Douglas County DUI Lawyer - Douglas County DUI Attorney
Hundreds of DUI stops and arrests are made each month by the Douglas County Sheriff's Department and the Douglasville City Police Department. If convicted, a DUI charge results in more than just a slap on the wrist. Long gone are the days where people stopped were held in jail overnight and sent home with a warning. DUI charges can result in serious fines, jail time, loss of work and income and suspension of driver's privileges. It is important to hire a top rated DUI attorney.
Luckily, one of the most well respected DUI attorney's in Georgia practices in Douglas County. Richard Lawson is AVVO rated and a recognized expert in DUI defense, having defended DUI cases for over 20 years.
However, the Law Office of Richard Lawson does not just defend you on your DUI case. Sometimes, more importantly, they also represent you on your license suspension case.
Douglas County 30-Day Warning!!
If you were arrested for DUI in Douglas County GA, you only have 30 days to protect your right to drive. Your lawyer will need to file a 30 Day Letter to request an ALS Hearing or an ignition interlock device. Without this hearing or the device, you will lose your driver's license for up to one year. Act now. That is the only way to avoid a 12-month license suspension.
You Must Act Now - 30-Day Warning For DUI in Douglas County
Even for a first DUI, a driver faces a driver's license suspension of up to one year or more, jail time, probation with random drug and alcohol testing, thousands of dollars in fines and court fees, community service requirements, DUI school, mandatory evaluation and counseling, etc. Douglas County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson and his team can help you get the best possible outcome on your case.
Most DUI cases are incredibly complicated and should never be handled by an attorney who does not practice DUI specifically. Richard Lawson is a former prosecutor with over 20 years' experience handling DUI cases throughout Georgia and Douglas County. As a former Georgia Prosecutor, he knows the ins and outs of the system in Douglas County, as well as the prosecutors, judges and most of the DUI officers. His experience as a prosecutor also provides added benefit to his clients in that he is intimately familiar with how prosecutors approach their cases and the weaknesses that he can exploit to defend you against your charges.
There is no better way to protect yourself from the damage that a DUI case can inflict on your life, your job and your family than to hire a former prosecutor to defend you.
Richard Lawson is also the most-reviewed DUI lawyer in Georgia and his reviews can be found on AVVO. His experience makes all the difference.
You only have thirty days to file your request for an Administrative License Hearing. If you don't, you will lose your driver's license for up to one year.
DUI Process in Douglas County Georgia
The first step in any DUI case is the traffic stop. The Fourth Amendment and cases interpreting it generally hold that an officer cannot stop you without having reasonable suspicion that you are in the act of, or have committed some type of offense. Your vehicle cannot be stopped at random under GA law. Most DUI stops stem from one of three circumstances:
- You are stopped for a traffic offense such as speeding, failure to maintain lane, a stop sign violation, etc...or you are stopped for an equipment violation, such as a faulty headlamp or broken tail light.
- You are stopped at a DUI Roadblock or Checkpoint. Roadblocks are an exception to the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and must be conducted in a certain way to be lawful. An experienced DUI lawyer can question the officer supervising the roadblock to ensure that your rights have not been violated.
- There is an accident and officers respond to the scene. Usually, the officers do not witness any of the driving but build a DUI case against you based on circumstantial evidence or witness statements. Cases where there is an accident resulting in injury, are treated much more seriously by prosecuting agencies and may actually rise to the level of a felony.
The second step in any DUI case is the investigation and the resulting arrest. An officer will place you under arrest once he has gathered sufficient evidence to determine whether he believes that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In a DUI case, police officers use the standardized field sobriety tests in order to gather the evidence they need to arrest you.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Georgia
In order to place you under arrest for any offense in the United States, an officer must gather enough evidence to constitute what is called "probable cause." Probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime is the benchmark an officer must meet before an arrest will stand up before a judge.
In general terms, probable cause means that an officer is reasonable in believing that there is at least a 51% likelihood that you have committed a crime. The standardized field sobriety tests will give most officers the evidence they need to arrest you. No matter how well you thought you did? You probably failed in the officer's eyes.
Most Douglas County deputies and Douglasville DUI officers are trained in the standardized field sobriety testing. There are three standard field sobriety tests - the horizontal gaze nystagmus (the eye test), the walk and turn test and the one leg stand. In addition, an officer may ask you at the side of the road to give a sample on their Alco-sensor - which is a portable breath test that gives the officer a reading of your blood alcohol content. Alco-sensor results are not admissible against you in court - all the officer can say is that the test is positive or negative for alcohol. The results are not admissible because they are not reliable enough and because there are too many problems and errors with the devices to allow them to be used as evidence at trial. Temperature, radio frequencies, humidity etc. can cause a false or misleading reading.
Generally, it is the best practice to decline to take field sobriety tests as they are difficult to do under even the best circumstances, not to mention when you are tired, nervous or scared. Some people are naturally clumsy and can't stand on one foot for 30 seconds without using their arms to balance on the best day of their life! Field sobriety tests are voluntary and it is better to decline them than to give the officers evidence to use against you later.
The scoring of the field sobriety tests is unfair in the opinion of most defense attorneys. The officer has a prescribed series of “clues” that he looks for and little things like not making heel to toe steps while walking the line and starting before the officer says “start” can lead to failure.
Finally, the officer will make the determination of whether to arrest the driver for DUI. So many clients feel they performed well on the field sobriety tests and were safe to drive only to have the officer still arrest them for DUI! Immediately upon being arrested, the DUI officer is supposed to advise you of your implied consent rights. Basically, this means that in the State of Georgia, driving is a privilege and not a right.
What about the State-Administered Test of your Breath, Blood, or Urine?
Driving in Georgia is viewed as a privilege, not a right. In order to keep your driver's license, you inherently agree to certain rules. You will maintain insurance, and registration, you will follow traffic laws and pay any outstanding fines....and if you are placed under arrest for DUI? You will agree to submit to a test of your blood, breath or urine, as chosen by the law enforcement officer placing you under arrest.
Once under arrest, the officer will read you a warning, known as the implied consent warning. Part of this warning advises you that you have been placed under arrest and under Georgia law you are required to submit to a blood, breath or urine test...this is known as advising you of your “implied consent” to a State test. This warning also advises you of your right to an independent test by a provider of your own choosing and at your own expense. If you exercise this right, the police officer should draw an additional vial of blood for you to have tested, as well.
The problem is, you are not entitled to you own blood, breath or urine test unless and until you submit to the officer's test. If you take the state's test, Richard Lawson and his team will be able to make arrangements to help you with an independent test (if you had your own blood drawn).
If you don't take his test, you are not entitled to yours and it still counts as a “refusal” for license suspension purposes. Sometimes, whether the officer properly advised you of these rights or if you requested an independent test is murky. These are both issues that can lead to your case being won or lost. If you request an independent test and the officer neglects to allow you to get one, the State's test can possibly be suppressed, which means they would have no evidence of your Blood Alcohol Content at trial!. Our attorneys can help if you feel that an officer mistreated or mis-advised you in some way.
If a law enforcement officer suspects you of DUI, and advises you properly that your license or privileges to drive can be suspended if you do not take a state-administered tests of your blood, breath or urine, he can in fact, suspend your license for the refusal alone.
A license suspension as a result of refusing a blood, breath or urine test is a suspension for at least one year, with no hope of getting a limited or restricted license allowing you to drive to or from work or school.
In fact, there are several ways that your license can be suspended in a DUI case, and the license suspension process is a confusing one, full of red tape and DDS workers who really don't care about your particular situation.
Because of the complicated nature of the suspension process, you should not hesitate to speak to an experienced Douglas County DUI lawyer to find out how to protect your ability to drive. Losing one's license can be the worst part of a DUI charge for most people, so find out how the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson can help. Your driver's license may depend on it!
The Court Process in Douglas County GA Explained:
Your first court date is your arraignment. But there are times where you will have a hearing, known as an administrative license suspension hearing (ALS) before you actually have to appear in court. To stop your license from going into suspension automatically we need to file an appeal letter along with a $150 fee within 10 business days of your arrest. Holidays are excluded from this calculation of time. License suspension hearings are hard to win as they have a lower standard of proof than a criminal case, but in many instances, a skilled DUI trial attorney can negotiate a deal with the arresting officer to preserve your license.
Back in court, at your arraignment, your lawyer will usually enter a plea of “not guilty” on your behalf. Even if you later want to change this to a guilty plea, your attorney will want to get the evidence and negotiate the best deal possible for you prior to you admitting any guilt. If your arrest was by an officer from the City of Douglasville, your initial arraignment will be in the City of Douglasville Municipal Court. If your arrest was by a Douglas County officer or Sheriff's Deputy, you will first go to Douglas County State Court.
If your case is in the City of Douglasville Municipal Court, you may always elect to have the case bound over to Douglas State Court. Douglas State Court is the only court in the county where you can have a trial by jury on a misdemeanor DUI. Most first time or second time DUI offenses are misdemeanors. However, if there are serious accidents/injuries involved, you are a habitual violator, there are children in the car or you have numerous DUI offenses, you can be charged with a felony.
If you are charged with a felony, your case would go to Douglas County Superior Court. Vehicular Homicide cases involving DUI and other serious traffic offenses like fleeing and eluding and hit and runhit and run will also be handled in Superior Court. Richard Lawson and his team handle both misdemeanor and felony cases in Douglas County State Court and Douglas County Superior Court.
DOUGLASVILLE MUNICIPAL COURT
COUNTY OF DOUGLAS STATE COURT
COUNTY OF DOUGLAS SUPERIOR COURT
In many cases there can be issues with the evidence in a case, or issues with the procedures the officers followed or didn't follow when investigating you or arresting you. These issues are generally handled before a case goes to trial and sometimes result in a dismissal of the charges or suppression of some or all of the evidence in your case. These issues are brought before a judge when we file paperwork with the court called a Motion.
You have the right to file Motions and have a jury trial in any DUI case. You will need to consult with your DUI lawyer promptly to decide if there are good issues to contest. Common Motions argued in DUI cases include a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of a reasonable suspicion to pull the vehicle over to begin with (i.e. needs to be a lawful roadblock or a legitimate traffic offense) and lack of probable cause to arrest for DUI. Georgia DUI Law has held that the mere presence of alcohol is not enough to constitute probable cause to arrest a driver for DUI. Your attorney will help evaluate whether there was probable cause in your case.
Oftentimes, an officer only testifies to smelling an odor of alcohol, having bloodshot and watery eyes and to having the driver admit earlier drinking. Without more, the law holds that a DUI arrest is unlawful. Judges rule on Motions before trial, thereby often avoiding trial altogether.
Once a case proceeds to trial, the issue becomes not whether the evidence was properly gathered or whether the officer followed protocol in making the arrest...it turns into WHAT ARE THE FACTS? DO THEY MEAN THAT YOU ARE GUILTY 'BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT?'
A judge decides the evidentiary issues but the jury decides what the facts are. In the United States, you are INNOCENT until a jury hears the evidence, and decides that the facts point to your guilt.
An important part of any DUI trial is the scientific evidence...or the blood and breath test results. In many cases, these can be attacked and discredited in front of the jury by the use of an expert.
Richard Lawson, because he draws on years of experience as both a prosecutor and a DUI defense attorney, is well acquainted with the experts used by the State and experts used by the defense.
Oftentimes, State experts are merely employees of the crime lab where your blood was tested. Richard and his team know their weaknesses, what they can and cannot testify to, and can point out that they are really just employees of the same State that is prosecuting you.
He also knows the best defense experts and the ones who can effectively testify at your trial, where necessary, in order to throw a shadow on the test results in an effort to convince the jury that you are not guilty! Richard works frequently with the best breath test, law enforcement and medical experts to help our clients make winning defenses.
In addition, our attorneys often help clients with drug offenses, including DUI drug cases, marijuana possession, violation of probation as well as with young offenders in juvenile cases, minor in possession of alcohol and underage DUI.
Douglas County prosecutors and judges are notoriously tough on people accused of committing crimes, even before they have been found guilty. You need an attorney who will protect your rights, remind everyone that you're still considered innocent, and who will fight to win.
Call now for immediate legal attention. We are available 24/7, 365 days a year. This includes, nights, weekends, and holidays. We are here because your problems should not have to wait until Monday morning.
Douglas County DUI Resources: