Decatur GA DUI Lawyer - Decatur GA DUI Attorney
An arrest for DUI in Decatur can be one of the most stressful events of a person's life. Court hearings, license suspensions, police officers, attorneys...none of these are pleasant.
You need strong legal representation, and Richard Lawson has been handling DUI cases in Decatur for over 20 years. He is the top-rated DUI Defense Attorney in Decatur and began his career as a DUI prosecutor. Richard brings his trial skills and experience to the defense of Georgians accused of DUI and other traffic related offenses. You can read his reviews on AVVO.
One of the worst elements of a DUI case is the license suspension and in Georgia, the Department of Driver Services will AUTOMATICALLY suspend your driver's license ten (10) days after you receive your citation for the DUI! You must request an Administrative License Suspension Hearing or ALS Hearing.
10 DAY WARNING!
You have only 10 days to file a request for a hearing to delay or avoid the license suspension in your case! Once DDS receives notice of your DUI arrest, they will automatically suspend your privileges to drive. There is no warning or grace period and your license could be suspended for up to one year. If you refused to take the blood, breath or urine test requested by the officer in your case, you could be looking at a license suspension of at least a year with absolutely no hope of getting a restricted permit to allow you to drive to and from work or school. This suspension can be avoided by contacting a Decatur DUI Lawyer right away.
Many people are confused with the fact that there are two hearings and two court proceedings in separate court systems. The criminal case will happen to you whether or not you request an ALS hearing. This is why you were given an actual court date when you were released from custody. In addition, your license is automatically suspended unless you request a separate ALS hearing. However, your Decatur DUI Attorney can request a hearing to stop the suspension.
This hearing is requested by the 10-day letter. The hearing will be before a different court and a different judge. It has nothing to do with the criminal proceeding against you. Both hearings occur contemporaneously. That is why it's important to have an attorney comfortable both in an Administrative License Suspension (ALS) hearing as well as the criminal courtroom. We will file a request for hearing immediately, along with your check for $150 (the DDS fee for setting the hearing).
We will appear on your behalf at the hearing, unless you wish to attend. We understand the stresses of everyday life, work, school, family and childcare, and we want to limit the amount of time you have to devote to the DUI-related aggravations. Since it's a civil hearing, your appearance is not mandatory. However, eventually you will have to attend court for the criminal case, but we can make several appearances for you in order to save you from as much aggravation as possible.
Once the license suspension hearing has been requested, our office will turn its attention to your court case. DUI court cases in Georgia are complicated and often confusing. Which court you are supposed to appear in is sometimes a mystery, based on where you were arrested, which agency cited you, what charges were filed, and at what stage of the process your case is in.
DUI Court Process in Decatur GA:
Decatur Municipal Court:
The phone number for Decatur Municipal Court is (678) 553-6655. Decatur Municipal Court's permanent location is under renovation, but during the renovation, court staff and operations have been relocated to 120 West Trinity Place, 3rd Floor, Room 311. This building is the DeKalb County Callaway building in downtown Decatur.
The old facility was a former school building and not designed to house a courtroom. The new facility has been designed to promote safety and security as well as to be functional and effective as a courtroom facility. It is anticipated that court operations will resume in the new facility by Fall 2014.
The Municipal Court holds first appearance and preliminary hearings for felony and misdemeanor charges to determine if enough probable cause exists to bind the case over to Superior or State Court of DeKalb County. The Municipal Court holds trials for traffic charges, some misdemeanors, city ordinance and parking violations that occur within the city limits of Decatur. The judges can assign fines and incarceration if the person is found guilty.
The Municipal Court judges are appointed by the Decatur City Commission. There are four judges that serve regularly and they are:
- Robert N. Leitch (Chief Judge),
- Berryl A. Anderson,
- Lindsay R.M. Jones,
- Rhathelia Stroud
Additionally there are two substitute judges that serve in the absence of any of the regular judges. The substitute judges are Thomas Stubbs and Tisha Tallman. Larry Steele is the City Solicitor and is the prosecutor. He represents the city in the case against you and is the advocate for the arresting officer.
If you were arrested within the city limits of Decatur for a misdemeanor DUI, your case will begin there, in Decatur Municipal Court. The municipal courts in Georgia have jurisdiction only over those incidents that take place within the city limits of the towns in which they are situated. They are also limited in jurisdiction by the nature of the case, in that they are only allowed to manage misdemeanor criminal cases. In addition, they lose management of cases once they are set for jury trial.
The judges in municipal courts only conduct bench trials. If your case is set for jury trial, it will be transferred to DeKalb County State Court.
DeKalb County State Court:
DeKalb County State Court is limited in jurisdiction to cases that arise only within the boundary limits of DeKalb County. It is located at 556 North McDonough Street in Decatur, Georgia. The phone number is (404) 371-2261. The Solicitor General in DeKalb County is Sherry Boston, and the Clerk of the Court is Melanie F. Wilson. There are 7 Divisions of DeKalb County State Court.
The Judges are:
- Division 1 - Alvin T. Wong,
- Division 2 - Stacey K. Hydrick,
- Division 3 - Wayne M. Purdom,
- Division 4 - Johnny Panos,
- Divsion 5 - Eleanor L. Ross,
- Division 6 - Dax E. Lopez, and
- Division 7 - Janis G. Gordon.
The Court operates a DUI Court Program for repeat offenders. The DeKalb County D.U.I. Court Supervised Treatment Program (“Program”) is a voluntary post-conviction treatment program for those who have multiple violations of driving while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants. It is a part of the probation portion of a DUI sentence.
The Program is a team concept involving the judges, program coordinator, treatment coordinator, substance abuse treatment professionals, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer and Sheriff's Department.
The Program began helping multiple offenders in November 2004 and has enrolled 836 participants and has had 558 graduates through July 1, 2012, with a current population of 79 active participants. The Program's goal is to achieve sobriety of all Program participants in order to improve the quality of their lives and eliminate future violations of the law.
All defendants accepted into the Program are assigned and supervised by Judge Alvin T. Wong and Judge Dax E. López of the State Court of DeKalb County.
In order to be considered for the DUI Court Supervised Program, a defendant must be referred by the Judge, the solicitor or your defense attorney. As a general policy, our office never recommends DUI Court. We do have clients in the program, but generally, we do not feel the program is in our client's best interest. Never agree to enter into DUI Court without first consulting the best Decatur GA DUI attorneys.
If you decide to join the DUI Court program you first need to make sure you are committed to success. Failure to abide by the strict rules of the program will cause you to suffer a greater punishment than if you just took the punishment up front. The sanction within the program include time in jail, more community service, and attending additional counseling.
All of the sanctions can add up to considerably more consequences than just taking the punishment up front. In addition, the program is completely inflexible to the ordinary events of the lives of ordinary people. As a result, it can result in people being sanctioned for completely unreasonable and unfair things out of the control of the person in the program. One client we had in the program had a mandatory work function that he had to miss in order to attend his bi-weekly DUI Court session. He had to choose between going to jail or losing his job. This was a ridiculous choice thrust upon him.
If you have been charged with a felony, your court appearances will be in DeKalb County Superior Court.
DeKalb County Superior Court:
DeKalb County Superior Court is located at 556 North McDonough Street in Decatur, Georgia.
If your case was charged as a felony (i.e. if you were charged as a Habitual Offender, for Homicide by Vehicle, Endangerment, multiple DUIs, etc.) your case will automatically go to DeKalb County Superior Court. DeKalb County Superior Court is the court of original jurisdiction for any felony cases that arise within the geographic boundaries of DeKalb County.
DeKalb County Superior Court, also known as Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit has stated that its mission is to "provide an independent, accessible and responsive forum for the just resolution of legal disputes and criminal matters in a manner that preserves the rule of law and protects the rights of all parties. To act expeditiously in a manner that instills public trust and confidence that the Superior Court operates fairly, efficiently and effectively."
There are ten judges on the court They are:
- Judge Courtney L. Johnson, Division 1,
- Judge Asha Jackson, Division 2,
- Judge Clarence F. Seeliger, Division 3,
- Judge Gail C. Flake, Division 4,
- Judge Gregory A. Adams, Division 5 Chief
- Judge, Judge Cynthia J. Becker, Division 6,
- Judge Daniel M. Coursey, Jr., Division 7,
- Judge Linda W. Hunter, Division 8,
- Judge Mark Anthony Scott, Division 9,
- Judge Tangela Barrie, Division 10.
The Clerk of the Superior Court is Debra DeBerry. The District Attorney for DeKalb County is Robert D. James Jr. He has served in that role since November 2010, and previously served as the Solicitor General.
Because DUIs are so complicated and since each court handles things differently, it is important to hire an attorney who has knowledge of local customs and practices, as well as someone who is familiar with the prosecutors, judges, court clerks and police officers in each jurisdiction. Since Richard began his career as a prosecutor, he has an intimate knowledge of each of the local jurisdictions and the attorneys and judges that practice in each.
In addition, you want to hire an attorney who ONLY handles DUI and traffic related offenses. Because of their complicated nature and the fact that they are subject to ever changing laws and court opinions, attorneys who do not regularly practice DUI defense are often unaware of new developments in the law and may miss certain defenses that are available in your particular case.
It would be unfortunate for a client to plead guilty to a DUI charge when an experienced DUI Attorney in Decatur Georgia could get the case dismissed.
Defenses To Your DUI Case:
Many lawyers assume guilt before they even look for potential defenses to your case. For example, they see a breath test result above .08 and assume that the case cannot be won, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our office has won hundreds of DUI cases for our clients. Even in cases that cannot be won, our office has helped thousands of our clients restore their privilege to drive. You do not have to lose your ability to drive just because you were arrested for DUI in Decatur or anywhere in Metro Atlanta.
Richard and his team divide case issues into two types, procedural issues and evidentiary issues:
Procedural Issues can sometimes be the most important, and are usually litigated BEFORE trial. These are defenses to the manner in which the investigation was conducted and how you came to be arrested. In Georgia and throughout the entire United States, police officers have to follow certain procedures that are consistent with the United States Constitution, the Georgia Constitution, and Georgia law.
A procedural defense is generally one that is presented to the judge BEFORE a trial is even scheduled. We will prepare written motions to file with the court. The motion is a written statement outlining some of the facts and why we believe that the State violated your rights and ultimately asking that the case be dismissed without the need for a trial. As you can see, this is a very powerful weapon in the defense attorney's arsenal.
A procedural defense is one that raises a question about how the investigation was conducted and whether your rights as a United States and Georgia citizen were violated. There are many procedural defenses. One of them is reasonable suspicion. The question that arises in a case where reasonable suspicion is an issue is did the office have a reasonable, articulable reason for stopping you? (Articulable is one of those legal words that doesn't really exist in the outside world. It means a reason that can be stated. I cannot be a hunch or a 'funny feeling'). A police officer cannot just stop you without a reason. If he has a reason, he must be able to state it to the judge and testify to it under oath. Generally stops in DUI cases are made because you have violated some traffic law. A violation of most traffic laws constitutes reasonable suspicion to make a stop.
Without reasonable grounds to stop you, we will be able to convince a judge that the stop was illegal. That means the State cannot prosecute any violation of law found as a result of the stop because there wasn't reasonable grounds to have the police interaction in the first place.
A lack of probable cause is another powerful defense. In order to place you under arrest in the United States, an officer must have probable cause to make an arrest. In effect, he must be able to state that he had sufficient evidence that you had committed a crime. Whether the evidence collected by the officer was sufficient or not is a question the judge must decide. We will take the position that the officer did not have enough evidence to arrest you, the State will take the position that the officer did have enough evidence to make the arrest. Ultimately, a motions hearing the judge will decide whether or not there was probable cause to make the arrest.
Some other procedural defenses include the Constitutionality of the roadblock, and the advisement of the implied consent rights in your case. Again, the best part about procedural defenses is that they are complete defenses to the DUI case. That means, when we are successful in presenting these defenses to a judge, the State cannot prosecute the case. That is why we recommend investigating every Decatur DUI arrest. These procedural defenses are not readily apparent to a person arrested. That is why you need to hire the best DUI Lawyer in Decatur Georgia.
Every year our office sets many of its client's cases for evidentiary hearing, and every year they get many of those cases dismissed after showing there were errors in the investigation, there wasn't enough evidence, or that the evidence gathered was somehow misleading or tainted. This is one of the best possible outcomes for any DUI client!
OUR OFFICE WILL EXAMINE EVERY ISSUE AND FIGHT THE STATE EACH STEP OF THE WAY!
Defenses to actual impairment usually take the form of challenges to the field sobriety tests and the state's chemical test (breath, blood, or urine test). The basis of the defense is that YOU WERE NOT DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE. You were not impaired. The chemical test is incorrect. The breath testing machine was not working correctly or was not calibrated correctly. These defenses usually need the use of an expert witness to challenge the State's evidence. The expert is used to explain why the State's position that you were impaired is not correct. We have over the years, developed relationships with various highly effective and well respected experts in the areas of impairment, challenges to blood, breath and urine testing procedures and machines, and the field sobriety tests. These relationships and experts will play a major role in the defense of your DUI case. That is why it's best to hire an Decatur DUI Lawyer and not a general practitioner.
Many people refuse to take a breath test, even though they were not impaired, because they were always told to refuse by others. Many people are assumed guilty because they have had a prior DUI. Many people are simply innocent and should never have been arrested in the first place. Our Decatur GA DUI Attorneys are skilled trial lawyers who will fight in your defense at every stage of the administrative and criminal court process. There is no better defense than the Law Office of Richard Lawson. Call our office at (404) 816-4440 or use the Contact form on our website, to schedule a free consultation today.
We look forward to defending you.
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