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Georgia DUI Law Dictionary

About Richard Lawson

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Georgia, not only will you be facing the stress of being charged with a crime, but the added discomfort of being introduced to an entirely new vocabulary.  When a person learns the legal terms listed below, they will better understand their situation and the advice provided by their Georgia DUI Attorney.

As in any situation, understanding the vocabulary associated therein will help lower a person's anxiety and help in decision-making.   Below are some of the most commonly used legal terms used in Georgia Criminal Courts. 

  • Accusation: This is the formal document on which a prosecutor files the formal charges against the accused.  In misdemeanor cases, such as in most Georgia DUI cases, the ticket itself can serve as the accusation.  The prosecutor can also file a superseding accusation against the accused.
  • Appeal: A procedure to have a higher court review the legal rulings of a lower court.  The result of an appeal can be to reverse or affirm the decisions made in the lower court.  The appellate court does not review the factual findings made by the lower court unless they are found to be clearly erroneous.
  • Arraignment: The formal beginning of a case.  The time when a defendant must choose to enter his or her initial plea of guilty or not guilty.  In Georgia, all defense motions must be filed at or before arraignment. Unless a plea bargain is reached, a Georgia DUI case is unlikely to be resolved at the first court appearance.  Additionally, in almost all Georgia courts, an attorney can appear on his or her client's behalf.  As a result, the accused can be excused from their first court appearance.
  • Articulable Suspicion: The police are required to have a reason to pull over a driver.  The police do not have to be certain a crime has occurred.  They need to have good cause to believe a crime may have occurred.  They need a reason that can be articulated. 
  • Associate: Most law firms are organized in a hierarchical format.  There are partners with their name on the door and the letterhead, followed by un-named partners, followed by senior associates, and associates.  An associate is a fully licensed attorney who is an employee of the law firm.    
  • Attorney: An attorney is a person who has received a doctorate of law from an accredited university.  After completing their J.D. degree, the student must then pass the bar exam.  After passing the bar exam, the attorney will be sworn in to practice law in the state in which they are a member of the bar.  Attorneys are not licensed to practice in other states unless they meet the requirements to practice law in that state. 
  • Bench Trial: A trial where the judge acts both as the finder of fact and the decision-maker as to what law to apply to the case.  The judge also would decide as to what punishment would be appropriate in the event of a conviction. 
  • Bind-Over: In Georgia, some courts have original jurisdiction in a case, and other courts concurrent jurisdiction.  When a case starts in a lower court, such as a municipal court, probate court, or recorders court, a defendant has a right to send that case to the higher court for adjudication.  This is a called a bind-over to the higher court.  Also, if the accused elects to have a jury trial, that trial will be held in the superior court.  There are no jury trials in any lower court in Georgia.  In Georgia, all jury trials are held in State or in Superior Court.
  • Burden of Proof: In any litigation, one side is the moving party, and the other party is brought in to defend themselves.  In a criminal case, the State of Georgia is the plaintiff. As a result, the representative of the government, the prosecutor, has the burden to prove their case. At the administrative license hearing, the plaintiff is the person trying to save their license. That is why it is listed as the accused vs. the Department of Driver Services.  Our clients are the petitioner in the hearing.  As a result, we have the burden to show why a person's driver's license should not be suspended.   
  • Calendar Call: A hearing where a criminal defendant must inform the court their final decision insofar as a plea or trial is concerned.  Many judges will not take negotiated plea bargains after calendar call.
  • Continuance: A Formal request by a party to request a new court date.  Continuances are very common when cases are being litigated. Also, they provide the parties additional time to come to a negotiated settlement.
  • Dead Docket: A procedure to put a case to rest either temporarily or permanently.  Temporary dead dockets happen when witnesses or parties are unavailable.  Permanent dead dockets occur when a party dies. 
  • Disposition: The final resolution of a case.  A disposition can be after a trial, a motion hearing, a plea agreement, or even after an appeal.  The disposition can also set the terms of a person's probation. 
  • District Attorney: The DA is an elected official who represents the State of Georgia in all felony proceedings in Superior Court or before the Grand Jury.  In counties that do not have a State Court, the District Attorney also represents the State of Georgia in all misdemeanor cases. 
  • DUI Less Safe: A person can be charged with a DUI, even without a chemical test or their breath, blood, or urine. The state must prove that the individual is not as safe to drive due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. The State can use circumstantial evidence to prove DUI Less Safe in Georgia.
  • DUI Per Se: When a person over the age of 21 has an alcohol concentration of .08 or more within three hours of driving, they are presumed impaired.  When a person under the age of 21 has an alcohol concentration of .02 or more within three hours of driving, they are presumed impaired. In both situations, the impairment from alcohol must be the result of alcohol consumed before or while driving.
  • Grand Jury: A group of 23 citizens selected to determine whether or not to indict people for the most serious felony offenses such as murder, rape, child molestation, burglary, and other crimes of moral turpitude. At least 12 of the 23 jurors must agree that there is probable cause that the offence occurred.  The Grand Jury meets in secret and is essentially controlled by the district attorney.  Defendants do not have the right to be present during the proceedings or provide evidence.
  • Habeas Corpus: “Produce the Body.”  This is a motion filed when a person is allegedly being held in custody and should not be held.  Two examples include when a person is being held after the expiration of their sentence.  A second example is when a person is being held because they have the same name as the actual offender. 
  • HGN: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus.  A test of the small eye muscles to determine if they are being affected by a nervous system depressant such as alcohol. Other medications and head injury can cause nystagmus. 
  • Implied Consent: Under Georgia DUI Law, all drivers have given their consent to provide a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine in exchange for having the privilege to drive on the publicly funded roadways and highways.
  • Indictment: The Grand Jury decides whether to prosecute the most felony serious cases.  They choose to return a bill of indictment when at least 12 of the 23 members decide there is probable cause that a crime occurred.
  • Justification: An affirmative defense in a criminal case that asserts that the person who has committed an illegal act had no choice.  An example in the DUI context is when a person had to drive to the hospital or escape and otherwise dangerous situation. 
  • Law Clerk: Generally, a student in law school who is interning at a law office or an attorney who has recently finished school.  Judges also have law clerks to help them research the law before making rulings in court. 
  • Legal Assistant: An employee of a law office whose primary role is to assist their supervising attorney. They cannot provide legal advice to clients. 
  • Litigation: The process where disputes are resolved in court before a judge or jury.  Judges rule on all legal issues, such as the admissibility of evidence.  A jury would decide guilt or innocence. 
  • Motion in Limine: A legal challenge to the admissibility of evidence when the state has not followed all the procedures during or after an arrest.  An example of this motion is when the defense challenges the reading of the implied consent care or the admissibility of a breath test due to improper procedures. 
  • Motion to Suppress: A legal challenge to the admissibility of evidence when the state has allegedly violated someone's constitutional rights.  An example where this motion is used is when there was no reason to start a police investigation.  Another example is when the police violate a person's 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. 
  • Municipal Court: A court organized by a municipality. A municipal court has limited jurisdiction to hear traffic violations, DUI cases, city ordinance violations, possession of marijuana, and misdemeanor shoplifting cases. 
  • Nolo Contendere: A plea where a person decides that it is not in their best interest to contest the charges against them.  For purposes of sentencing, there is no difference than if a person enters a guilty plea.  However, there are advantages to a nolo plea in Georgia.
  • Nolle Prosequi (nolle prossed): The formal notice that the prosecutor will no longer proceed with a case.  Essentially, it is a dismissal of all charges.  In Georgia, the prosecutor can refile the case within six months (this is rarely done).
  • Ordinance: A law passed by a municipality or county governing minor infractions.  Ordinances vary between jurisdictions.  The maximum sentence for a violation of an ordinance is six months in jail. Most people found in violation of an ordinance are given a fine.
  • OSAH: The Office of State Administrative Hearings.  The agency that hears all driver's license hearings.  The Administrative Law Judges (ALJ's) make decisions as to whether a person is allowed to drive after a DUI arrest.
  • Paralegal: An employee of a law firm who has been formally trained to assist an attorney in handling cases.  A paralegal must complete a formal education and pass a certification.  A paralegal cannot give legal advice or appear in court for a client.  However, they are an essential employee of a law office.  
  • Party: A person or corporation that is involved in litigation and subject to the jurisdiction of a court.  
  • Plea Bargain: An agreement between the prosecutor and the Georgia DUI Defense Attorney to settle a case before trial.  If the parties to a litigation come to a settlement, the next step is to present the matter in court.  The judge cannot change the agreement but can decide to accept or reject it.   
  • Plea in Absentia: When a person cannot attend court, some courts will allow the attorney to close the case in their absence. The document used to close the case is called a plea in absentia form.  The form must be signed by the accused, before a notary.  To be legally sufficient, the form must list all of the constitutional rights provided to a defendant under Alabama v. Boykin, 395 US 238 (1969).
  • Preponderance of Evidence: The legal standard used in civil cases to proportion liability.  Also, the legal standard used in an administrative license hearing. 
  • Pre-trial Conference: A meeting between the parties for the purpose of trying to settle a case. Most of the time a judge is not present; however, some judges will play an informal role in the process in order to push the parties towards a settlement. 
  • Probable Cause: The legal standard that allows a police officer to make an arrest for a crime observed in his or her presence.  Also, it is the legal standard of evidence that must be presented to a magistrate to issue a warrant for someone's arrest or a judge to issue a search warrant.
  • Probate Court: The primary traffic court in counties that do not have a State Court.  Usually, probate courts hear traffic-related cases and ordinance violations in a county with less than 50,000 residents.
  • Reasonable Doubt: The highest legal standard used exclusively in a criminal case, such as a DUI.  The state must prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt.  It is the doubt of a fair-minded, impartial juror honestly seeking the truth. It cannot be an arbitrary doubt, but it is doubt for which there is a legitimate reason.  If a juror's mind is unsettled or unsatisfied, then that would be a reasonable doubt.
  • Receptionist: A person whose primary job is to pick up the telephone at a law firm.  This person is not trained to give any legal advice.  They may be trained to do initial client intake. 
  • Restricted License: A limited permit to drive given to people who have been convicted of DUI. A restricted license holder is permitted to drive to work, school and medical purposes
  • Re-set: See continuance above
  • Sentence: See Disposition above
  • Solicitor General: A prosecutor elected or appointed to handle misdemeanor criminal cases or violations of ordinances. Solicitors appear in municipal courts, probate courts, and in state court.  
  • State Court:  A Court of limited jurisdiction responsible for hearing civil cases and misdemeanor criminal cases, such as most DUI cases.  
  • Statute of Limitations: The period of time for which a criminal proceedings must begin against someone.  In Georgia, all misdemeanor prosecutions must begin within two years, and all felony prosecutions must begin within four years (with the exceptions of murder, child molestation, and crimes that have not been discovered)
  • Superior Court: A court with concurrent jurisdiction for all cases (meaning any case in Georgia can be heard in this court).  A court with exclusive jurisdiction to hear all felony cases and cases where a party is seeking an equitable judgment or judgment of specific performance.  
  • Warrant: A legal document allowing a police officer to make an arrest.  A legal document that allows an officer to search a residence or search for property or the existence of contraband.
  • Voir Dire: These are the questions attorneys ask prospective jurors during jury selection. 

Online legal research is great, but nothing takes the place of hiring the Best Georgia DUI Lawyers.  Call now.  We are here to serve you 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. 

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    Richard Lawson

    Richard Lawson has devoted his entire career to DUI Defense. He ex...

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    Kevin R. Fisher

    Of Counsel Attorney - Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson

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    Kimberly A. Berry

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  • Please

    Mr. Lawson is a very understanding, patient, trustworthy attorney. He always responded to my calls or emails night or day. My case was professionally handled in a timely manner. He got my dui case dismissed. Read On

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    I would give Richard the highest recommendation possible. From the beginning, he treated me with firmness and complete professionalism. I knew he had my back and I never doubted once through the whole process that he wasn't working hard to achieve the best outcome. My case was dismissed and thank... Read On

  • Kimberly Berry is a hard working, honest, future saving, SUPERIOR Attorney!

    Our teenager went off to College (August 2012) with a "You don't have to worry about me, I will not get into trouble, I know what I'm doing" attitude. Two MIP's within the first three months and a citation four months later, proved that attitude wrong. After we had a "come to Jesus" discussion wi... 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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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!