How a DUI Case Proceeds in Gwinnett County Georgia

Posted by Richard Lawson | Apr 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

With a population of almost one million people, Gwinnett County is the second-most populous county in Georgia and home to many municipalities.  Gwinnett County is vigorous with traffic enforcement, particularly DUI detection.  For many years, Gwinnett police have maintained a task force made up of officers with specialized training in making DUI arrests. 

Gwinnett County Justice Center

While any state-certified police officer could make a DUI arrest, these task force officers work shifts when DUI drivers are most likely to be out, and the task force is aggressive in making traffic stops. 

Some Gwinnett officers even have specialized training as DREs. “DRE” is short for drug recognition experts.  This means that if you are stopped for a traffic infraction and the officer doesn't suspect alcohol, you will still likely be investigated for a DUI-drug offense.  In addition to street drugs like methamphetamine or heroin that can clearly impair driving, these officers also screen drivers for legally prescribed drugs.  Certain medications for anxiety, sleeping aids, and depression can cause impairment, and a DRE has more tools in his arsenal for detecting the effects of these drugs than the average Gwinnett officer doing a DUI investigation.  An aggressive DUI officer may even ask you about regular over the counter mediation that you take – such as Benadryl or Nyquil.  That is why you need an aggressive Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer on your side.

After a DUI arrest in Gwinnett County, the case is usually handled in the Gwinnett County Recorders Court (traffic court).  These dockets are held in a separate building, along with the Gwinnett County Juvenile Court. Brian Whiteside is the elected Solicitor-General of Gwinnett County, and his office oversees the prosecution of the majority of DUI offenses in the county.  Allison Cauthen is an experienced DUI prosecutor and typically oversees the prosecution of DUI cases among three courtrooms in the Recorders Court.  Cases are randomly assigned in Gwinnett Recorders Court to Judge Green, Judge Alvarado, or Judge Armstrong. 

While cases can be worked out in this court, and trials or motions can be held before these judges, if you want a jury trial, or even further opportunity to research your defense and deal with a different assistant prosecutor, you can have your case “bound over” to the Gwinnett County State Court.  Solicitor-General Whiteside's office still is the prosecuting agency, but you will likely receive a different prosecutor and judge assignment in State Court.  This is akin to getting a second bite of the apple in plea bargain negotiations. Our Gwinnett County DUI Lawyers always try to work out a case in both courts, in order to get an advantage for our clients.

Many jury trials are held in Gwinnett County State Court for DUI cases.  The prosecutors tend to be tough, but the judges also tend to be fair, so DUI trials are a frequent occurrence.  In addition, legal motions are frequently heard in Gwinnett County State Court.  There have been some pretty significant changes in DUI law over the past couple of years, and the basis of these changes were rulings out of Gwinnett County State Court on defense counsel motions. 

In addition to Gwinnett County police officers and sheriff's deputies sending DUI cases to Recorders Court for prosecution, many cities within Gwinnett County maintain active police departments.  Some, such as the City of Duluth and the City of Suwanee, are notorious for officers doing speeding enforcement.  Both Duluth and Suwanee have their own busy traffic courts, with thousands of traffic cases passing through them each year.

Duluth maintains one of the state's busiest traffic courts.  While most city courts have only a handful of sessions a month, Duluth has court nearly every day.  The court is headed by Chief Judge Charles Barrett and has 4 associate judges who fill in when Judge Barrett is not available.  They are Judge Margaret Washburn, Judge Chung Lee, Judge Claude Mason, and Judge Tiffany Porter.  Russell Bryant has served as the prosecutor for the city of Duluth for a number of years and is very fair and efficient. 

Typically, when a City of Duluth officer makes a DUI arrest, the case goes to the Duluth Court instead of the Gwinnett Recorders Court.  Once in Duluth, a good Gwinnett County DUI Defense Attorney will acquire the police report and video and attempt to negotiate a favorable outcome in your case.  As the client, you get final say over whether you want to accept the deal.  Many people are satisfied as long as the charge is reduced from DUI to a reckless driving citation, but no one is ever obligated to accept such a negotiation.  The case can always be transferred to Gwinnett State Court for further negotiation, motions, or jury trial.

Similarly, the City of Suwanee has its own police force and traffic court.  Chief Judge Norman Cuadra presides over the Suwanee Municipal court and is assisted by 3 associate judges.  The chief prosecutor for the court is Elizabeth Reisner, and because this is a busy court, she usually has associate prosecutors helping her with the large number of citations.

The South Gwinnett city of Snellville handles a lot of DUI arrests also.  A Snellville officer will direct most traffic or misdemeanor cases to the City of Snellville Municipal Court headed by Judge Jammie Taire.  The city of Snellville head traffic prosecutor is Jennifer White.  Snellville's Municipal Court is a part-time court.

The city of Norcross also maintains a part-time city court headed by Judge Kenneth Wickham.  Norcross has a lot of busy roads including, I-85, Jimmy Carter, and Beaver Ruin, so Norcross police patrol these areas for DUI. 

Lilburn, GA, has a police department and traffic court as well.  Lilburn's court is also presided over by Judge Charles Barrett, the City of Duluth judge.  Lilburn is a much less busy court than Duluth and only has a handful of sessions a month.  Erica Dove serves as the prosecuting attorney for Lilburn.

While Lawrenceville is the county seat of Gwinnett County and home to the main Gwinnett Court House and the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, it also has its own police department and courthouse just down the road from the sprawling Gwinnett Judicial complex.  City of Lawrenceville officers are quite busy with traffic enforcement on GA-316 and throughout the middle of the County.  Chief Judge Dennis Still is stern and runs a tight ship.  Associate Judge James Wall fills in when Judge Still is not available.  The two city prosecutors are Frank Hartley and Jill Hauserman. 

Loganville, a city of approximately 10,000 residents, is split between Walton and Gwinnett County.  If you are arrested for DUI within city limits, your case will likely have initial the arraignment in the City of Loganville traffic court with the honorable Judge Brownlow presiding.

The city of Braselton, with about 12,000 citizens, is split among 4 counties, including Gwinnett.  If a City of Braselton officer arrests you, your case likely starts in this court under Judge Brad Morris.  In the event you want a jury trial, the case will be sent to the county in which the incident occurred.  Our Gwinnett County DUI Attorneys can advise you whether to keep the case in municipal court or send the case to the county for a trial.

Of course, Gwinnett County encompasses several unincorporated areas and many other cities, including Buford, Berkeley Lake, Peachtree Corners, Dacula, and Sugar Hill.  While several of these cities have their own City Halls and courts, they do not have officers actively patrolling for DUI.  That doesn't mean you cannot be charged with DUI in Buford or Peachtree Corners – you most certainly can – it just means that you would likely be arrested by a Gwinnett County officer and your case would go to the Gwinnett Recorders Court for prosecution, not a city court. 

Since Gwinnett is so vast and there are so many prosecutors, courts, judges, and police agencies involved, a detailed consultation about the specific facts of your case would be necessary to plot the best course of action.  Some cases can be worked out effectively in a traffic court without the necessity of a trial or motions, and other cases need to be fully litigated to achieve the best possible outcome.  Contacting a Gwinnett County DUI defense firm with experience in Gwinnett and its city courts as soon as practicable after a DUI arrest is key to preserving your rights and defenses.  Call us today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

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