Have You Been Arrested For DUI in Gwinnett County Georgia?
Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer - Gwinnett County Attorney
If you are charged with a DUI in Gwinnett County, GA you will want to get the best lawyer you can get. Richard S. Lawson has almost 20 years of experience in DUI law and is available to speak to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Did you know that you only have 10 days after a Gwinnett County DUI arrest to file an appeal in order to stop your license from being suspended? As soon as you are charged with DUI, it is crucial that you speak with a Gwinnett County DUI Attorney about sending out a 10 day letter. It is important to have a Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer on your side.
Richard Lawson is a former Gwinnett County DUI Prosecutor. He knows both sides of your case and puts that experience to work for you every day. His office is the top-rated and most reviewed Gwinnett County DUI Defense firm in Georgia. His reviews can be found on AVVO. There are always options and potential defenses. We investigate every case and look for all possible DUI Defenses. As a Gwinnett DUI Lawyer, he is trained by the same people prosecuting the case against you. As a Gwinnett DUI Attorney he knows how to defend your case and get the best possible outcome.
Gwinnett County 10 Day Warning!!
If you are arrested for DUI in Gwinnett County you only have 10 days to file for an ALS Hearing. You need to hire a Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer as soon as possible. There is a $150 filing fee charged by the State of Georgia to request the hearing. Your Gwinnett County DUI Attorney will file the letter to protect your right to drive. In cases where you have allegedly refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, the potential license suspension is one year. In refusal cases the license suspension is a "hard suspension." That means the suspension is without a restricted license or limited permit. That is why the 10 day letter is so important. Failure to have your Gwinnett County DUI Attorney send this letter is the biggest mistake made by people arrested for DUI in Gwinnett County.
Your Gwinnett DUI Arrest
Police in Gwinnett County are looking to crack down on people driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When you get pulled over in Gwinnett County, police will keep an eye out for signs of potential inebriation such as slurred speech, red eyes and the smell of alcohol or drugs coming from the car. If they suspect that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be asked to step out of the vehicle and perform sobriety tests.
There are two types of sobriety tests that you may be asked to take, in many cases you will be asked to take both types. The first is a field sobriety test. In a field sobriety test, police will ask you to perform simple motor function tests such as walk a straight line or touch your nose with arms extended. It is important to note two things about field sobriety tests. First you will be recorded by a video camera on the police car's dashboard and that video can be used as evidence that you were intoxicated; second you can legally decline taking a field sobriety test with no punishment. Most Gwinnett County DUI lawyers will advise you to decline taking a field sobriety test, especially if you were not drinking as any mistakes you make due to sheer clumsiness could look like intoxication on the dashboard video.
The second type of test administered in Gwinnett County is the chemical sobriety test. This can be a blood, breath or urine test that measures the amount of alcohol in you system. In Gwinnett County, the legal limit is .08 for drivers over 21 years of age and .02 for drivers under 21. If you decline to take these tests, even if you are not found guilty of DUI, you can still lose your license for up to a year. When you get a Georgia driver's license you agree to submit to a blood, breath or urine test when asked to take one. This is called implied consent and if you fail to consent to a test in Gwinnett County, your license will automatically get suspended for a full year. If you declined to take a blood, breath or urine sobriety test in Gwinnett County call The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson right now, it is important that you understand your rights. Our Gwinnett County DUI Attorney are here to help.
The Legal Process in Gwinnett County DUI Cases:
Gwinnett County and its municipalities take the investigation, prevention, and prosecution of DUIs very seriously. In 2010, the Gwinnett County Police Department's DUI Task Force was named the “2010 Statewide DUI Agency of the Year” by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). Several municipal police departments now work together to conduct roadside checkpoints designed to identify impaired drivers within Gwinnett County.
Gwinnett politicians find it politically advantages to crack down on DUI drivers. As a result, they have made policies over the years to discourage DUI and punish offenders. There is a special branch of the Gwinnett police department that is a specially trained DUI task force. These DUI officers primary responsibility is the stopping and arresting of DUI drivers. Some have special training in DUI-drug detection. All are trained in field sobriety tests and their Gwinnett patrol cars are equipped with audio and video recording equipment.
They are on patrol nightly looking for any traffic offense that can justify a stop. The biggest catch all that many of our DUI clients are stopped for in Gwinnett County is “failure to maintain lane.” Just a touch of your tires over the center line or fog line will lead to blue lights if a task force officer sees you. Speeding is another common basis for the stop. Even small infractions like a seat belt violation or out tag light or head light can be a lawful basis for the stop as can a roadblock (if set up correctly). Once you are pulled over, the officer is free to begin suspecting you of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you are arrested for DUI knowing exactly what to expect at each stage in the legal process is the first step in feeling confident your case is being handled properly. Defending a DUI charge will require several court appearances and a lack of understanding of court procedures can significantly affect the outcome of your case.
If you were arrested for DUI in an incorporated city within Gwinnett County by that city's police department, your case will likely begin in that city's municipal court. Municipal courts have jurisdiction to hear misdemeanor cases, traffic offenses, and local ordinance violations. Municipal courts may have court sessions several times a week or only once a month. Municipal courts have one or more judges and solicitors, who may serve in a full or part-time position.
Gwinnett County is unique in that it is one of few Georgia counties to have a Recorder's Court. If you were arrested for DUI by a Georgia Department of Public Safety officer, a Gwinnett County Sheriff's deputy or police officer, or if you were arrested in an unincorporated part of Gwinnett County, your case may begin in the Gwinnett County Recorder's Court. The Recorder's Court has three judges and cases are prosecuted by the Gwinnett County Solicitor's Office.
Generally, if you are stopped by a Gwinnett County officer, your ticket will have a court date for a couple of months later at the Gwinnett County Recorder's Court. This is the traffic court for Gwinnett County. For a DUI offense, your appearance is mandatory. Other serious traffic offenses like driving on a suspended license (or while unlicensed), reckless driving, hit and run, racing, fleeing and eluding etc. also require a court appearance as the sanctions are worse than just a fine and points on your license.
It can be extremely advantageous for your case to be heard in a Municipal or Recorder's Court as opposed to a county State Court. If your case begins in that city's municipal court, you have the right to transfer your case to the State Court of Gwinnett County for a jury trial. This means you have more than one opportunity to negotiate a fair and reasonable plea to resolve your case. Your ability to transfer your case stems from your constitutional right to have your case tried by a jury which municipal courts do not have jurisdiction to conduct. The municipal or Recorder's court cannot deny your request to transfer your case to the Gwinnett County State Court. This does not mean that once the case is transferred, you must proceed with a trial, but instead your case will essentially start over with a new a solicitor and a new judge presiding over the case.
Gwinnett County also has many cities that maintain their own police departments that have officers who make DUI arrests. If you were arrested by an officer in the City of Norcross, City of Duluth, City of Suwanee, City of Lilburn, or in the City of Lawrenceville, your first court appearance will probably be in the Municipal Court of that city. Those courts are mainly for plea bargaining, so if you want to be heard at Motions or at a jury trial, the case will be transferred to the Gwinnett County State Court.
There is an incentive for municipal courts to retain jurisdiction and have your case resolved within the city. Any fine assessed as a part of your sentence goes into the city treasury. If your case is transferred to a county court, though, any fine imposed will go into the county treasury. Because of this pressure to generate revenue, many municipal courts have created programs that offer significant benefits to offenders as well as quickly and efficiently resolving cases within the city without the need of a trial.
Many municipal courts within Gwinnett County have created programs designed to benefit first time offenders. In a typical Pretrial Diversion program, in consideration for the successful completion of certain requirements, the charges against you will be dismissed and no conviction will be recorded. If the charge is dismissed, in some cases it is possible the charge can also be expunged (permanently removed) from your criminal record. This can mean the avoidance of many harsh penalties that you may have been facing upon conviction such as the suspension of your driver's license. If the requirements are not met, however, or if you are removed from the program because you are charged with committing a new offense, the original charges will not be dismissed and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Suwanee and Snellville Municipal Courts, among many other city courts within Gwinnett County, have a Pretrial Diversion Program available for Minor in Possession of Alcohol, certain traffic offenses, and Shoplifting charges. The most common requirements are the payment of a program fee, community service, random drug and alcohol screens, counseling, alcohol or drug awareness courses, or an Alcohol and Drug Use Risk Reduction course.
The Gwinnett County Recorder's Court has enacted a Pretrial Diversion Program for first time offenders charged with minor offenses that is similar to programs instituted in the county's municipal courts. The Recorder's Court program is four months and requires the offender to pay a $300 program fee, complete a clinical evaluation and any recommended counseling, community service, and submit to random drug and alcohol screens. Upon successful completion of the program, the charges are generally eligible for expungement.
The Duluth Municipal Court was honored with a Special Recognition from the Council of Municipal Court Judges for its Teen Driver program, which was instituted in response to a disproportionately high number of Duluth area teen drivers involved in road accidents. The Teen Driver program focuses on drivers under the age of 21 and encourages parents and other family members to participate in the program along with the driver. Since its inception, over 1,000 young drivers and their family members have attended and completed the program.
A Conditional Discharge is another alternative sentencing tool that permits a judge to dismiss a drug or alcohol-related charge upon completion of certain conditions. Sentencing as a Conditional Discharge is only available to use once and only to persons who have never previously been convicted of the underlying charge. The conditions typically consist of a term of probation, random drug and alcohol screens, payment of a fine, community service, and a Risk Reduction course (DUI school). Failure to complete the conditions as provided by the court, failing a drug or alcohol screen, or being convicted of a new offense may cause the court to revoke your conditional discharge status and proceed with the original charge.
Each DUI case will be handled according to the policies and procedures of the court it is heard in. There are at least thirteen municipal courts within Gwinnett County. The particular officers, prosecutors and judges presiding over cases in that court can have an impact on how your case is resolved and what agreement is likely to be negotiated and accepted.
Despite these differences, though, there are still many similarities. Your first court appearance will be your arraignment. At arraignment you will be formally accused of the charges against you and expected to enter a plea to those charges. You have the option of pleading guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). If you enter a plea of guilty, you will be sentenced by the judge and your case will be closed. If you enter a plea of no contest, you are not admitting or denying the charges against you, but you are also not contesting them and will be sentenced by the judge.
If you enter a plea of not guilty, the solicitor may attempt to negotiate the conditions of a plea in your case. In some municipal courts, the solicitor will consult with the arresting officer before agreeing to reduce or dismiss a charge and before agreeing to a plea that varies from the court's standard conditions. If you agree to plead guilty, whether it is to DUI or a reduced charge, it is likely that the recommended sentence will include a fine, an Alcohol and Drug Use Risk Reduction course, a clinical evaluation and any recommended treatment, a period of probation, drug and alcohol screening, and community service.
There are several judges and prosecutors in the Gwinnett County State Court. It will likely be several months between your initial arrest and your actual trial date. This gives the State prosecutors time to get your DUI lawyer the evidence against you and also time to try to negotiate and work out a plea bargain. If none can be reached, there will be a trial.
If an agreement cannot be reached regarding a plea, you may be asked if you would like a trial by judge or jury. Municipal and Recorder's courts only have jurisdiction to hold bench trials, which is a trial by judge. As discussed above, you have a constitutional right to a trial by jury and can choose to bind your case over to the Gwinnett County State Court. Again, having your case transferred to the State Court does not require you to proceed with a jury trial, but allows you to have another opportunity to negotiate a resolution to your case.
If you elect to have a bench trial in the municipal or Recorder's court, you will be given a new court date. In most cases, the arresting officer will be required to testify during the bench trial. The solicitor will have an opportunity to call witnesses and ask them questions and you will have an opportunity to cross-examine the State's witnesses, as well as offer your own evidence. The judge will decide the case and enter a verdict.
If you elected to have your case transferred to the State Court of Gwinnett County, it may take anywhere from three to six months for your case to be formally accused. This means that it will be several months before your next court date is scheduled. This can be advantageous because during this time evidence can be lost, witnesses can move or lose contact with the court, the arresting officer may be fired or transfer to a new agency out of state or otherwise become unable to testify against you. The amount of time it takes to transfer your case also has the potential to be harmful, though, if your situation changes and you relocate so that it becomes burdensome and expensive to travel to Georgia for court appearances. New laws could also go into effect during that time period that could impact your case or increase the penalties upon conviction.
Your first court date in the State Court of Gwinnett County, whether the case originated in State Court or was transferred from a municipal court or Gwinnett County Recorder's Court, will be an arraignment date. If you intend to file motions in your case, they must be filed at or before your arraignment date or they will be considered out of time. The judges in the State Court of Gwinnett County allow you to waive your presence at your arraignment date if a waiver is timely filed at least two days prior to your court date. After arraignment, the solicitor must respond to any requests for discovery. Plea negotiations will also continue.
If you have multiple prior DUI convictions, you may be eligible for Gwinnett County's DUI Court Program. DUI Court is designed to combine substance abuse treatment with judicial supervision and focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. To join, participants must first enter a guilty plea to DUI. Participation within the program is then a requirement of probation.
To qualify, participants must live within so many miles of the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center to ensure that participants will be able to attend all regular DUI court sessions and other program requirements. Certain prior violent offenses may disqualify you from entering the program.
Participants receive certain incentives to join the program. Commonly, jail time and fines are significantly reduced and participants earn credit toward any community service hours they are required to perform through attendance at treatment and counseling sessions within the program as well as court appearances.
The DUI Court Program is a minimum of twelve months and consists of three phases of treatment. The first phase is Active Treatment and Early Recovery, the second phase is Relapse Prevention, and the third phase focuses on Continuance of Care. The DUI Court Program costs $250.00 per month. All absences at any required sessions or meetings must be approved in advance.
Initially, the program can be very demanding and requires attendance at multiple counseling sessions per week. DUI Court sessions are held every other Thursday at 4:00 pm with the supervising judge in order to review their progress within the program. Phase one requires three hours of weekly group counseling sessions and a minimum of two AA meetings per week. DUI Court participants are also required to call a hotline everyday to see if they have been selected to report for a drug and alcohol screening that day. There will be two random tests per week during phase one. Participants may also be visited at home by a Gwinnett County Sheriff's Deputy assigned to the DUI Court. Participants cannot move on to phase two unless all requirements of phase one have been completed and no sanctions have been received in 30 days.
Because participation in the program is a condition of probation, the judge can impose sanctions if there are any infractions such as a failed drug or alcohol screen or missed court appearances. Sanctions can range from additional community service or jail time to expulsion from the program. No person should enter DUI Court without first considering their commitment to succeeding in the program. Failure to comply with program rules will result in more punishment than had the person elected to forgo the program for punishment up-front.
If a plea has not been negotiated and you have not chosen to enter the DUI Court Program, your case will remain on the judge's trial calendar. All cases that remain open will be scheduled for a Calendar Call date, which is used by the judge to schedule further motion hearings and trial dates. In a DUI case in the State Court, you can have a bench trial heard only by a judge or a jury trial decided by six jurors. A bench trial may be a better option if a jury may not be able to fully comprehend the details of the evidence and the science behind your defense. The prosecution has the burden of proof at trial and must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the verdict is entered and read, your case will be resolved.
DUI Trials in Gwinnett County
For misdemeanor DUI cases in Gwinnett County, they are heard by juries of 6 Gwinnett citizens in State Court. For felony DUI offenses, there are juries of 12 and the cases are heard in Gwinnett Superior Court. Both courts are held within the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center at 75 Langley Drive Lawrenceville GA 30045. If the jury founds you not guilty, the charges are dismissed and you walk away with a clean record. If the jury finds you guilty of one more counts, then you are sentenced by the judge. Of course, the goal is for you to be acquitted of all of the charges.
Speak to a Gwinnett DUI lawyer for more information about trials, motions, plea bargains and possible sentences. There is a great deal of latitude in what different judges do following trials if you are found guilty on one or more of the counts. Having an attorney can make the difference in the outcome of your case or your sentence. In addition, it is important to have your case evaluated to see if a trial or plea bargain is the best course of action. No person should decide on any course of action without first determining the best strategy for their individual case.
Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer - Gwinnett County DUI Attorney
Gwinnett DUI lawyer Richard S. Lawson works hard for his clients. He has devoted his career to helping clients wrongly accused of DUI and making sure those guilty of DUI are treated fairly. Unlike some law practices, The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson are not “general practitioners”, meaning they focus solely on DUI and driving-related cases. Our office is staffed by professionals trained to fight your case. Our office is staffed by Gwinnett County DUI Attorneys that will not rest until they find the best possible outcome in your case. We investigate all of our cases for both legal and factual defenses and will leave no stone unturned.
During his almost 20 years defending DUI clients in Gwinnett County, Richard S. Lawson has served as lead counsel in hundreds of jury trials and represented over 4,600 DUI clients. Using his experience as a DUI prosecutor, Richard Lawson has helped hundreds of people get their DUI charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge like reckless driving. Because of his experience both as a prosecutor and a Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer, Attorney Richard S. Lawson knows the best ways to fight DUI charges and get the best results for his DUI clients.
10-Day Letter - Gwinnett County ALS Hearings
In Gwinnett County, when you get charged with a DUI, your license will automatically be suspended 30 days after your arrest. You only have 10 days to file a letter of appeal to stop the suspension process. The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson file these letters for clients on a daily basis and will gladly assist you, just make sure you call as soon as you are charged with Gwinnett County DUI. Once the 10 day letter is filed, you will be scheduled for an ALS hearing and your Gwinnett County DUI lawyer will fight on your behalf to get you a temporary driving permit. Once the 10 days is up, there is nothing that can be done to stop the suspension, so call us right now. Because the time period to file a 10 day letter is so short, we are available 24/7. Whenever you are charged with a DUI, you can call The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson to answer your questions and begin filing your 10-day letter, even on weekends or late at night. Help is just a phone call away.
Call The DUI Lawyers in Gwinnett County
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Gwinnett County, Georgia, call The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson right away. It is important to remember that a DUI arrest does not automatically mean you are guilty. A DUI charge is not like a simply traffic ticket, it can have serious and long-term consequences. Even a first time DUI offense can lead to probation up to one year, driving school, high fines and even jail time. Plus, a DUI conviction goes on your permanent driving record and may affect your chances for future employment or educational opportunities.
The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson want you to know that you have choices when it comes to your Gwinnett County DUI case. There are many defenses for DUI charges. If the police made any mistakes during your arrest such as pulling you over for no reason or failing to read you your rights, we can work to get your case thrown out. In other circumstances we have argued that the police officer made an error in conducting sobriety tests and that you were not DUI in the first place. There are many defenses that we use to get the best possible results for our clients.
We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your questions and start the best defense of your Gwinnett County DUI Case. Call now!
Map to the Gwinnett County State
Map to the Gwinnett County Recorders Court
Gwinnett County DUI Resources: