Avoiding The Pitfalls of Making an Uniformed Choice:
Researching about your DUI charge on the internet can lead you to many misconceptions. Without the guidance of a Georgia DUI Attorney to help navigate you through every step of your case, you could be missing steps and defenses to resolve your case.
Our office gets many calls from people that have been doing research on the internet. Online research lacks context and the experience of a qualified lawyer who knows the local rules and customs of the court system. These misconceptions can mislead a person to make poor judgments about their case, some of which can lead to irreversible outcomes. Although the internet has many great resources, no website should ever take the place of legal advice from a skilled attorney, even the Georgia DUI Information website.
Twenty Common Misconceptions About Georgia DUI Laws:
1. DUIs Come Off Your Record After 7 Years:
This is completely false. A DUI in Georgia is a misdemeanor traffic offense and stays on your permanent Georgia Criminal history for life. Petty traffic citations such as speeding or running red lights unrelated to DUIs only go on your Motor Vehicle Report through Driver Services and for the purpose of insurance and points, come off after seven years. A DUI conviction remains on your criminal history forever.
2. A DUI Can Be Expunged:
There are only two instances where a DUI in Georgia can be restricted from your criminal history. First, you took your case to a trial either by a jury or a judge, and they found you not guilty of all offenses, including any related offenses, such as failure to maintain lane. The Second way to have your record restricted is if the State completely dismisses all your charges. Many people mistakenly believe that if their charges were reduced to reckless driving, that this constitutes a dismissal and are therefore eligible for record restriction. This is false. The charges must be entirely dismissed, not just reduced.
3. Georgia Offers Pre-Trial Diversion or First Offender Plea for First Time DUI Offenders:
Pre-Trial Diversion Programs, commonly referred to as conditional discharge are excellent programs that allow a defendant charged with an offense have their case dismissed. The dismissal must be earned and usually involves attending counseling, payment of a fine, completion of community service, and sometimes a period of probation. Usually these programs are for people charged with minor traffic offenses, shoplifting, possession of marijuana, and underage possession of alcohol.
Although these programs are a great opportunity for many people, a DUI in Georgia is not eligible for Pre-Trial Diversion or Conditional Discharge. Additionally, many people think that they can use a First Offender Plea for a First DUI offense. DUI is specifically restricted by the statute allowing First Offender Pleas. We can "thank" politics for the fact that DUI offenders are not allowed into these programs. In fairness, these programs have never been allowed under Georgia DUI Law.
4. There is Not Much a Georgia DUI Attorney Can Do If I Have Taken a Breath Test and Tested Above the Legal Limit:
We have heard this theory many times. A Georgia DUI specialist is trained in every possible DUI Defense that may be used on your behalf in court. Your attorney will begin by challenging whether you voluntarily submitted to a breath test, the equipment used itself to conduct the test and the validity of the reason for the stop (articulable suspicion). In addition, there are many other defenses an attorney can look into to help you fight your case, even if you took a breathalyzer and tested above the legal limit.
Furthermore, even if a breath result is unable to be excluded from evidence, an attorney is many times able to negotiate a better plea offer than a lay person representing themselves in court.
5. If I Complete Community Service and DUI School Before Court, The Prosecutor Will Dismiss My DUI Case:
Although many times completing these things before going to court is helpful, they do not warrant a dismissal of your charges. These things do not negate the fact that you may still be guilty of the charges, but they do show you have taken things seriously on your part and may be helpful in obtaining a reduction of your charges. Every case is different, and the decision to reduce your charges is solely up to the prosecutor. If reduced, the case will not be completely dismissed. The more likely outcome would be a reduction to reckless driving.
6. Having Political Connections Such as Knowing a Judge, a Mayor or Another Police Officer Can Help Have My Charges Reduced or Dismissed:
We hear this misconception on a weekly basis. Many people believe that if they are involved in the community and know the mayor or other city council members, that these people will hold enough influence to have your charges reduced or dismissed. The truth is, DUI carries a social stigma. Because of this, many times a Judge Friend or Mayor friend of yours will not want to “put their name” on your DUI. Furthermore, having a friend intercede on your behalf puts them in an uncomfortable position that may cause you to lose a friend. Many times, it is best to leave your “political connections” out of your DUI case.
7. If I Hire an Attorney, My DUI is Guaranteed to Be Dismissed or Reduced to Reckless Driving:
Although this theory may be true in other countries around the world, it is far from true here in the United States. Hiring an attorney is essential for your DUI charges, but does not guarantee a particular outcome in your case. The decision to reduce your charges is up to the sole discretion of the prosecutor. The prosecutor is a human just like you and me, and they cannot be forced to change their mind if they have decided not to offer you a reduction of your charges. That being said, many times you may have a much better chance at a reduction of your charges with an attorney then you would have if you represented yourself on your charges. Never believe an attorney that promises you a particular outcome. Our Georgia DUI attorneys will give you a fair evaluation of your case. We will not guarantee results to obtain your business.
8. The Court Cannot hold a DUI Against You if it Occurred More Than 10 Years Ago:
The 10-year rule is very often misunderstood. In Georgia, there are mandatory increases in punishments associated with the number of DUIs a person has within a 10-year period. However, there has never been anything that prevents a court from holding any prior offense against a criminal defendant. Each court views prior convictions differently.
9. The Outcome of a Case Can Be Changed at a Later Date:
People who have already resolved their case call our office every day. Very often they are facing consequences for things they did years ago. The problem is that there is usually nothing a qualified Georgia DUI Lawyer can do after a case is resolved. The time to get a good outcome is while the case is still pending.
I very often feel bad that people have to live with the consequences of their actions when they had made mistakes when they were younger. We need to be a more forgiving society.
10. The Officer Said I Could Drive Until My Court Date:
When a person is charged with a DUI in Georgia, they only have 10 Days to file their appeal. Otherwise, their license will be suspended. Many police officers dishonestly tell arrestees that they can drive on the DDS-1205 form until their court date, which is very often months away. They do this to discourage people from reading the form and appealing their suspension. The DDS-1205 form is a 30-day driver's permit. If you flip over the DDS-1205 form it very clearly says you only have 10 business days to file an appeal. Otherwise, a person's license will be suspended. In the event of a refusal, the suspension is for 12 months.
11. You Must Attend Your Initial Arraignment:
Most courts will allow your attorney to handle many of the court appearances. Ultimately, you will have to attend court; however, our job is to minimize your inconvenience as much as possible. It does not violate your bond if you have your attorney handle the initial arraignment. When you attorney appears for you, it as if you appeared yourself.
12. The State Will Not See Out-of-State Arrests and Convictions:
When the prosecutor runs a GCIC Report on you (Georgia Crime Information Computer), it only shows Georgia arrests. Sometimes our clients get lucky, and nothing further is discovered. However, if the prosecutor looks carefully, there will be a code that indicates a "multi-state offender." This will cause an astute prosecutor to run a national criminal history (NCIC).
13. The Police Officer Was Out of His Jurisdiction, and as a Result, the Arrest is unlawful:
Unless otherwise noted in the authorizing documents for a police department, most police officers can pull over someone outside of the city or county in which they are employed. Some university police departments have limited jurisdiction, but those are exceptions to the general rule. All deputy sheriffs have statewide arrest powers. That being said, it is the custom of most police officers to stop a suspected drunk driver and then turn that person over the local police when they arrive.
14. The DUI Laws Are Essentially the Same Throughout the United States:
In fact, Georgia DUI Laws are very different from the laws of other states. We have been ranked by wallethub.com as the second toughest state in which a person can be charged with a DUI. The ranking methodology was based on both punishment and driver's license consequences.
15. The Judge Decides the Outcome of the Case:
This is only partially correct. If a person elects to have a bench trial, (a trial by judge only) the judge will decide both guilt or innocence and any consequences therein. However, most DUI cases are either settled by negotiation or tried by a jury. In a negotiated plea, the judge is not part of the plea-bargaining process. The judge can either accept or reject the agreement. If the judge changes the agreement, a criminal defendant has a right to withdraw their plea. In a jury trial, the judge makes legal rulings and acts as in impartial referee. The judge would, however, decide punishment in the event of a conviction.
16. I Was Not Read My Miranda Rights, and So My Case Will be Dismissed:
Miranda is a case that explains a person's right against self-incrimination, as guaranteed by the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. If the police are not trying to elicit a confession from you, those rights generally do not apply. For the most part, Miranda Rights do not apply in a DUI Case.
17. Your License Automatically Reinstates After a Suspension:
No. You must take active steps to reinstate your Georgia Driver's License. Otherwise, it will remain suspended indefinitely.
18. I Cannot Afford an Attorney:
Most law offices have different attorneys at varying price points. Some will offer payment plans as well. Almost all law offices accept credit cards. You will likely be able to afford to hire an attorney you can afford.
19. I am Entitled to a Free Lawyer:
All persons have the right to hire the attorney of their choice. However, a person is only entitled to a court-appointed attorney or public defender if they meet the Federal indigent guideline.
20. An Arrest Means You Are Guilty:
Nothing could be further from the truth. We successfully represent people every day. No one who is arrested in the United States is assumed guilty. In fact, everyone enjoys the presumption of innocence. An Arrest Does Not Mean You Are Guilty!!