DeKalb County DUI Lawyer - DeKalb County DUI Attorney
Anyone can be charged with a DUI in DeKalb County; as police only need a reasonable suspicion to stop a car or person and probable cause to arrest. However, the charges should be taken seriously because the consequences of a conviction can be severe; even for a first time DUI. Punishments for DeKalb County DUI include jail time, fines, fees, and probation. To get your best results and be treated fairly, you will need an experienced and hardworking DeKalb County DUI lawyer. This website is updated with the latest DUI Information in Georgia and is an excellent resource if you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in DeKalb County Georgia.
If you have been accused of DUI in DeKalb County, GA, call the DUI professionals at The Law Office of Richard Lawson now for a free legal consultation. We have over 20 years' experience in the field of DeKalb County DUI. Richard is a former DUI Prosecutor, who, lives and works in DeKalb County Georgia. Our lawyers know the best Georgia DUI defenses and will work hard to make sure you keep your license. When it comes to your DeKalb County DUI case, do not trust just any general practitioner law firm that takes on all types of cases. Get the premier DeKalb County DUI lawyers at The Law Office of Richard Lawson. Our reviews can be found on AVVO.
Dekalb County GA 30 Day Warning:
If you have been arrested for DUI in DeKalb County GA, you only have 30 days to have your DeKalb County DUI Attorney file a 30 day letter. The 30 day letter protects your privilege to drive until there is an ALS Hearing in your case. If the letter is not filed, your drivers license will be suspended for up to 12 months without any privilege to drive.
The DeKalb County DUI Process:
All DUI Cases start with an arrest either my a municipal police officer, the Georgia State Patrol, or a DeKalb County Police officer. After an arrest, you will need to bond out of jail as soon as possible. There are 3 types of bonds. The first is a cash bond. With a cash bond, you will get released more quickly because you are posting your own bond. It takes more money up front. However, you will have 100% of the money returned to you once the case is completed. The second way is with a bonding company. This requires the least amount of money up front. You will pay a bonding company 12-15% of the total amount of the bond. That money will not be returned to you when the case is completed. The third way to bond out is to allow a lien to be placed on your property in the amount of the bond. This is called a property bond. Our office does not recommend property bonds in misdemeanor cases. It is a bad idea to encumber real property with a small lien from the county.
Once you are out of jail, you need to focus on your defense. Our office knows how to present the best DUI Defenses in Georgia. No one is automatically guilty just because they have been charged with a DUI. There are always potential defenses and alternatives. That is where the court process begins.
Charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be filed in a city municipal court, the Dekalb County State Court, or Superior Court. Any criminal case will likely require several court appearances including an arraignment, motion hearings, calendar calls, and finally a plea or trial date. Dekalb County is an important metropolitan county with both a State Court and Superior Court. Dekalb County also has several municipalities, all of which have municipal courts.
If you were arrested for DUI within an incorporated city's limits, your case would likely be referred to that city's municipal court. Municipal Courts have jurisdiction to hear misdemeanor cases, traffic offenses, and local ordinance violations. The cities of Decatur, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, Clarkston, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, and Stone Mountain all have municipal courts within Dekalb County. Each city court has it's own Solicitor General. The Solicitor prosecutes all DUI and traffic offenses in city court.
DUI arrests made by the Dekalb County Police Department, Dekalb County Sheriff's Office, and the Georgia State Patrol all will be sent directly to the State Court of Dekalb County. Also, all arrests made in an unincorporated part of Dekalb County will be referred to the State Court of Dekalb County. The State Court Prosecutor is the Solicitor General.
If your charges include a felony offense, your case will originate in the Superior Court of Dekalb County. A DUI can be charged as a felony if it is a fourth DUI within ten years (all convictions are since 2008), involves a serious injury or death, or if it is a third habitual violator offense within five years. The District Attorney's Office prosecutes all felony cases in Dekalb County.
If your case is initiated in a city municipal court, you will have the option of transferring your case to the State Court of Dekalb County. Any local ordinance that has an equivalent State law can be heard in either the city's municipal court or the county's state court. Under the Constitution, every person is guaranteed the right to a trial by jury. Because a municipal court does not have jurisdiction to hold jury trials, the municipal court judge must honor your request to transfer your case to the state court. This is an absolute right that cannot be waived by anyone but the accused. In fact, every municipal court has a waiver of rights form that must be completed in order to resolve the case in that court. Never sign the waiver of rights form until you completely understand what rights you are waiving. Once waived, you cannot exercise those rights. Never sign the form or waive any rights until you consult with your Dekalb County DUI Lawyer.
There can be benefits to keeping your case in a municipal court, however. Many of the municipal courts within Dekalb County have created programs for first time offenders that allow you to complete certain conditions in exchange for the charge later being dismissed. One of these programs is Pretrial Diversion. Most programs require the payment of a fee, community service, and a short period of probation. Diversion for minor offenses does not automatically happen. Your Dekalb County DUI Attorney will advise you if your case qualifies for a diversion program. Generally, diversion is limited to first offense minor in possession of alcohol cases and first offense possession of marijuana cases. Diversion does not exist for people charged with DUI.
Many municipal courts are also more accessible in terms of scheduling court appearances. Dunwoody Municipal Court offers court dates on Wednesdays at 6:00 pm to accommodate people who work full time. Chamblee Municipal Court also has court in the evenings, as does Clarkston Municipal Court. Night court allows small court systems to operate as part-time courts, with part-time employees. As a result, many of the prosecutors and judges are people who have their own full-time law practices. This is a tremendous advantage to the people charged with DUI in their courtrooms because those judges and prosecutors have their own similarly situated clients. Full-time prosecutors and judges do not understand the problems of criminal defendants and their families.
Your first court appearance will be an arraignment. This is when you will be formally advised of the charges against you and informed of your rights. This is also when you enter a plea to those charges. You can enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere. Nolo contendere means that you are neither guilty nor innocent, but do not wish to contest the charges and wish to accept responsibility and resolve the case. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you will be sentenced and, your case will be closed. If you plead not guilty, a date will be set for trial. If you ask for a jury trial, your case will be transferred to the State Court of Dekalb County. Since 1997, nolo contendere provides no additional benefits for those charged with DUI in Georgia. The only benefit of the “nolo” plea is that it cannot be used in a civil case against the person accused of the DUI. It is not an admission for civil purposes.
Your first court date in the State Court of Dekalb County will again be an arraignment date. A formal accusation will be drafted and filed by the prosecutor. Discovery demands, suppression motions, and any special pleas or demurrers must be within ten days of arraignment. If motions are filed, a date will be scheduled for hearings which may decide what evidence will be allowed at trial, what witnesses may testify, or any other issues prior to trial. All motions must be filed at or before arraignment. If the appropriate motions are not filed timely, those legal challenges are deemed waived. In DUI cases, motions are the most important part of your defense.
Dekalb County also has a DUI Court-Supervised Treatment Program. This is a post-conviction program for those who have multiple violations of driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants. The program is part of the probation portion of a DUI sentence. Participation in the DUI Court program is encouraged through incentives given to participants which include reduced jail sentences, half of the fine amount is suspended upon graduation from the program, 40 hours of community service is credited for each phase of the program completed, all probation supervision fees are suspended while active in the program, and a certificate is issued when eligible for a driver's license or permit which is required by the Georgia Department of Driver Services for certain multiple DUI offenders.
The program is a minimum of 48 weeks. Participants are required to pay program fees in the amount of $50 per week. The program is divided into four phases with a minimum of 12 weeks per phase. Participants attend three group counseling sessions per week on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays during Phase I. Participants attend two group counseling sessions per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays during Phase II. Participants attend one group counseling session per week on Wednesdays during Phases III and IV. During all phases, there is also a minimum of two random drug and alcohol screens per week, attendance at DUI Court review hearings twice per month (once per month during Phase IV), regular reporting to probation, a minimum of three AA or NA meetings per week, and random home visits performed by your probation officer. To be promoted to the next phase of the program, you must have 12 consecutive weeks of sobriety.
Failure to attend and participate in individual and group sessions, altering or tampering with alcohol and drug screens, general non-compliance with program conditions, or committing a new offense while active in the program can cause sanctions to be assessed by the supervising judge. Penalties can range from additional community service or jail time to expulsion from the program.
It is important to note that the potential penalties in DUI Court can exceed the punishment you may have received had you just accepted punishment up front, when you closed your case. So, if you cannot commit to succeeding in DUI Court, you are likely to serve more time jail than had you just accepted your punishment up front. DUI Court sanctions can be extremely harsh and unforgiving.
Cases that remain open after arraignment will be scheduled for a Calendar Call. The judge will ask for a status update and decide which cases are ready for trial. In a misdemeanor DUI case, you can have a bench trial that is decided by a judge or a jury trial that is decided by six jurors. It is the policy of our office to have jury trials. We do not believe it is our client's best interest to let any judge decide your DUI case.
The State has the burden of proof at trial and must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The State is also the first to present any evidence and witness testimony before it rests its case. After both the State and the defense have rested, they may make closing arguments to the judge or jury before a verdict is reached. You have the absolute right to testify and should discuss whether that is in your best interest with your DUI Lawyer.
What Happens First in a DeKalb County DUI Case?
After your DeKalb County DUI arrest, your first appearance in front of a judge will be at your arraignment. An arraignment is your chance to plea either ‘guilty' or ‘not guilty'. This is another time when having an experienced DeKalb County DUI lawyer is vital. Only a DUI lawyer with a lot of experience will be able to advise you what plea is the best for your case. Generally, you will always want to plea ‘not guilty' at the arraignment. After your arraignment, you will get to see what evidence the prosecutor has against you. At that point, you can decide if you want to change your plea to ‘guilty', go to trial or work to get a plea bargain.
A plea bargain is when the prosecution offers you a pre-disclosed punishment in exchange for changing your plea to ‘guilty'. Plea bargains are the most typical outcome in a DeKalb County DUI case and in some cases involve the prosecution reducing your DUI charge to a lesser one such as reckless driving. Plea bargains stop you from having to go to trial and you get to agree to a punishment before you change your plea, so there is no surprise outcome. Attorney Richard Lawson began his legal career as a prosecutor so, he has inside knowledge of what they look for in a plea bargain case. Call The Law Office of Richard Lawson and let us use our experience to help you.
If Your Case Does Not Settle - DeKalb County DUI Litigation
If a favorable plea bargain cannot be reached, the next step is Motions. Typically, a DeKalb County case begins in a city or municipal court if the arrest was by a city officer (such as officers from the City of Dunwoody, City of Decatur, City of Brookhaven GA, City of Doraville, etc.). While it is possible to have a bench trial (trial by judge) in these DeKalb City Courts, they are used mostly for plea bargains. If the case doesn't work out, it is transferred or “bound over” to the DeKalb State Court for prosecution. Some cases always come to State Court first such as cases by the DeKalb County DUI officers with special DUI training known as the STAR Team.
Once in State Court, the case will be assigned to a judge and courtroom as well as a prosecutor from the Office of the Solicitor-General. There is some luck involved as some prosecutors and judges are more fair to defendants charged with DUI than are others. At any point a plea bargain may be reached. However, if one cannot be reached, the next step after receiving and reviewing the evidence is a Motions hearings. Motions is when your DeKalb DUI lawyer gets to argue legal errors to the judge. These are generally errors that the stopping and arresting officers made such as not having a lawful basis to stop or arrest your for DUI to begin with. If the judge rules for you, it can mean the charge being dropped or key evidence – such as breath test results – being suppressed from trial.
A jury trial is the next step. Typically, for a DUI that is a misdemeanor, there is a jury of 6 citizens. Both sides get to present their case to the jury and, these citizens decide guilty or not guilty. The judge determines the sentence of the DUI defendant should he or she be found guilty on one or more counts. Our DeKalb DUI attorneys can tell you what to expect at trial and following a trial. We can call expert witnesses on your behalf and help you mount the strongest defense possible. If your case is a Felony DUI Case, the stakes are much higher.
How Can We Help You With Your DeKalb County DUI Defense
The Law Office of Richard Lawson is a top-rated law firm for DeKalb County DUI clients. We also help people charged with driving offenses and DUI related issues such as reckless driving, minor in possession of alcohol (MIP), possession of marijuana and more. Whether it is your first, second, third or fourth DUI charge or even if you are charged as a habitual violator, The Law Office of Richard Lawson is here for you. We have almost 20 years of DeKalb County DUI experience and have represented clients from all walks of life in all areas of Georgia DUI law.
Related Charges to DUI Defense in DeKalb County Georgia
MINOR IN POSSESSION - MIP - Underage Drinking
If you are under the age of 21 and DeKalb County police find you in possession of alcohol, you will be charged with a Minor in Possession or MIP. You can be charged with a MIP in DeKalb County even if you are not found with alcohol. If police believe you are under age and have been drinking alcohol, they can charge you with a MIP. A MIP charge in DeKalb County is not to be taken lightly, you could be sentenced to jail time, lose your license for 6 months and develop a permanent criminal record.
POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA
If you were found with marijuana by DeKalb County police, you may be facing steep penalties. In DeKalb County, if you are found with less than one ounce of marijuana and it is your first offense, you will usually be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if it is over one ounce of marijuana, you will be charged with a felony. Punishments can include jail time, probation, fines and fees and loss of your driver's license for up to six months. This does not have to be the case though, call The Law Office of Richard Lawson right away. We have years of experience defending people in DeKalb County just like you who have been charged with possession of marijuana.
HABITUAL VIOLATOR - Felony DUI IN DeKalb County GA
In DeKalb County, when you are convicted of 3 major driving offenses in a 5 year period, you may be ruled a habitual violator. A major driving offense is a serious driving crime such as DUI. When you are ruled a habitual violator or HV, your license is suspended for 5 years. Only after 2 years of good behavior will you be eligible for a temporary driving permit. Whether you are caught in DeKalb County driving as an HV or are charged with your 3rd major driving crime in a 5 year period and are facing HV status, call The Law Office of Richard Lawson. Our lawyers are some of the best in the industry and, we will be able to help you. Even if you feel like your case is hopeless, call us right now and find out what an experienced DeKalb County HV lawyer can do for you. In DeKalb County, call our law office and see how we can help you get the best results no matter your legal needs.
We Can Help - There is hope if arrested for DUI In Dekalb County GA
If you have been arrested for DUI in Dekalb County Georgia, or in any of the cities such as Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Decatur, Pine Lake, Tucker, Smokerise, East Point, Clarkston, Dunwoody, Lithonia, or Stone Mountain, you need an DeKalb County expert. You need a DeKalb DUI Lawyer who knows how prosecutors and judges operate in all these numerous jurisdictions. You need a Dekalb DUI Attorney who understands when to keep a case in municipal court or send the case to Dekalb County State Court.
Our office is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, weekends, and holidays. We are here to help you when you need us most. Call today for immediate help. Our DeKalb County DUI Lawyers are here to help you when you need it most. Our DeKalb County DUI Attorneys are available everyday because your problems should not have to wait until Monday morning.
MAP TO DEKALB COUNTY COURTHOUSE
DeKalb County DUI Resources