORGIA LAW AND DUI-MARIJUANA CASES

Georgia has already addressed driving under the influence of marijuana to some extent. Currently, the crime falls under Georgia’s broad DUI-drug statute. This statute allows a police officer to place a driver under arrest for DUI if the police officer believes a driver is under the influence of ANY drug (prescription or not) and that the drug is causing the driver to be a “less safe” driver.

There are a few different ways the officer can try to establish a case for DUI drugs and more specifically driving under the influence of marijuana.

First, the officer is trained to look for all the tell-tale signs that someone is high on marijuana.   Think about the people you knew growing up that liked to smoke marijuana. They often would have slower speech, blood shot eyes and a carefree attitude. Sometimes, marijuana smokers cannot control their laughter either. In addition to personal characteristics, police officers often include the smell of burnt marijuana as evidence of DUI-marijuana. Throughout any given investigation, police officers are looking for each and all of these signs.

Often times, police officers do not see all of the above-mentioned characteristics and therefore struggle to find probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI-Drugs.

In these situations, police officers are trained to establish a DUI-drugs case using the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) marijuana field sobriety test.  NHTSA, as you may know, is the federal agency tasked with designing field sobriety tests and training police officers to administer those tests in the most objective and scientifically accurate manner possible. Even though NHTSA has that responsibility, NHTSA is known for launching aggressive anti-DUI ad campaigns. In one ad, there is a car filled to the brim with beer and liquor. In another ad, there is an invisible police officer who stalks bar patrons as they head to their cars in an inebriated condition and drive recklessly on public roads. Georgia, like many other states, uses NHTSA’s manual to train its police officers on DUI investigation.

When a Georgia police officer believes a driver is impaired but cannot immediately determine what substance is causing the impairment, the officer is trained to conduct the DUI-Alcohol field sobriety tests.  If it appears that alcohol is not the reason why someone seems to be impaired, then the officer is trained to go into additional field sobriety tests to narrow down the potential causes of the impairment.  With these results, police officers can then make a determination as to whether there is probable cause (more likely than not) that the driver is under the influence of marijuana.

WHAT ABOUT MY LICENSE?

The post-arrest process for DUI drugs is very similar to a DUI alcohol arrest.   If an officer wants the driver to undergo additional chemical testing (which they almost always do), the officer MUST read the Georgia Implied Consent warning to the driver immediately after he is arrested. Basically, the Georgia Implied Consent warning tells the driver that his license is going to be suspended if he refuses to provide a sample of his blood, breath or urine.  In DUI-Alcohol cases, a breath test is the most popular form of chemical testing because it provides the officer with a quick, but not always accurate, printout of the drivers blood alcohol concentration. However, in DUI drug cases, a blood test is usually preferred because it can detect a variety of intoxicants–not just alcohol. Urine tests are rarely used in DUI investigations because the results have been found to be less accurate.

In Georgia, if a driver agrees to take a blood test, the driver will be taken to a nurse or phlebotomist who will then administer the blood draw.  If the driver agrees to the test then the blood will be packaged and sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) crime lab, where it is tested for the presence of marijuana and other intoxicants. When looking for marijuana in a blood sample, GBI looks for the mere presence of THC, the active chemical in marijuana that causes a person to feel high. GBI does not, however, examine or ascertain the level of THC in a person’s blood. So, if a driver smoked marijuana a week prior to getting behind the wheel and still had THC in their system, then that drivers GBI report would read the same as the driver who smoked while driving.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Avondale Estates Municipal Court

Avondale Estates. That small town center that looks like it’s taken straight out of the European countryside is home to Avondale Estates Municipal Court. If you’ve been pulled over by an Avondale Estates officer for a traffic misdemeanor or city ordinance, they’re going to want to see you in Avondale Estates Municipal Court.

 

Avondale Estates Municipal Court is located at 21 North Avondale Plaza, Avondale Estates, Georgia 30002. Court starts promptly at 8am on the date you have been told to attend. Like many other municipal courts, the calendars are crowded, and the Avondale Estates solicitor takes private attorney cases first, so be prepared to spend your entire morning in court.

 

If you’ve been charged with a traffic misdemeanor or city ordinance in the city of Avondale Estates, call the Peach State Lawyers today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in DeKalb Recorders Court

If you’ve been pulled over or cited by a DeKalb County Police Officer, Sheriff, or Georgia State Patrol Trooper for any traffic violation including DUI; or have been cited for a DeKalb County code violation, you are due to appear in DeKalb County Recorders Court. Recorders Court is another name for traffic court. There is a solicitor. There is a judge. But cases in Recorders Court are not tried in front of a jury. DeKalb County Recorders Court is located at 3630 Camp Circle, Decatur, Georgia 30032. DeKalb County Recorders Court is not located in the same building as State and Superior Court. There is a fee to park around DeKalb County Recorders Court. It is at least $3, and must be paid in cash.

 

Court starts promptly at 8:30am, and you need to be there early to find out which courtroom you are assigned to. After you get through security, courtrooms are assigned by the first letter of your last name. You then enter your assigned courtroom and have a seat in the pews. Recorders courtrooms are extremely busy and it is not uncommon to see 150-250 people in each courtroom on any given day.

 

Like many municipal and traffic courts in the State of Georgia, solicitors handle private attorney cases first. Guilty pleas are handled after private attorney cases. The last cases handled in DeKalb County Recorders Court are unrepresented citizens looking to fight your case. There are no electronic devices allowed in DeKalb County Recorders Court.

 

Peach State Lawyers can go to DeKalb County Recorders Court on your behalf. We can negotiate with the solicitors to get your best possible options before asking you to waste your time in court to enter a plea. Then when you do decide how you want to handle your case, we can get you in and out of Court quickly and on with your day. If you are scheduled to appear in DeKalb County Recorders Court, please call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Gwinnett Recorders Court

If you’ve been pulled over or cited by a Gwinnett County Police Officer, Sheriff, or Georgia State Patrol Trooper for any traffic violation including DUI; or have been cited for a Gwinnett County code violation, you are due to appear in Gwinnett County Recorders Court. Recorders Court is another name for traffic court. There is a solicitor. There is a judge. But cases in Recorders Court are not tried in front of a jury. Gwinnett County Recorders Court is located at 115 Stone Mountain Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046. Gwinnett County Recorders Court is not located in the same building as State and Superior Court.

 

There are three courtrooms in Recorders Court. Court starts promptly at 8:30am, and you need to be there early to find out which courtroom you are assigned to. After you get through security, go up the stairs to see a series of windows. At these windows you can check in, and get your courtroom assignment. You then enter your assigned courtroom and have a seat in the pews. Recorders courtrooms are extremely busy and it is not uncommon to see 150-250 people in each courtroom on any given day.

 

Like many municipal and traffic courts in the State of Georgia, solicitors handle private attorney cases first. Guilty pleas are handled after private attorney cases. The last cases handled in Gwinnett County Recorders Court are unrepresented citizens looking to fight your case. There are no electronic devices allowed in Gwinnett County Recorders Court.

 

Peach State Lawyers can go to Gwinnett County Recorders Court on your behalf. We can negotiate with the solicitors to get your best possible options before asking you to waste your time in court to enter a plea. Then when you do decide how you want to handle your case, we can get you in and out of Court quickly and on with your day. If you are scheduled to appear in Gwinnett County Recorders Court, please call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in City Court of Doraville

Dekalb County has several municipalities that handle their own court services.  The City of Doraville is one of the oldest municipalities in Dekalb County. The City Court of Doraville has always been an active courthouse.  The lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have handled cases in Doraville for the past nine years and are familiar with the courts daily operations.

The City Court of Doraville is located at 3765 Park Avenue, Doraville, Georgia, 30340. The court handles certain state law misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and local ordinances.  These cases often start with a citation written by a Doraville Police Officer.  In addition, a court date is usually written towards the bottom of the ticket to give the person, either cited or arrested, notice of their first court date.   The Officer will also include the charges that he/she is pursuing in the charges section of the ticket (middle of ticket).    The Officer can charge a citizen with either a State Law violation or a local ordinance violation.   If the State law violation is classified as a misdemeanor (including traffic violations) then the City Court of Doraville has jurisdiction to handle the case in Doraville.   In addition, the Officer can ticket for a local ordinance violation which also can be heard in the City Court of Doraville.

Some traffic offenses can be handled online by paying the fine online with a credit card. However, it’s important to note that paying the ticket online will result in a conviction on your driving record.   The consequences of traffic conviction can mean points on your license, higher insurance rates, and sometimes a license suspension.

Not every ticket can be resolved online.   The City Court of Doraville lists the following as “must appear” offenses:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • All city nuisance/code enforcement offenses
  • All under 21 offense
  • All accident offenses (unless proof of claim shown)
  • All alcohol offenses (except Open container)
  • Any other charge that may result in jail time and/or license suspension
  • Attempt to elude and officer
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Furnishing alcohol to a minor
  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • Hit and Run
  • Habitual Violator Offense
  • No insurance
  • Passing a loading/unloading school bus
  • Possession of alcohol by a minor
  • Possession of a concealed weapon
  • Racing
  • Reckless driving
  • Shoplifting
  • Speeding more than 30 MPH over posted speed limit
  • Driving with suspended registration
  • Driving with suspended license
  • Vehicular homicide/serious injury
  • VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act) (Marijuana)

Even though it may not seem like a big deal, many of these offenses can result in a conviction on your permanent criminal history.

Our lawyers have handled several cases in the City Court of Doraville and know how to protect your rights and permanent record.  If you have a case in the City Court of Doraville, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation (404-581-0999).  Our experience and training can help guide you through a difficult legal maze.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Johns Creek Municipal Court

North Fulton County has seen a recent spread of newly incorporated municipalities.   New municipalities mean new municipal courts.   Over the last nine years, the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have handled cases in every North Fulton Municipality.

The Municipal Court of Johns Creek is located at 11445 Johns Creek Parkway suite 300, Johns Creek, Georgia, 30097.  The court handles certain state law misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and local ordinances.  These cases often start with a citation written by a Johns Creek Police Officer.  In addition, a court date is usually written towards the bottom of the ticket to give the person either cited or arrested notice of their first court date.   The Officer will also include the charges that he/she is pursuing in the charges section of the ticket (middle of ticket).    The Officer can charge a citizen with either a State Law violation or a local ordinance violation.   If the State law violation is classified as a misdemeanor (including traffic violations) then the Johns Creek municipal court has jurisdiction to handle the case in Johns Creek.   In addition, the Officer can ticket for a local ordinance violation which also can be heard in the Johns Creek Municipal Court.

Some traffic offenses can be handled online by paying the fine online with a credit card. However, it’s important to note that paying the ticket online will result in a conviction on your driving record.   The consequences of traffic conviction can mean points on your license, higher insurance rates, and sometimes a license suspension.

Not every ticket can be resolved online.   The Johns Creek Municipal Court lists the following as “must appear” offenses:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • All city nuisance/code enforcement offenses
  • All under 21 offense
    • All between the ages of 17-20 must bring parent
    • All accident offenses (unless proof of claim shown)
    • All alcohol offenses (except Open container)
    • Any other charge that may result in jail time and/or license suspension
    • Attempt to elude and officer
    • Disorderly conduct
    • Furnishing alcohol to a minor
    • DUI (driving under the influence)
    • Hit and Run
    • Habitual Violator Offense
    • No insurance
    • Passing a loading/unloading school bus
    • Possession of alcohol by a minor
    • Possession of a concealed weapon
    • Racing
    • Reckless driving
    • Shoplifting
    • Speeding more than 30 MPH over posted speed limit
    • Driving with suspended registration
    • Driving with suspended license
    • Vehicular homicide/serious injury
    • VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act) (Marijuana)

Even though it may not seem like a big deal, many of these offenses can result in a conviction on your permanent criminal history.

Our lawyers have handled several cases in the Johns Creek Municipal Court and know how to protect your rights and permanent record.  If you have a case in the Johns Creek municipal court, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation (404-581-0999).  Our experience and training can help guide you through a difficult legal maze.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Alpharetta Municipal Court

North Fulton County has seen a recent spread of newly incorporated municipalities.   New municipalities mean new municipal courts.   Over the last nine years, the lawyers of W. Scott Smith P.C. have handled cases in every North Fulton Municipality.

The Municipal Court of Alpharetta is located at 12624 Broadwell Road, Alpharetta, Georgia, 30004. The court handles certain state law misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and local ordinances.  These cases often start with a citation written by an Alpharetta Police Officer.  In addition, a court date is usually written towards the bottom of the ticket to give the person either cited or arrested notice of their first court date.   The Officer will also include the charges that he/she is pursuing in the charges section of the ticket (middle of ticket).    The Officer can charge a citizen with either a State Law violation or a local ordinance violation.   If the State law violation is classified as a misdemeanor (including traffic violations) then the Alpharetta municipal court has jurisdiction to handle the case in Alpharetta.   In addition, the Officer can ticket for a local ordinance violation which also can be heard in the Alpharetta Municipal Court.

Some traffic offenses can be handled online by paying the fine online with a credit card. However, it’s important to note that paying the ticket online will result in a conviction on your driving record.   The consequences of traffic conviction can mean points on your license, higher insurance rates, and sometimes a license suspension.

Not every ticket can be resolved online.   The Alpharetta Municipal Court lists the following as “must appear” offenses:

  • Aggressive Driving
  • All city nuisance/code enforcement offenses
  • All under 21 offense
  • All accident offenses (unless proof of claim shown)
  • All alcohol offenses (except Open container)
  • Any other charge that may result in jail time and/or license suspension
  • Attempt to elude and officer
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Furnishing alcohol to a minor
  • DUI (driving under the influence)
  • Hit and Run
  • Habitual Violator Offense
  • No insurance
  • Passing a loading/unloading school bus
  • Possession of alcohol by a minor
  • Possession of a concealed weapon
  • Racing
  • Reckless driving
  • Shoplifting
  • Speeding more than 30 MPH over posted speed limit
  • Driving with suspended registration
  • Driving with suspended license
  • Vehicular homicide/serious injury
  • VGCSA (Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act) (Marijuana)

Even though it may not seem like a big deal, many of these offenses can result in a conviction on your permanent criminal history.

Our lawyers have handled several cases in the Alpharetta Municipal Court and know how to protect your rights and permanent record.  If you have a case in the Alpharetta municipal court, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation (404-581-0999).  Our experience and training can help guide you through a difficult legal maze.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Marietta Georgia Municipal/Traffic Court

You’ve been given a citation for a city ordinance or traffic violation within the city of Marietta. You’ve been told to report on a specified date to 240 Lemon Street, Marietta GA, 30060. And like any prudent person you google Marietta Municipal Court to see that Judge Roger Rozen is the judge on the bench there. But what else do you need to know?

 

Marietta Municipal Court is located in the same building that houses the police department. It is down a short driveway off 240 Lemon Street on your left hand side. There is a police cruiser out front that is painted half in the colors of a taxi cab and half in the colors of a police car to warn residents about the ramifications of being arrested for DUI. Free parking is limited around the courthouse building, so it is best to arrive early. When you get through the front doors, take an immediate left and you will see a security checkpoint. Make your way through security to a small waiting area. The court room is through the double wooden doors.

 

Once inside, there are many rows of pews in front of the Judge’s bench. Judge Rozen is prompt, but he takes private attorney cases first, so be prepared to spend half your day in court. Also, be mindful of Marietta Municipal Court’s rules. The Court requires you to turn off the sounds on all electronic devices, and understand that Judge Rozen or court staff could require you to turn off all electronic devices at any time. Court also adheres to a strict dress code so NO hats inside the courtroom (except those worn for religious purposes), sunglasses, t-shirts depicting violence, sexual acts, profanity, or illegal drugs, tube or halter tops/plunging necklines/midriffs, ripped or torn jeans, mini skirts or shorts, baggy pants that fall below the waist, or muscle shirts (usually worn as undergarments).

Peach State Attorneys specialize in Marietta Municipal Court.  Our law offices are right off Marietta Square at 456 Roswell Street, Marietta, GA 30060 and walking distance to the Marietta Municipal Court to help you with your Marietta Municipal Court appearances. We can be in court for you saving you time and working out a favorable outcome or dismissal on your case. Please contact us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation on your Marietta Municipal Court matter.

Peach State Lawyers Practice in Roswell Georgia Municipal/Traffic Court

If you’ve been pulled over by a Roswell Police Department Officer or cited with a city ordinance violation within the city limits of Roswell, Georgia you will be expected to attend court at Roswell City Hall. Roswell City Hall is located off at 38 Hill Street, Roswell, Georgia 30075. The court room is located on the second floor and there is plenty of free parking out in front of City Hall. Roswell City Court handles all city ordinances and traffic violations that occur within the Roswell city limits.

 

It is good to be early to court as they take unrepresented citizens on a first come-first serve basis after handling attorney cases. But they do not open the court room until just before court, so if you show up early, stay near the security line to make sure you are one of the first people to enter the court room to sign in.

 

The municipal court solicitor is currently Krista Young. She generally has ~100-200 cases to attempt to resolve at each court calendar. Having an attorney with you will allow your case to be given ample time by the solicitor – also called a pre-trial. You can hire our law firm to negotiate a positive outcome your first court appearance.

 

Peach State Lawyers practice regularly in Roswell City Court with three of our attorneys as nearby residents. Contact us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation regarding your Roswell, Georgia criminal case.

DS-1205: Where is my License, and What’s this Piece of Paper?

If you are arrested in Georgia for DUI, you should immediately have two concerns; 1) you have criminal charges pending against you after you were cited with at least one ticket for DUI, which is a misdemeanor, and 2) a civil case relating to a potential suspension of your driver’s license.  The criminal charges pertain to the tickets that the officer wrote and will be handled through the normal criminal justice process.  The civil case pertains to your driver’s license and, as we will discuss in this blog post, time is of the essence.

DS-1205 Form

You may not know it, but if you have a Georgia driver’s license you have actually given consent to the State to obtain a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine.   Any Officer in the State of Georgia, upon making an arrest for DUI, can request a chemical test to determine whether or not you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.   That said, the State does allow a driver to withdraw that consent and “refuse” any chemical testing by the State. The process by which the Officer requests the test and the response you give the officer is crucial in determining the status of your license.  Normally, the Officer will seize your driver’s license and submit DDS 1205 form which is a petition to the Department of Driver Services (“DDS”) to suspend your driver’s license.    You have 10 business days from the date of your arrest to appeal any petitions submitted to DDS.  The Department will then place your case onto an Administrative License Suspension hearing calendar where you can contest the suspension of your license (SEE ALS HEARING BLOG POST).

Refusals vs. Breath Test Cases

The Officer will note on the DS-1205 petition whether or not you agreed to submit to chemical testing or if you refused to take the test the officer requested.  The length of the suspension and the type of license you may be eligible for are all dictated by whether or not you agreed to take the test.

If this is the first time you have been arrested for DUI alcohol, and you agree to take a the State administered test, and the results of that test are above a .08, then you may be eligible for a temporary work permit immediately after the license suspension goes into place.  The temporary work permit will allow you to travel to and from school/work.  Before the criminal case is resolved, DDS requires drivers eligible for a temporary work permit to go onto a temporary work permit for at least 30 days, complete the Georgia Risk Reduction Course (DUI School), and pay a reinstatement fee of $220 before reinstating the drivers full driving privileges.  On the other hand, if the driver refuses to take the test on a first lifetime DUI arrest, then DDS will issue a one year hard suspension, meaning no driving at all. All suspensions will run immediately if you do not submit an appeal within 10 business days of your arrest.

The 10-day Letter

On the back of your DDS 1205 form you will find the required process of appealing any petition submitted by the Officer to suspend your license.  Ultimately, DDS requires that you send a letter to DDS indicating that you wish to appeal any license suspension and wish to be placed onto an Administrative License Suspension hearing.   DDS also requires that you include a $150 filing fee with your letter.   It is good practice to send all 10-day letters by certified mail to insure that your request for an appeal is received by the department.  Also, it’s a good idea to send the letter even if the Officer did not seize your driver’s license.  The Officer does have some time to submit the petition at a later date or he/she may submit the petition and forget to take your license.  In those cases, it’s always best to play it safe and send a letter to DDS to make sure your license does not go into automatic suspension.

There are ways to avoid license suspensions, regardless of what your decision was at the time of your arrest.  We encourage anyone who has been arrested in Georgia for DUI to contact our office immediately (404-581-0999) for a FREE consultation.   W. Scott Smith, P.C. is dedicated to helping our client’s navigate through an often very difficult license suspension process.