It is the time of year when many places around the country are kicking off annual Oktoberfest celebrations. The most famous Oktoberfest celebration in Georgia (and, incidentally, the longest-running in the country) takes place in Helen, Georgia. Helen's Oktoberfest kicks off this Thursday, September 11, 2014 and runs through November 2, 2014.
Let's say you and some friends decide to visit the scenic Bavarian-replica village of Helen, Georgia, during its famous Oktoberfest. You are planning to spend your time eating delicious bratwurst and funnel cake, sampling German beer, listening to musicians in lederhosen playing the polka and…getting arrested for DUI? When it comes down to it, only one of these is optional. Also, let's be honest here -- it's definitely not the funnel cake. Who can resist funnel cake? I am speaking, of course, of the DUI. In fact, I highly recommend that you avoid getting a DUI during your Oktoberfest celebration, and hopefully this blog will help you do so.
So you are in Helen, having a great time, and you decide to drive back to your hotel. Then, uh oh, you see flashing blue lights blocking the road ahead, or they appear in your rearview mirror. Sometimes it seems that Helen has more police officers than civilians, and this is never more evident than during Oktoberfest. Perhaps you've run into officers from the Helen Police Department, who tend to camp out directly across from Paul's Steakhouse. Maybe the blue lights in your mirror belong to deputies of the White County Sheriff's Office, who patrol en masse on both sides of Helen. Alternatively, you may have pulled up to a Georgia State Patrol vehicle safety checkpoint, which happen with regularity during Oktoberfest and result in countless DUI arrests.
In any case, if you have been drinking, you have a problem. Regardless of what agency you are dealing with, they are all trained to deal with potential drunk drivers. They will typically not issue warnings. Instead, they will move straight into field sobriety testing. If the officers believe that field sobriety testing has yielded enough evidence for probable cause, they will place you under arrest, take you to jail, and request a chemical test (which will usually be a breath test, though not always).
If you are arrested for DUI during Oktoberfest in Helen, chances are your case will begin in one of two places. If you were arrested for DUI by the City of Helen Police Department within the Helen city limits, your case would begin in Helen Municipal Court. If, however, you were arrested by either the White County Sheriff's Department or the Georgia State Patrol outside of Helen, your case will originate in White County Probate Court. Neither of these courts has the jurisdiction to conduct jury trials, so if you and your attorney decide that a jury trial is necessary, your case will be transferred to White County Superior Court for trial.
In short, between the Helen Police Department, the White County Sheriff's Office, and the Georgia State Patrol, Helen, Georgia has more police per square inch than any place on planet earth. So while I encourage you to have fun during Oktoberfest, be smart about it. A DUI arrest in Helen will be unpleasant, expensive and will most definitely ruin your Oktoberfest celebration. Have a designated driver or plan to stay within walking distance of downtown Helen. Plan ahead and be safe!