Newton County GA DUI Lawyer - Newton County GA DUI Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Newton County, Georgia, you are fighting two battles: the civil matter of the Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Hearing and the criminal case in one of the criminal courts in Newton County. Choose a qualified Newton County Georgia DUI Lawyer with the Law Office of Richard Lawson to fight for you and protect your rights in BOTH legal proceedings. Richard Lawson is a former prosecutor and knows the intricacies of both sides of your Newton County GA DUI case. You are going to be dealing with a disjointed and confusing system with multiple courts. Therefore, it is of particular importance to have an attorney who is familiar with this system.
Georgia License Suspension: The 10-Day Letter
When you are charged with DUI in Georgia, you only have ten business days to file for an ALS Hearing (Administrative License Suspension Hearing). The consequences of not submitting the request for the hearing include, but are not limited to, losing your driver's license. In the event of a refusal to submit to the state-administered testing (or even just an allegation of a denial), the license suspension lasts a full 12 months. During a "refusal suspension," no limited permits are available. The penalty is harsh, but it can easily be avoided. Your Newton County DUI Georgia Attorney will file the 10-day letter along with the required $150 filing fee. Once filed, the suspension can either be prevented or at least (in the event of multiple offenders) postponed. That is your affirmative duty. The criminal case in one of the Newton County criminal courts will happen either way. It is your choice to act and request this hearing to help save your privilege to drive in Georgia. Act now by contacting our office today!
In Newton County, as in many jurisdictions in the state of Georgia, DUI cases may be heard in several courts. There are various levels of municipal, probate, and superior courts. The maze of courts can be confusing. As a result, it is important to have a Newton County GA DUI Lawyer who understands this system. Our Newton County Georgia DUI Lawyers know the prosecutors, judges and clerks, and use their experience to protect your rights and get the best possible outcome in your case.
Newton County GA Probate Court
If you are arrested in unincorporated Newton County, Georgia, your DUI case will begin in Newton County Probate Court. In Probate Court, your case may be resolved in one of several ways: a plea to DUI or to a lesser charge, or with a bench trial -- a trial in which the judge alone decides whether you are guilty or innocent. If you wish to have a trial by jury, you may request this in Probate Court, and your case will be transferred from Probate Court to Superior Court.
Your first court date in Newton County GA Probate Court will be your arraignment date. If you are represented by an attorney, your Newton County DUI Attorney will most likely appear on your behalf at arraignment, and you will not be required to appear in court.
If you are not represented by an attorney, you have several options at arraignment. You may:
- Request a new court date to hire an attorney.
- Apply for a public defender.
- Enter a plea of “not guilty.” That will result in your case being continued to a new date, which will be your trial date.
- Request that your case be “bound over,” or sent to Newton County Superior Court.
- Enter a guilty plea. Note that it is not advisable to enter a guilty plea to DUI without consulting an attorney, as this can have long-lasting effects on both your criminal history and your driver's license, and an attorney is in a much better position to negotiate a more favorable plea bargain than a pro se, or unrepresented, defendant.
There are several ways that cases can ultimately be resolved in Newton County Georgia Probate Court. First, you may plead guilty to either DUI or a lesser offense. A sentence will be imposed by the Probate Court Judge, and your case will be closed. Second, you may have a bench trial--a trial in which the judge alone decides whether you are guilty or innocent. If you wish to have a trial by jury, you may request this in Probate Court, and your case will be “bound over”--transferred from Probate Court to Superior Court.
Newton County GA Probate Court Map
Traffic Court is held in the Magistrate Courtroom on the first floor of the Judicial Building, located at 1132 Usher Street, Covington, GA 30014. The Probate Court Clerk's Office is located at that same address, in Room 148. The Chief Clerk is Peggy Lassiter, who may be reached at (770) 784-2045. Henry A. Baker is the Probate Judge of Newton County. He was elected to office in 1977.
Several other offenses, including DUI, are not payable offenses; you must appear in court if you have been charged with DUI. Failure to appear in court could result in a warrant for your arrest, and your driver's license may be suspended by the Department of Driver Services.
Newton County Georgia Superior Court
The Superior Court is the court of highest jurisdiction in the county and hears all felony cases, as well as cases that have been transferred from the lower courts in the county.
As in Newton County Probate Court, your first court date in Superior Court will be your arraignment date. After your arraignment, there will be one or more intermediate court dates, sometimes referred to as “calendar call” or “pretrial” dates that you may be required to attend.
In the Superior Court, you may resolve your case in several ways. You may enter a plea to the DUI or a lesser offense. Your Newton County DUI Attorney will engage in negotiations with the District Attorney's office and will use every tool at his or her disposal to ensure that you are fairly treated and receive the best possible plea deal in your case. Of course, it is also your constitutional right to have your case tried by a jury of your peers. For a DUI, which is a misdemeanor offense, this jury will be comprised of 6 individuals. For felony cases, the jury is made up of 12 people.
Newton County Georgia is part of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit in the 10th Judicial District of Georgia. For more information on the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, you may visit their website here. The judges for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit are Eugene M. Benton, Horace J. Johnson, John M. Ott, Samuel D. Ozburn, and W. Kendall Wynne, Jr. The District Attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit is Layla H. Zon.
Map to Newton County Superior Court
The Newton County Superior Court is located inside the Newton County Judicial Center at 1132 Usher Street, Covington, Georgia 30014. The Clerk of Court can be reached at 770-784-2035 or in person on the third floor of the Newton County Judicial Center.
Newton County Superior Court has a strict code of conduct for individuals attending court, which may be reviewed in full here.
Covington Municipal Court
The Covington Municipal Court handles all misdemeanor and traffic offenses cited inside the city limits of Covington, Georgia. The judge of the Court does NOT have jurisdiction over ANYTHING that takes place outside of the city limits and so any cases that take place outside of incorporated Covington cannot be heard in this court. DUI cases in Covington start in this court. We have a Covington DUI Lawyer waiting to discuss your case and go over your options.
Arraignments are held on the 1st Wednesday of every month at 9:00 am & 1:00 pm. You will need to check your citation to see what time you need to appear. Trials are held the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. Look no further than The Law Office of Richard Lawson to find an experienced DUI Lawyer in Covington!
Map to Covington Municipal Court
The Covington Municipal Court is located inside the Covington Police Department facility at 1143 Oak Street SE, Covington, Georgia 30014. Their phone number is (770) 385-2141. The Judge in Covington is Judge Billy Waters. The prosecutor is Qader Baig. The Clerk of Court is Stephanie Finnie. For more information, please visit the Covington Municipal Court's website.
Oxford Municipal Court
If your DUI arrest occurred in the city limits of Oxford, GA, you need nothing less than the best Oxford GA DUI Lawyer representing you in court. Oxford Municipal Court handles all misdemeanor and traffic offenses cited inside the city limits of Oxford, Georgia. The judge of the Court does NOT have jurisdiction over ANYTHING that takes place outside of the city limits and so any cases that take place outside of incorporated Oxford cannot be heard in this court. DUI Cases in Oxford start in this court. Court in Oxford is held once a month, typically on the third Thursday of every month. Court begins at 9:30 a.m. The Law Office of Richard Lawson has a DUI Lawyer in Oxford, Georgia waiting to take your call to discuss your options. Call now!
Map to Oxford Municipal Court
Court is held at Oxford City Hall, located at 110 West Clark Street, Oxford, GA 30054. Their phone number is (770) 786-7004. Their fax number is (770) 786-2211. The Judge in Covington is Judge Steven Hathorn. The prosecutor is Qader Baig. The Clerk of Court is Dawn Towns.
Porterdale Municipal Court
Were you arrested for DUI in Porterdale? If so, you need a skilled DUI Lawyer in Porterdale to represent you in court. Porterdale Municipal Court handles all misdemeanor and traffic offenses cited inside the city limits of Porterdale, Georgia. The judge of the Court does NOT have jurisdiction over ANYTHING that takes place outside of the city limits and so any cases that take place outside of incorporated Porterdale cannot be heard in this court. DUI Cases in Porterdale start in this court. For upcoming court dates, please visit the court's website. Contact a Porterdale DUI Lawyer with The Law Office of Richard Lawson today!
Map to Porterdale Municipal Court
Court is held at 5 Main St, Porterdale, GA 30070. Their phone number is (770) 786-2217x2. The Judge in Porterdale is Judge Kimberly Degonia. The prosecutor is Robert Piccarreto. The Clerk of Court is Martha Cain.
Social Circle Municipal Court
If you are arrested and charged with misdemeanor DUI in the City of Social Circle, things get a little more complex. That means you need a DUI Lawyer in Social Circle with the experience and knowledge that only a Social Circle DUI Lawyer from The Law Office of Richard Lawson has. Social Circle is different than most cities because it is partially in Newton and Walton counties. As a result, your case would begin in Social Circle Municipal Court. The Social Circle Municipal Court handles all misdemeanor and traffic offenses cited inside the city limits of Social Circle, Georgia. The judge of the Court does NOT have jurisdiction over ANYTHING that takes place outside of the city limits and so any cases that occur outside of incorporated Social Circle cannot be heard in this court. DUI Cases in Social Circle start in this court.
Map to Social Circle Municipal Court
Court is held on the third Wednesday of every month at the City of Social Circle Public Safety Building, located at 138 East Hightower Trail, Social Circle, GA 30025. The Clerk of Court is Sherrie Crutchfield; her office is located at City Hall. She may be reached at (770) 464-2380. The judge is Judge David Dickinson. The prosecutor is David Boyle. For upcoming court dates, please visit the municipal court's website.
Understanding Vehicle Safety Checkpoints in Georgia
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
This would appear to indicate that officers cannot effectuate a search of an individual (or his property), and may not “seize,” or detain, a person without a warrant supported by probable cause, correct? Not so fast. Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Georgia Supreme Court have upheld the constitutionality of vehicle safety checkpoints, better known as “roadblocks.”
This does not mean, however, there are no limitations on what police departments can do during a vehicle safety checkpoint, nor does it mean that you relinquish all of your rights simply by driving up to a roadblock.
First, it is important to keep in mind that you are not required to answer questions asked of you at a roadblock. For example, if an officer asks you how much you have had to drink, you are not required to answer this question. In fact, our Newton County DUI Attorneys generally recommend that you do not answer (unless the honest answer is “none”). You may simply say, “I prefer not to answer that question.” Of course, it is prudent to remain respectful and not become belligerent.
Even if you deny drinking alcohol, the officer may request that you perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). These tests are also voluntary, and you cannot be compelled to perform them.
Sometimes, individuals who know they have ingested alcohol and are not eager to encounter the Georgia State Patrol or some other local law enforcement agency attempt to avoid a roadblock. They may do this by making a U-turn, turning around in a parking lot, turning without signaling, etc. This arouses the suspicion of the police officers working the roadblock, and the officers will frequently track these individuals down and initiate a stop.
Legal, normal driving that may cause you to avoid a roadblock is permissible, and the police cannot stop you if you did not commit any traffic offense. However, abnormal or unusual actions taken to avoid a roadblock may give rise to the reasonable suspicion required to initiate a traffic stop. These actions do not necessarily have to be illegal.
While this may seem fairly cut and dry, it is not always so simple. Georgia courts tend to give law enforcement officers the benefit of the doubt. What it boils down to is the question of whether the officer believed in “good faith” that the evasive maneuver was an attempt to avoid the roadblock. However, the officer must be able to articulate a reason for believing that the individual was trying to avoid the roadblock – his actions cannot be based on a “hunch” alone.
Whether or not a roadblock itself is constitutional under the law hinges on whether the roadblock was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, this “reasonableness” requirement is designed to strike a balance between public safety and the right of individuals to be free from arbitrary and oppressive government interference.
In LaFontaine v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court stated that in order for a particular roadblock to be constitutional, the State must prove the following:
- That the roadblock was approved by a supervisor.
- That every vehicle was stopped. This is to prevent selective targeting of any particular person, racial group, gender, etc.
- That the roadblock was clearly marked as a police roadblock.
- That the screening officer has sufficient experience to determine which individuals should be subjected to field sobriety testing.
- That the roadblock did not create an unreasonable burden on drivers. The stop must be as brief as possible.
Thus, LaFontaine dealt primarily with the “who, what, where, when, and how” of a particular roadblock, but left the question of “why” unanswered.
Two years later, in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, the U.S. Supreme Court answered that question, ultimately holding that roadblocks must have a primary purpose other than a general interest in crime control. This must be determined on a programmatic level, and requires the State to prove that the implementing agency's roadblock policy has a legitimate purpose.
Legitimate purposes include:
- Sobriety checkpoints
- Seatbelt checkpoints
- Equipment safety checks
- Intercepting a dangerous criminal likely to flee by a particular route
- Checking for valid licenses, registration, and insurance
- Preventing an imminent terrorist attack
- Interception of undocumented immigrants
Roadblocks may not be used for general crime detection.
Georgia law is rapidly evolving in the area of vehicle safety checkpoints. Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court interpreted Edmond in two Georgia cases – Williams v. The State and Brown v. The State. In those cases, the court examined the roadblock policies of two Georgia law enforcement agencies, ultimately holding that one was constitutional and one was not.
After Brown and Williams were decided, other jurisdictions began examining the roadblock policies of their own law enforcement agencies. For example, the White County Superior Court recently held that the Georgia State Patrol's roadblock policy did not comport with constitutional requirements.
Roadblock issues can make or break a case because, if a roadblock is deemed unconstitutional, all of the evidence that resulted from that roadblock must be suppressed. Thus, it is essential to have an attorney who can examine a jurisdiction's roadblock policy and make the argument for suppression of evidence based on that policy.
No one factor determines the validity (or lack because of that) of a vehicle safety checkpoint. Rather, it depends on all of the facts and circumstances of your case. Also, because this area of DUI law is rapidly evolving, you need a specialist who remains up to date in this field. A general practitioner does not have time to do this, but our DUI attorneys practice only DUI law. Using the most current law to find your best defense is our only job. This is why you need a trained DUI Attorney in Newton County to examine all the evidence in your case.
Call to Action
If you have been arrested for DUI in Newton County Georgia, call the Law Office of Richard Lawson. We have top-notch DUI Lawyers in Newton County GA waiting to take your call to discuss your case. Waiting until the last minute to hire an attorney will do nothing but hurt your case and put your freedom at stake. You must act now to protect your rights.
Newton County DUI Resources