Atlanta DUI Attorney

Atlanta DUI Lawyer - Atlanta DUI Attorney

For more than 25 years, former DUI Prosecutor Richard Lawson has been defending DUI cases in Atlanta Georgia. He is the top-rated and most reviewed DUI Attorney in Atlanta, with reviews that can be found on AVVO.  Emory Law School trained, his experience is the difference.  The Best Atlanta DUI Defense Begins Here. 

30 Day Warning!!!

If you have been arrested for DUI, you only have 30 days to save your driving privilege by requesting an ALS Hearing. The State charges $150 to file for the hearing and if your Atlanta DUI Lawyer does not file a hearing request with the Georgia Department of Drivers Services, your license can be suspended for up to one year.  If you are out of state driver, Georgia will suspend your privilege to drive in our state.  Your home state may then move to suspend your license depending on the laws in your home state. Act now to save your driver's license.

In the alternative, you have thirty (30) days to choose to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. No one should choose this option without first consulting with a qualified Atlanta DUI Attorney.

How Your Atlanta DUI Case Will Proceed:

If you have been arrested, your case will have its initial arraignment the Monday morning after your arrest.  Arraignment is the beginning of the criminal legal process.  Also, there is a civil case pending against you by the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS).  Our office can appear for you on Monday morning so you can return to work, school, or your other commitments. When we appear in court on your behalf, it does not violate your bond or the terms of your release.  It is as if you appeared in person. Every Monday morning, someone from our office appears in Atlanta Municipal Court.

The Arrest Process:

A DUI arrest begins with a stop of some nature by a law enforcement officer.  Keep in mind that you have constitutional rights.  An officer cannot just initiate a traffic stop on your vehicle for a random or arbitrary reason.  There needs to be what is called a reasonable and articulable suspicion that there is some wrongdoing. In effect, the Atlanta Police cannot just pull you over for any reason.  There has to be a legitimate reason that you are being pulled over for you to be prosecuted.

Articulable Suspicion is established when an officer allegedly observes a traffic offense such as: 

  • Speeding;
  • Failure to Maintain Lane; 
  • Following Too Closely; 
  • Aggressive Driving; 
  • Weaving Within a Lane; 
  • Stop Sign Violation; 
  • Any form of reckless driving.  

These offenses give the officer a basis to pull over a vehicle.  Also, many cases begin when there is an at-fault accident.  Causing an accident is enough to initiate a DUI investigation.

Also, many arrests occur at a roadside checkpoint commonly called a DUI roadblock. However, the police cannot just implement a roadblock any time or any place.  A roadblock is an exception to the 4th amendment to the United States Constitution.  As an exception, that means the general rule would not allow for drivers to be stopped without sufficient cause.  As a result, the exception should be narrowly drawn to protect the rights of drivers.  An experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney will know how to challenge the legality of the roadblock that resulted in your arrest.  We never assume that a roadside checkpoint was legally implemented.

Probable Cause is the standard necessary to arrest a person.  The standard is whether there is sufficient evidence that a crime likely occurred.  It is not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard to find a person guilty of a crime.   Police officers are trained to look for some particular manifestations of DUI to establish probable cause to arrest,:

  • The odor of alcohol
  • An admission of drinking
  • Bloodshot, red, watery or glassy eyes
  • A flushed face
  • Difficulty retrieving wallet and/or license
  • A disheveled appearance
  • Slow to respond to questions
  • Confusion or difficulty following directions
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty exiting the vehicle
  • Leaning against a car for support
  • Unsteadiness on feet
  • Swaying or trembling
  • The manner of driving in general

Field Sobriety Testing is commonly used to establish probable cause to arrest.  These tests were created by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA). To help police officers determine probable cause to arrest people suspected of DUI.

NHTSA claims that these tests show a correlation to alcohol impairment.  However, not of their studies are peer reviewed, and they commonly re-write their student manual without the advent of new studies to back-up their new procedures.  One such example just occurred in the 2013 revised student manual.  NHTSA has taken out all the references to how the testing can be ineffective on obese or elderly people.  They just took out the language without any reference to any new peer-reviewed studies validating their new procedures. 

The standardized tests are: 

HGN: Where an officer does a series of tests involving a suspect following a stimulus. The officer is looking for an involuntary “nystagmus” (a jerking movement) in the eyeball.  However, some people are poor candidates for an HGN test because they have natural nystagmus or have had concussions or other head and eye conditions can make the test non-reliable.

Walk and Turn: This test consists of nine heel-to-step steps along a line, a turn, and nine heel-to-toe steps backward. Police officers will try to observe “clues” consistent with intoxication.   Some common clues DUI officers look for are starting before you are told to start, or usually walking instead of making heel-to-toe steps. Other clues include raising your arms for balance, stepping off the line, making an improper turn, taking an incorrect number of steps, and failing to complete the test. 

One Leg Stand: The final standardized field sobriety test used to determine DUI is the one leg stand.  This test requires you to stand on one foot for 30 seconds with your arms at your sides.  The officer is looking for four clues including, putting your foot down, raising your arms for balance, swaying, and hopping.

DUI officers occasionally ask drivers to partake in other non-standardized tests like saying the alphabet or counting to a certain number in their head.  These tests have not been validated to show any indication that a driver is under the influence. A DUI officer often has a video camera equipped with his patrol car to record the driver completing the field sobriety tests.  In many instances, these tapes can help the defense if someone does a good job and appears to walk and speak normally on the tape.  Our Atlanta DUI attorneys are trained in dissecting an officer's methods in conducting the field sobriety tests.  In many instances, these tests are not done according to the prescribed methods.  If the prescribed methods aren't used, then we can prove results are invalid.

In addition to standardized field sobriety testing (and other field tests) is the roadside alco-sensor test.  That is the most commonly misunderstood test and therefore warrants discussion.  The alco-sensor test is not the State-administered test.  The alco-sensor is a roadside screening test not deemed to be particularly accurate.  As a result, the government cannot use the numeric outcome of the test.  The arresting officer can only state that the test was positive or negative for the presence of alcohol.

However, many people confuse the roadside test with the official breath test. As a result, some people will refuse the official test because they already believe they have cooperated and provided a sample before being arrested.  Those same people are shocked when they learn that they are accused of refusing the breath test.

No one accurately explains to suspected DUI drivers the difference between the road-side test and the Intoxilzer 5000 test at the station.  The implied consent card does not explain it, and it is legitimately confusing to people being asked to make an immediate decision on the side of the road. That is entirely unfair to people.  It would be so easy for the implied consent card to start by saying if you already submitted a test on the side of the road, that test was a preliminary breath screen and not the official test.  

That simple explanation would eliminate refusals by confused people who feel they have already cooperated.  It would also be fundamentally fairer to the accused, especially in light of the enhanced drivers licenses consequences for a refusal.

The request for a chemical test:

Once an Atlanta police officer or Georgia State Patrol Officer believes there is probable cause to arrest, he is required to read a person their implied consent rights outlining a person's right and duties under Georgia Law.  Under our laws, a driver is required to submit to a test of their breath, blood, or urine when arrested for DUI.  If the testing is refused, then the State will suspend his Georgia driver's license or privilege to drive on our roads if the driver holds an out-of-state license.

That is why driving is technically not a right but a privilege that can be taken if a person is afforded due process of law. The Georgia Department of Drivers Services will suspend any driver who refuses a chemical test if they have been properly pulled over for DUI and read their implied consent right.  The suspension for refusal is a one-year license suspension.  Refusal suspensions are considered a "hard suspension" because the drivers are not afforded a limited or restricted permit to drive.

In the alternative, when a driver takes a breath test, the potential driver's penalty is not a severe.  In that situation, in a first offense the driver will qualify for a permit to drive in the event they are administratively suspended.

When our clients submit to a breath test, there are many potential challenges in their cases that are unavailable in refusal situations.  For example, the officer is supposed to observe the driver for 20 minutes continuously prior to testing.  The machine must be calibrated and inspected quarterly.  Two samples must be given, and both samples must be within perimeters.  (meaning within .02 of each other). The printout of your Intoxilyzer 5000 test will provide the deals of the testing in your case. 

Once you take the State's test, you have the right to ask for an independent test by a provider of your choosing (within reason) and at your expense. If the officer fails to accommodate your request for an independent test reasonably, you can have the results of the state-administered test suppressed from the trial in your case. You have to pay for your independent test, but the officer must accommodate you in a reasonable manner, For example, an officer must take you to an ATM to get money to pay for the test.  The officer cannot select the medical provider or hospital, but your selection must also be reasonable insofar as time commitment and location.

Refusals and the consequences of refusing the State's test:

Refusal can potentially result in the worst of all DUI outcomes.  It's counter-intuitive because many people tell me they refused to avoid providing evidence against themselves.  People certainly have the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and a 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

However, those criminal rights have little bearing on a person's driver's license.  Driving is a privilege and not a right, and, as a result, can be taken away without proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  You have the right to due process of law and a hearing.  However, the standard of proof at ALS hearings in the civil preponderance of evidence standard.  As a result, you license can be taken before your proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

At the time of your arrest, the police officer will likely take your drivers license and give you a DDS-1205 form.  This form acts as a 30-day permit during your appellate procedure.  What confuses people is that they are giving a court date but not a license appeal date. The criminal process happens to anyone arrested whether or not they choose to participate.  It will happen no matter what you do.

However, the civil license appeal only happens if you request the hearing and pay the $150 filing fee.  Otherwise, you will have you license suspended on the 46th day after you arrest.  So, it's vital to have your attorney file the appeal as soon as possible.  Your case will not defend itself.  Your best Atlanta DUI defense begins here!

Another unfortunate situation in refusal cases involves involuntary blood testing.  The Georgia State Patrol "Night Hawks" routinely seek warrants to force a person to provide a sample after they have refused to test.  These forced blood draws are becoming more and more common.  It is my belief that these blood warrants are entirely unconstitutional and disgusting.  To force a person to provide a sample in misdemeanor cases is completely conscionable. For more information, I wrote a strongly worded article on forced blood draws.

The abridged version of the article is that in the case of a forced blood draw, you get the worst of both worlds.  The State gets to use the results of you blood test in the criminal case, and you get all the same drivers consequences for the refusal.  You are still facing a 12-month hard suspension of your license without a permit.  Keep in mind, these forced blood draws are being more and more popular throughout Georgia. 

City of Atlanta Municipal Court Case Management Plan For DUI Cases:

If your DUI case is going to be heard in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court, you may have been arrested by either a Georgia Department of Public Safety Officer or an Atlanta Police Officer. The Georgia Department of Public Safety has organized a team called the Nighthawks specially trained to patrol and investigate possible DUI drivers in Atlanta.  The Atlanta Police Department utilizes a DUI task force that specializes in these investigations. The City of Atlanta is a municipal court that can hear certain traffic and misdemeanor cases.

The City of Atlanta Municipal Court has a specific process for handling DUI cases.  All defendants must appear on the court date listed on the citation issued by the arresting officer.  Upon the filing of an entry of appearance by an attorney, the presence of the defendant can be waived up and until the final plea date.

The court has instituted a case flow management plan to resolve cases within 180 days of the date of arrest. Arraignments are held within 24 or 48 hours after arrest.  The City of Atlanta has arraignments every Monday through Thursday at 8:00 am and 3:00 pm.  At the arraignment, you will go before the judge, and the prosecutor will advise you of the charges against you and make sure that you understand the nature of those charges.  If you have not already hired an attorney, you will be asked whether you intend to hire one.  All parties will be granted one reset.  If you wish to hire an attorney, you will be given a new court date to allow you time to do so.

Your next court date will be a status date, which is typically held within 14 days after an arrest.  The judge will ask whether you have hired an attorney and whether the prosecutor has received evidence in the case from the arresting agency. If you have hired an Atlanta DUI Attorney, he can appear for you at this status hearing.  There may be potentially 2-3 appearances that can be made without you needing to appear.

To properly defend your case, your attorney will need access to records of the arrest from the arresting agency. The Nighthawk vehicles are equipped with video equipment to record the driving that led to the stop, the State Trooper's interaction with the driver, and any tests that were performed in the field.  The trooper is also required to write up an incident report for each arrest.  The incident or accident report can be received through an open records request, but to get access to the video, your attorney will need approval from the court. There is a long waiting period for the fulfillment of Department of Public Safety record and video requests.

The incident reports can be obtained at APDs Central Records Unit located on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway or through filing a discovery request with the court.  Atlanta Police Department's DUI task force officers do not always record their arrests on video, but if available they must be requested through the solicitor's office after filing a discovery request. The court's investigator must request the video from the arresting agency and will contact the defendant's attorney once the video is received.  The defendant and his or her attorney will then be asked to schedule a time to view the video in the solicitor's office. The solicitor's office does not allow for copies to be made of arrest videos.

If the prosecutor has not received any evidence in the case or if there is another valid reason to reset the case, a new court date will be scheduled.  The next court date is an inquiry date, which is scheduled 30 days after the arrest date. Atlanta DUI Lawyers can appear on this inquiry date without their clients.  Of course, you always have the right to appear at all court proceedings.

The final plea date is held within 60 days after an arrest.  At the final plea date, the defendant must announce whether he or she will be entering a plea to the charges, or if the defendant is unable to work out an acceptable plea with the prosecutor in that time frame the person can request the case be transferred to the State Court of Fulton County, or waive his or her right to a jury trial and request a bench trial (trial by judge) in the Municipal Court. If a case is unresolved after the final plea date, the case will be set for a motion hearing and trial. The case is expected to be resolved within six months after the arrest date. Since we have up to 6 months to decide a case, there can be more than one "final" plea date.

Missing a court date when you were required to appear in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court will put your case in Failure to Appear status, which can then lead to a license suspension and additional fees.  Sometimes it may be due to a mistake and not your fault. Your information may have been incorrectly added to the court's system, so you were unable to determine your correct court date.  No matter the reason, you will have to go through a particular process to resolve the case once it enters FTA status.

If you fail to appear at your court date, the court will notify the Georgia Department of Driver Services by submitting a DS-912 form.  The court is under no legal obligation to provide you with notice of your failure to appear in court before submitting this form to DDS.  DDS will send you a notice of a pending suspension due to the Failure to Appear by mail.  The license suspension will go into effect if you do not resolve your case and submit documentation to DDS within 28 days after receiving the notice.

To resolve your case, you will have to have your case placed on a special Failure to Appear Calendar.  The Failure to Appear Calendar has court sessions Monday through Thursday. If your original court time was at 8:00 AM, your case must be set for an 8:00 AM FTA session.  You are required to arrive at the Clerk's Office between 7:00 and 7:30 am for your case to be placed on the 8:00 am FTA calendar.  If your original court time was at 3:00 pm, then your case must be set for a 3:00 pm FTA session.  You are required to show up between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM to schedule your case for this session.  Information and assistance are available at any customer service window located when you first enter the building except for window 7.

Once scheduled, you will appear in court and once your case is called you will appear before the judge and you will need to explain the reason for your missed court appearance.  If you have a valid excuse such as a medical cause, emergency circumstances, or legal reason the judge may excuse the missed court date.  If you do not have an acceptable reason, the judge may assess a $100 Failure to Appear fee. You will then be expected to move forward and resolve your case.

Your case will remain in Failure to Appear status until your case is resolved, and any applicable fines are paid.  Once resolved, the Clerk of Court will complete a DS-912 withdrawal (also called a “release letter”). If you were able to resolve your case and submit the release letter to DDS within the 28-day grace period, no reinstatement fee would be imposed by DDS. If your license was suspended, the suspension would be lifted once you submit the release letter to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Accompanying the letter must be a reinstatement fee of $100 (or $90 if processed by mail or through the DDS website).

If you live outside of Georgia, your case may be resolved by a Plea in Absentia if consented to by the judge and the prosecutor. A plea in absentia allows for the case to be resolved without personally appearing before the judge.  The judge is not likely to allow this type of plea unless all conditions of the plea such as community service or any required classes are completed, and the fine is paid in full. If probation is ordered as a part of the sentence, the judge may require the defendant to appear in court to plea to the charges and personally meet with probation.

If the case cannot be resolved by a plea, the defendant is expected to decide whether to settle the case with a bench trial or a trial by jury.  A bench trial will be held in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court.  A trial by jury must be held in the Fulton County State Court.  Every person has a Constitutional right to a jury trial and because the Municipal Court does not have jurisdiction to empanel juries, the Municipal Court cannot deny a request to transfer the case to Fulton County State Court. It may take several months for the case to be accused by the prosecutor of the State Court.  Once it is accused, the case essentially starts over with a new judge and a new prosecutor.  The defendant will have a new arraignment date and a second chance to negotiate a resolution to the case or have a jury trial.

The consequences of a DUI conviction in Atlanta can include:

  • Driver's license suspension
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Fines and surcharges totaling thousands of dollars
  • Community service
  • DUI school
  • Random screens for drugs and alcohol
  • MADD victim impact panels
  • Alcohol and drug counseling
  • Any other treatment options that the court deems appropriate

First DUI:

  • At least 24 hours of jail time (potentially subject to being waived)
  • Fines of up to $1000 per ticket, plus court costs and State mandated surcharges.
  • 12 months probation, plus the financial cost of supervision
  • At least 40 hours of community service
  • Mandatory DUI School
  • Alcohol and Drug Counseling
  • License suspension up to one year with a possible limited permit (with early reinstatement after 120 days.

Second DUI:

  • At least three days of jail time, likely far more.
  • Fines of up to $1000 per ticket, plus court costs and State mandated surcharges
  • License suspension for at least 120 days without a permit to drive.  After 120 days, a limited license is allowed after installing an ignition interlock device on your car.
  • Mandatory DUI School
  • Clinical evaluation for alcohol and drug dependency and any ordered treatment thereof
  • At least 240 hours of community service
  • Surrender of any license plate in your name
  • Publication of your photo in the local legal organ.

Third DUI:

  • At least 15 days of jail time, and in many cases much longer.  Traditionally the sentence will be close to 120 days in jail.
  • Fines of $5000 for the DUI and $1000 for each additional ticket.
  • State mandated surcharges and court cost, above and beyond the base amount of the fines.
  • 12-36 months probation
  • License suspension for five years.
  • Limited reinstatement of your license after two years may be possible with DUI School, ignition interlock, and other conditions
  • Perform a minimum of 240 hours of community service
  • Undergo a clinical evaluation for alcohol and drug dependency.  This evaluation will likely lead you to have to complete an alcohol or drug treatment program
  • Publication of your photo in the local legal organ
  • Being declared a Habitual Violator.

Fighting and winning your case:

Discussion of any potential consequences should never take place until your case is properly investigated and reviewed for possible defenses.  Defenses can be either legal in nature or factual.

Legal arguments are the most common.  They challenge the procedures the officer followed in your case.  In our system of law, the police are instruments of government.  As a result, they must follow rules set out in our laws in the United States and Georgia Constitutions.  These rules are not "technicalities" as described by media pundits.  Our rights are not technicalities.  They define who we are as people and differentiate us from the rest of the world.

As Atlanta DUI Attorneys, our office is trained in every police procedure.  If you rights are violated, we will fight for you by filing motions to suppress improperly obtained evidence.  A motion is a challenge to the evidence in your case. The hearing is held before a judge and not a jury.  In Georgia, the judge determines the law that applies to a case. In a motions hearing, our job is to argue that the arresting officer violated your rights. The result of a successful motion can be the suppression of evidence and the suppression of statements made against your interests.

Factual Defenses deal with actual guilt or innocence.  Some examples include:

  • The arrested person was not driving;
  • The breath-testing machine was wrong or not calibrated correctly;
  • The arrested person was not found in actual physical control of a motor vehicle
  • There was an emergency (necessity defense).

These types of factual defenses are present at a trial.  You have the right to a trial by judge (bench trial) or by jury.  In Atlanta Municipal Court, the court only has jurisdiction to hold bench trials.  If you wish to have a jury trial, that trial will take place in Fulton County State Court.  As a result, the case will have to be bound over (sent) to State Court.  You have an absolute right to a trial by jury.  The State cannot object to your motion to send the case to State Court.

At any trial, the government carries the burden to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt.  That does not mean all doubt to a mathematical certainty.  It means beyond any doubt for which the trier of fact can place a reason.  That is the high standard of proof in all criminal cases in the United States.  You are never assumed to be guilty and carry the presumption of innocence unless the State overcomes that presumption with legally admissible evidence.

As a general rule, our office does not recommend bench trials.  That is not to disparage any judge. The reason is simple: we believe jurors are more open-minded.  They are instructed to be open-minded and review the opinions of other jurors. As a result of this collaborative effort, a person on trial has a far better chance of an acquittal or at least a hung jury.

All jury trials in Fulton County take place in the Fulton County court system.  Most DUI cases are misdemeanors.  Misdemeanor jury trials take place in Fulton County State Court. Felony DUI cases are heard exclusively in Fulton County Superior Court.  There can be additional consequences if you are convicted at trial. As a result, the choice to send a case to trial in Fulton County should never be made until you investigate your case and have it reviewed by a DUI Lawyer in Atlanta.

What sets our firm apart from Other Atlanta DUI Defense Firms?

After graduating from Emory in 1995, Richard Lawson began his career as a DUI Prosecutor in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. As a prosecutor, he honed his skilled and became passionate about Georgia's DUI laws. His experience prosecuting drivers accused of DUI gave him the insight needed to now successful defend those charged with DUI. In essence, he knows the prosecuting attorney's playbook and what they look for in making their case against you. For over 20 years, he has defended people in Atlanta and across Georgia.

Every attorney in our office is trained in standardized field sobriety testing, breath testing, motions practice, trial skills, and administrative license appeals. It is crucial to stay current on all of the latest testing standards and trial practice skills.  Richard's expertise includes but is not limited to:

  • Being a National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) Field Sobriety Test Instructor course graduate.  (He is not just certified in field sobriety but is certified to teach the course to police officers)
  • Teaching courses to other attorneys at legal seminars regarding DUI defense and trial skills. 
  • Speaking on numerous topics regarding cross-examination techniques and courses on how to defend DUI cases and get accused drivers the best results.
  • Writing a chapter in a legal textbook on trends in DUI cases involving prescription and illegal drugs. 
  • Teaching ethics and professionalism courses to other lawyers at continuing education classes.
  • Practice devoted to Atlanta DUI Defense

More importantly, than our training, our skills, and our experience is our dedication to getting you the best possible outcome.  The only people good enough to work for this law firm are people who first actually desire to do a good job for their clients.  A good job means seeking the best outcome, whether through a plea-bargain, a reduction to reckless driving, or a trial by jury.

We understand that a great deal is on the line for you when charged with DUI. We know how much the case can affect your future, your job prospects, your marital relationships, and your relationships with your family and friends.  A DUI can have a lifetime impact.  As a result, we make it the focus of our lives to help you. That is why we are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day (including holidays). Our Atlanta DUI Lawyers never rest until no stone is left unturned. We believe that there are always potential defenses. 

Other Commonly Charged Offenses in Atlanta Georgia:

Minor in Possession of Alcohol and Possession of Marijuana:

Due to the large student populations throughout Atlanta, one of the most commonly charged offenses is underage consumption of alcohol; sometimes referred to as minor in possession or MIP. That is a serious offense that can have the immediate consequence of a 6-month license suspension and a lifetime impact of having a permanent criminal record.

A conviction for an MIP goes on your record forever.  Many colleges also sanction students who are charged with a crime thereby causing a permanent mark on your college transcript.  In addition, an underage possession of alcohol conviction can lead the following punishments:

  • Jail time
  • Driver's license suspensions
  • Community service
  • High fines and fees
  • Probation
  • Treatment programs and other sanctions

There is no need to have a lifetime criminal record for underage drinking.  A criminal conviction can mean the difference between getting a job and not getting a job.  It can also affect getting a professional license, college admissions and even to financial aid. Our offices have specialists trained in dealing with Georgia Youthful Offenders. There is no reason to have a permanent record for petty offenses.

There are alternative punishments for underage possession of alcohol. Our Atlanta DUI Lawyers can get you into a diversion program or a conditional discharge program. If you complete these programs, the case can potentially be dismissed.  

Another commonly charged offense is possession of marijuana.  Possessing than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Georgia. If you possess more than one ounce or attempt to sell or distribute any drug, you will be charged with a felony, and your case will be handled in Superior Court.  Even a very small, trace amount can be enough to constitute the charge of possession of marijuana.  A conviction for possession of marijuana will stay on your record forever and is not able to be expunged. 

In addition to a lifetime criminal record and the consequences therein, a conviction will lead to a suspension of your driver's license, even if you were not driving at the time you possessed the marijuana.  So, like underage possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana can have lifetime consequences and immediate consequences such as fines, community service, jail time, and loss of your driver's license.

As with minor in possession of alcohol, you may qualify for diversion or conditional discharge in your possession of marijuana case.  We will work hard to make sure you qualify to get the best possible outcome.

Child Endangerment DUI:

There has been a major crackdown on drivers who have children in their vehicles while DUI.  Several years ago our legislature changed the law to make each count of child endangerment a separate and distinct DUI charge. As a result, if you are driving under the influence with children in your vehicle (a child is defined as under the age of 14), each child results in a DUI offense.

So, through one event you will be charged with multiple DUI offenses, depending on the number of children in the car.  That can devastate the person arrested.  From one arrest, they can become a habitual violator, with all the consequences therein. With three children in the car, a person could be charged with 4 DUI's all at once.  That could result in a felony charge from one arrest.

You need to make sure to get the best Atlanta DUI Attorneys on your side if you are charged with DUI Child Endangerment.  You may have no choice but to fight and win your case.  The potential consequences are that dire.

Prescription Drug DUI - DUI Drugs:

A growing trend in law enforcement is the increasing frequency of arrests for driving under the influence of both illegal and legal drugs.  Most people are aware that the police can arrest you for driving under the influence of an illegal substance like marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamine.  Law enforcement officers can and do arrest people for driving under the influence of their lawfully prescribed medications. That is a troubling development in law enforcement.

Few reliable studies correlate any illegal or legal drug with any driving impairment level.  Also, the standardized field sobriety tests in which most DUI officers are trained were not designed to indicate impairment from drugs.  Only a slight percentage of law enforcement officers have any relevant training in detecting whether someone is under the influence of an illegal or legal drug to the extent it impairs their driving ability.

Nevertheless, more and more people are being arrested for DUI drugs because there has been a sharp decrease in alcohol-related DUI arrests over the past 20 years. As our motto says, "An arrest for DUI does not mean you are guilty."

There is little evidence that drugs such as marijuana impair drivers. Marijuana DUI cases are very defensible depending on the person's physical manifestations that were exhibited during the arrest.  Also, in DUI drug cases, the prosecutor must prove that you were unsafe to drive (or less safe) due to the consumption of the drug.  So, unlike alcohol DUI cases where there is an actual legal limit, there is no "limit" in drug cases.  The prosecutor has to prove that the drug impaired your ability to drive.

As for prescription drug DUI, it is commonly charged without basis. Police officers are poorly trained to determine the medical basis for anyone's impairment. Many drivers with medical conditions or physical problems mimic the indicia of alcohol impairment.  Once a police officer assumes impairment, everything he does from that point on will be to prove his assumption.

Upon later review of the blood work, many times we have found that our clients were well within the therapeutic ranges of their medications. Our office employs a professor of pharmacology to help review the blood levels in our client's cases.  This expert opinion has proved actual innocence in many of our prescription drug DUI cases. We never assume guilt just because there is a drug in your system.  We also never assume that multiple medications have a cumulative effect.  That is why we employ true experts in the field. No one should be convicted on an assumption.

DUI Under 21 Years of Age:

Georgia law makes it illegal for drivers under 21 to operate a motor vehicle when their blood alcohol content is greater than .02%. The purpose of the .02% limit is zero tolerance since persons under 21 are not allowed to drink at all. Lawmakers have factored in some leeway for interferants that can show up as alcohol on a breath test, such as mouthwash and breath mints.  Also, it is widely understood that the Intoxilyzer 5000 has a margin or error.  That margin is the cause of much debate.  However, the existence of some margin or error was also taken into consideration when the legislature set the under 21 limit of .02%

So, in spite of the lower per se breath test limit, underage drivers face the same DUI charge as their adult counterparts.  That can result in potentially unfair outcomes.  A person under 21 is no more or less impaired than a person over 21, yet they can be charged at alcohol levels that are scientifically proven not to impair a driver.

For example, a 20-year-old driver can be charged with DUI for being .03%, while a 21-year old driver would never be charged at that level.  If convicted, the 20-year-old will have a DUI on his record for the rest of his life, even though he was not impaired.  As I have said in court in front of a jury, the "DUI, in this case, is missing the "U" and the "I."

So, for under 21-year-old drivers, the stakes are very high. Our office is the expert in helping young people avoid the lifetime stigma of having a DUI on their records.  There is no reason a person under 21 should be charged with being under the influence when the evidence clearly shows they were not impaired.  At our office, we are passionate about helping young people get a second chance.

Driving on a Suspended License:

Driving on a suspended license is a serious misdemeanor traffic offense.  If convicted, the minimum consequence is 48 hours in jail and a $500 fine.  Your license will be suspended for an additional six months.  The result for many is the never-ending license suspension merry-go-round.  One suspension leads to the next and the next.  There are people I have met that have had ten arrests for suspended license.

There is only one way out of the never-ending license suspension merry-go-round, and that is to get your license reinstated and get the first offense dismissed.  We can help you.  We will contact the Department of Drivers Services on your behalf.  We will then help figure out how to reinstate your license. Finally, we will get the case reduced to a non-suspended offense.  That is the best and frankly the only way to deal with a suspended license offense.

Vehicular Homicide:

One of the most serious charges a person can face is vehicular homicide.  It can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending upon the facts of the particular case.

Misdemeanor Vehicular Homicide (2nd Degree) is defined as causing the unintentional death of another through a violation of the minor traffic laws. The minor traffic offenses include but are not limited to, speeding, failure to maintain lane, failure to yield, etc. The maximum penalty is 12 months in jail and $1000.

Felony Vehicular Homicide (1st Degree) is defined as causing the unintentional death of another through a violation of the major traffic laws.  The major traffic offenses include but are not limited to, DUI, Reckless Driving, Hit and Run, and Fleeing and Eluding. The consequences for Felony Vehicular Homicide can add up to 15 years in prison.

We will work hard to put up a vigorous defense that leaves no stone unturned.  Our attorneys, experts, former police officers, and accident reconstructionist will look for every possible argument to your vehicular homicide charge.

Accidents and Serious Injury by Vehicle:

When someone is seriously injured by a DUI Driver or a person who has committed a major traffic offense such as Reckless Driving or Hit-and-Run, they will be charged with Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle.  When someone is injured, the penalty can be up to 15 years in prison. Other than vehicular homicide, this is the more serious traffic offense.

Serious injury is defined by Georgia Statute to include when someone loses full use of a body part, becomes severely disfigured or has brain damage.  The use of the body part only needs to be temporary to constitute a serious injury.  For example, a broken bone that heals is still considered the "loss of a body part."

Our office works with some of the best investigators, expert medical witnesses and field sobriety experts in the country.  We can also discuss the employment of accident reconstructionist and specialists who can help challenge the State's case against you.  Remember, the government no only has to prove impairment but also that your actions caused the injury.  That is a much higher standard than just proving impairment.

Violations of Probation:

If you are convicted of DUI under Georgia law, you have to be on probation for a minimum of 12 months.   Probation can be burdensome and expensive with its monthly supervision and associated fees.   You also run the risk of committing a violation of probation.  If you fall behind in paying your probation fees, miss a probation appointment, or neglect to perform community service or drug and alcohol treatment classes, you can be subject to a technical violation of probation. A technical violation is not the result of receiving a new criminal offense. In Atlanta, this often means that you will have to sit in jail for several days or even weeks awaiting a probation revocation hearing.

Probation can also be violated if you are charged with a new offense during the probationary period.  Even a crime as minor as a speeding ticket can be considered a violation of probation and lead to a warrant for your arrest.  In a situation where you are charged with a new offense while on probation, you need to act quickly because you are facing the revocation of the balance of your sentence.  If the new offense is another DUI charge, you are very likely to serve the remainder of your probation in jail.  Our Atlanta DUI lawyers are experienced in handling violations of probation and are extremely quick to meet with probation officers and judges to get the matter resolved.

You need an advocate on the outside fighting for you. Hire one of our experts today before the probation warrant is issued.  Once you are taken into custody, it is very hard to advocate for yourself from behind bars. 

DUI By An Out-of-State Driver:

Atlanta is an international destination for leisure and business travel.  Many Fortune 500 companies have offices in our city.  While visiting Atlanta, many people are arrested for DUI.  When you are an out of state license holder, the rules are different. You must hire counsel as soon as possible because you are facing consequences in Georgia and in your home state.

Atlanta Prosecutors will prosecute the criminal case, and the State of Georgia can suspend your driving privilege here in Georgia.  However, the State cannot suspend the license of anyone holding an out of state license.  Your home state will ultimately control the fate of your license if convicted in Georgia.  The key to saving your license is to win the case here, in Atlanta or get it reduced to reckless driving. 

Many police officers make mistakes with out-of-state drivers because the implied consent rules are so different.  Since Georgia cannot suspend the driver's license of an out-of-state driver, a police officer cannot advise someone that their license will be suspended if they refused to test.

A police officer can say that he will suspend a person's privilege to drive in Georgia. That language parallels the admonition in the Georgia Implied Consent Notice.  If the arresting officer gives information contrary to the implied consent card, then an Atlanta DUI Lawyer can challenge the admissibility of the chemical tests pending in his client's case. At our office, we make those challenges every day. 

Best Atlanta DUI Attorney - Best Atlanta DUI Lawyer:

Our office is devoted to one thing and one thing only. We are Atlanta DUI Lawyers.  We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  If you are arrested over the weekend in Atlanta, you have court on Monday morning. As a result, your problems cannot wait until Monday morning.  We are always here to help because you deserve to help right now.  Call us now to have a free telephone consultation.  Your best defense begins here!

Our Attorneys



    Richard was not the first lawyer I spoke with after my DUI charge, but he was the last when searching for representation. This was my very first time encountering any sort of legal dispute so I had no idea what I was doing and I was very scared. Richard was very friendly, down to earth and consol... Read On

  • Miracle Worker!

    Not only did Richard Lawson and his very capable associate get my DUI reduced to reckless driving with parole, but he did something that I didn't think was possible. I was stopped for a moving violation recently. The police arrested me because they showed my driver's license had been suspended. H... Read On

  • Ideal attorney for anyone

    Mr. Lawson is outstanding. He was professional, attentive to any requests, and got the outcome I wanted but thought was unachievable. I had been arrested for a DUI. The case was very difficult, intricate, and was seemingly without hope, but Mr. Lawson was able to get the charges drastically reduc... Read On

Recent Case Results

  • This case was in Helen Municipal Court.  The client was charged with a DUI and four counts of DUI Child Endangerment.  In Georgia, for every child under the age of 14 in a vehicle it is considered a separate DUI offense.  The client would have been declared an habitual violator from one arrest an... Read On

  • Client was charged with a suspended license because he did not reinstate his privilege to drive after the expiration of his restricted license.  Per my advice, the client properly reinstated his license the day after he was charged.  Case Dismissed in Cobb County State Court.  Read On

  • Client was a resident of New York who was arrested while he was visiting Georgia for pleasure. He was charged with DUI, Reckless Driving, and Speeding 37 MPH over the speed limit. We were able to get the client an unbelievable outcome in Hampton, Georgia. His DUI dismissed, his speeding ticket wa... Read On

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Choosing the Best DUI Lawyer

When you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, finding the right Lawyer is Job #1. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson we will investigate your case and find the best possible legal defense to your DUI in Georgia. You are in good hands with Richard Lawson and his associates. We will work tirelessly to help you while compassionately holding your hand throughout the entire DUI Defense Process.

Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys

At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!