There are Many Ways to Mitigate the Punishment in a Georgia DUI Case:
Clients many times ask us what they can be doing to help resolve their case. As Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys, our job involves looking at viable legal and factual defenses. At the same time, we have to think about ways of mitigating any potential punishments faced by our clients. Insofar as mitigation is concerned, we advise clients on how their actions can lead to a decreased punishment and cost. These things do not guarantee a better outcome, but they certainly have some benefits.
Some clients ask us if completing DUI School, Substance abuse evaluations, attending victim impact panels, and performing community service may somehow constitute an admission of guilt. We understand the concern.
Working on things before your court date is not an admission of guilt. They fall under the category of settlement negotiations under the Georgia Evidence Code, which means they are inadmissible in front of a judge or jury if you decide to take your case to trial.
Our Recommendations as How to Mitigate Punishment in a Georgia DUI Case:
1. Community Service:
Community service is a standard requirement of a plea to DUI or Reckless Driving. For a first offense, the average amount of hours required is 40 hours. This number can fluctuate if your Blood Alcohol Concentration was very high, or if there are other circumstances to your case that would cause a prosecutor to suggest more hours. Also, a Georgia DUI Specialist can try and negotiate more community service hours in place of jail time or as a tool to help reduce the charges. It is always best to consult with a Georgia DUI Attorney before beginning your community service hours so we can advise you as to how many hours is best. You must complete your Community service hours at a Non-Profit Organization, and most courts do not accept hours done at churches or schools. Furthermore, seeking the advice of an attorney is important because a lawyer is familiar with the county or city in which your case is pending and can advise you of different rules a jurisdiction may have. For example, in Fulton County, depending on the judge, community service may be required to be completed within the county limits of Fulton County. In Coweta County, the court requires all probation be supervised through court services after you enter your plea in court.
2. Risk Reduction Class:
Risk Reduction is also known as DUI school. The State of Georgia required all persons convicted of a DUI school to attend DUI School. Even in cases where a person's case is reduced to Reckless Driving, DUI School is often mandated by the court. It may also be necessary to reinstate your driving privileges. You can find a list of DDS approved DUI Schools here:
Many DUI Schools offer weekend classes that should not interfere with most work schedules. Some schools even offer a free lunch as part of your program. Whichever school you chose to complete your Risk Reduction Certificate at, make sure it is approved by the Georgia Department of Driver Services before signing up for their program. In Georgia, the requirements include the program being at least 20 hours and must be done in person. Online programs will not be accepted.
3. Alcohol and Drug Evaluation:
Many courts require an alcohol and drug evaluation as part of your sentencing. An alcohol and drug evaluation must be completed with a court certified counselor. The evaluation typically lasts between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. The evaluator will obtain background information, lifestyle choices and ask questions regarding your arrest. It is important to always be honest with your evaluator. They will provide you with a written evaluation and your probability of reoffending. It is also important to seek the advice of a Georgia DUI Attorney before completing your assessment. Many times, your attorney may know an evaluator who is well respected by the court in which your case is pending. Also, some courts have special rules about evaluations. For instance, if your case is being heard in Hall County State Court, the court requires you to go through a drug and alcohol evaluation through their court certified program and will not accept evaluations from outside evaluators.
4. MADD Victim Impact Panel:
Many, but not all courts require you to attend a Victim Impact Panel. This is a 3-4 hour class that takes place on one evening. This class will go over the impact of drinking and driving and the effect it came have not only on you but to others on the road. Many clients have told us they have found the Victim Impact Panel to be very interesting and eye-opening. You can register for a Panel at the below link:
For more information on attending a MADD Panel see their website.
What are the benefits of completing part of my sentence early?
1. You will receive credit for court-mandated conditions of your sentence prior to attending court thereby providing your attorney negotiating leverage.
2. You can complete things on your own time. Unlike having these things court ordered under a specific timeline, when you complete things ahead of time, you can complete according to your own schedule. Many times court will put deadlines on when your community service must be completed, or when DUI school must be done. The court does not take into consideration family emergencies or other situations that may arise causing you to miss your deadlines. It is much better not to have a probation officer hanging over your head nagging you to complete the requirements of your sentence, and it can help avoid a possible probation violation in the future, in the event you miss a deadline.
3. Some courts will allow you to go on Non-Reporting Probation once the terms of your sentence are completed. This means, on the date of your plea, if you have all the terms completed and can pay your fines in full, your probation can be non-reporting from day one. Fulton State Court allows you to take advantage of this like many other courts.
4. As I touched on above, having these things completed will give a probation officer a little less motivation to contact you. The less you hear from your probation officer, the better it for you. No one likes to be under the "microscope," especially when it comes to completing your sentence. Completing everything ahead of time will help alleviate the problem.
5. Completing the terms of your sentence early may help to obtain a better outcome. Sometimes, if a prosecutor believes you have taken things seriously, they will be more likely to reduce the punishment required for your charges and in some instances may reduce your charges.
6. If you decide to take your case to a jury trial or bench trial, having these things done ahead of time may help mitigate the punishment with a Judge when sentencing occurs.
The most important thing a criminal defendant must do is to get the best advice. Research online cannot replace the experience of a qualified Georgia DUI Attorney. Help is just one call away.