In Georgia, driving is considered a privilege rather than a right. Being arrested for a DUI in Georgia triggers both a criminal and civil process. In the civil process, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (“DDS”) will attempt to administratively suspend your driver's license.
The document that sets the civil process in motion is called a “DDS Form 1205.” The arresting officer will fill out this form if either: (1) you had a BAC of 0.08 grams or more at the time of your arrest; or (2) the officer alleges that you refused to submit to the state administered chemical test.
To prevent the automatic suspension of your Georgia driving privileges, you must file an appeal within thirty days of your arrest. This appeal is referred to as the "30-day letter." If you do not file this letter timely, your license will be suspended. If you do file this letter timely, you will be scheduled for an Administrative License Suspension (“ALS”) Hearing.
The ALS hearing can play out in a few ways:
If the officer fails to appear, your attorney will request to rescind the license suspension. While this essentially means you have “won” the civil process, you still have to deal with the criminal charges.
If the officer is present, your attorney may negotiate to keep your driving privileges intact without a hearing. The attorney and officer may enter an agreement to dismiss the administrative license suspension. The agreements differ in what you give up in exchange for the suspension dismissal. You may agree to a plea to DUI, Reckless Driving, DUI or Reckless Driving, or you may agree to let the prosecutor work it out with your attorney at a later date.
If your attorney and officer cannot settle, a hearing may be held. This can have a few benefits. First, it gives you more information. You will get a glimpse at how the officer will testify at a trial, and you will find out exactly what he or she will say. Second, it creates a record of the information you can use to your advantage at trial. If he says something different at trial, your attorney can impeach (i.e., discredit) him with what he said at the hearing.
At the hearing, several issues your attorney may argue that the officer lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to stop you, that the officer lacked probable cause to arrest you.
The scope of the Georgia ALS Hearing will be limited to the following issues:
(1) Did the officer have reasonable articulable suspicion to stop you?
(2) Did the officer have probable cause to arrest you?
(3) Were the implied consent warnings insufficient or detective?
(4) Were the implied consent warnings read timely?
(5) In refusal cases, did you in fact refuse the test?
(6) If you requested an independent test, did the officer reasonably accommodate your request?
(7) Were the chemical tests properly administered?
If the judge finds that the officer has not met one or more of the statutory factors, your license suspension will be reversed. On the other hand, if the factors were proved by a preponderance of the evidence, the license suspension will be affirmed. (Unfortunately, the preponderance of the evidence standard is much lower than the standard that will be used in your criminal case, beyond a reasonable doubt.)
Regardless of what happens at your ALS hearing, your criminal charges are still in place, and your Georgia DUI Attorney will have to defend you in the criminal proceeding.