DUI & TRAFFIC CRIMES
If you or someone you know and care about has been arrested for a DUI charge or a Traffic Ticket in the State of Georgia, contact Rachel Kaufman Law and get the legal representation you need for your DUI or Traffic case.
Rachel has handled more than 100 DUI cases and she will use her experience and knowledge to defend individuals charged with all traffic violations, DUI-Less Safe, DUI-Per Se, DUI-Drugs, DUI-Under 21, DUI-Commercial Vehicle, and DUI-Habitual Violator. She has also had a great deal of experience handling traffic offenses in municipal courts and state courts throughout Georgia.
In Georgia, unlike most other states, traffic offenses are considered to be misdemeanors, punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a $1000 fine. As a result, defendants charged with traffic offenses have the right to a trial by jury, among other things.
A conviction for a traffic offense will remain always on your driving record and will create points on your license (which can cause license suspension). A conviction for a traffic offense can also lead to significant increases in car insurance rates. So, although it may seem unnecessary to hire a defense attorney for a traffic citation, it is best to have one advocating on your behalf in the long run.
DUI trials usually last one to two days, depending on the nature of the DUI investigation and number of witnesses called to testify. When video evidence, chemical tests, and/or car accidents are involved, the trials tend to last a little longer. A DUI defendant’s jury (except in the case of DUI-Habitual Violator) consists of six individuals and when possible, one or two alternate jurors. To be convicted or acquitted of DUI charges, the six jurors must vote unanimously. If they cannot agree on a verdict, the jury is said to be “hung”.
About Georgia’s DUI Laws:
The rule is that a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while:
- Under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
- Under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
- Under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
- Under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified above to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive
The person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended
The person's alcohol concentration is 0.02 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended.
COMMERCIAL VEHICLE/COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSE:
The person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving commercial motor vehicle while there is 0.04 percent or more by weight of alcohol in such person's blood, breath, or urine.
Punishment for DUI’s in Georgia:
1st Conviction: Up to $1,000.00 fine; 10 Days to 1 Year in Jail; DUI School; 40 Hours of Community Service; 1 Year Probation; 1 Year License Suspension
2nd Conviction: Up to $1,000.00 Fine; 90 Days to 1 Year in Jail; DUI School; 30 Days of Community Service; Mandatory Alcohol Evaluation and/or Treatment; Up to 1 Year Probation; 3 Year Loss of License; Ignition Interlock Device
3rd Conviction: Fine up To $5,000.00; 120 Days to a Year in Jail; 30 Days Community Service; Alcohol Evaluation and/or Treatment; Up to 1 Year Probation; 5 Year License Revocation; Ignition Interlock Device
4th Conviction-Habitual Violator (Felony): Fine of $5,000.00; One to Five Years in State Prison
Administrative License (10 DAY rule):
In Georgia, if you refuse to take a blood, breath or urine test OR you submit to a test and your results show a BAC greater than 0.08, law enforcement can and often will seek a one year hard suspension of your driver’s license. To contest this suspension, you MUST request an administrative hearing within 10 business days of your arrest. If you do not make this request, your license will likely be suspended for one year. Contact our office immediately for further information and assistance!
DUI Investigations/Field Sobriety Testing
There are many ways in which a DUI investigation can begin. The most common ways a DUI investigation begins is a traffic stop based on an alleged traffic infraction.
Police officers can pull you over if they have reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation (i.e., speeding, failure to maintain lane, following too closely, no headlights, etc.). Another way a DUI investigation can begin is at a Roadblock. However, police officers are permitted to institute roadblocks only under certain, strict conditions. For that reason, it is important to consult with an attorney if you were stopped at a Roadblock and were subsequently arrested for a DUI. Also, if there is a traffic accident and police are called to the scene, any of the drivers involved could be subjected to a DUI investigation, even if they were not at fault for the accident. One of the less common ways a DUI investigation begins is in a parking lot or on the side of the road where a person is asleep in their vehicle. Officers are permitted to conduct a “Safety check” on persons in that situation (but not always!)
In all of the above instances, a DUI investigation is not automatically permissible. Law enforcement must have other clues of impairment or reasons to believe a person may be DUI before initiating an investigation. Often times, police officers point to “the odor of alcohol on a person’s breath, watery eyes, slurred speech and other physical characteristics” as a basis for conducting a DUI investigation. You should know that you are not required to participate in the DUI investigation. This means that you can say “NO” to Field Sobriety Tests and later requests for chemical testing. In doing so, you will likely be arrested but the State will have limited evidence to support their arrest and even less to support a conviction.
If you do agree to submit to the DUI investigation, this is what it will likely entail:
REMEMBER: DUI-trained officers likely have video cameras recording the entire investigation so be careful about what you say and how you act. If you don’t think you will perform well on the tests explained below, it would be wise to say “NO.”
Field Sobriety Tests are a series of tests established and standardized by National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Officers are trained to administer them in strict compliance with NHTSA standards.
“Eye” Test/Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus:
- The most reliable and scientifically approved field sobriety test. A police officer (who must be trained and certified to perform this test) will ask the subject to follow a stimulus (usually a pen) and check for a variety of signs of alcohol intoxication.
- Other medical conditions can affect the results of this test.
Walk and Turn
- The subject will be asked to imagine a line (or use an existing line). While the police officer demonstrates the test, the subject will be asked to remain heel to toe on that line. Then, the subject will be told to keep his/her hands by their sides while take 9 heel to toe steps forward on that line. The subject will then turn around as demonstrated by the police officer and take 9 heel to toe steps back. The subject must not stop during the test.
- This test requires stellar listening skills and coordination at a time when a subject’s anxiety is, reasonably, at its peak due to being investigated for DUI. To make matters worse, there are endless environmental distractions (i.e., cars flying by, traffic lights changing, officers pulling up, etc.).
- When evaluating a subject’s performance, the police officer does not take into account a subject’s physical condition (i.e., bad knees, sprained ankle, high heels, etc.). It may be very relevant for a defense.
- Points are deducted for minor things like stepping off the imaginary line (or breaking heel to toe position) while the police officer demonstrates. They don’t and won’t tell you what they are counting off for either…which is why, if you have the strength to say “no” to the field sobriety tests, say “no”.
One Leg Stand
- Similar to the Walk and Turn Test, this test requires coordination and keen listening skills in a high-anxiety situation.
- Subjects are asked to keep their arms at their sides and lift whichever leg they want and balance without swaying or losing balance while counting out loud as instructed.
- Like the Walk and Turn Test, when police officers evaluate a subject’s performance on the One Leg Stand, that subject’s physical condition is not taken into account. It is relevant for a defense, though!
Portable Breath Tests:
- During a DUI investigation, at roadside, a police officer may ask a subject to blow into a portable breath device.
- Like field sobriety tests, Portable Breath Tests are VOLUNTARILY. It is not a mandatory test.
- If a subject says “yes” and takes the roadside test, the police officer will get a numerical read of the subject’s BAC, which he/she can use to justify probable cause for an arrest. However, numerical reads from Portable Breath Tests are NOT admissible in court due to their unreliability. A police officer, at trial, can only testify as to whether the results of the Portable Breath Test were POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.
Post-Arrest/Implied Consent/Chemical Testing
- After a subject is arrested for DUI, the arresting officer must immediately read something called “Georgia Implied Consent Law” (it is usually on an orange card). It is a boring paragraph of legal jargon, explaining that it is a privilege, not a right, to drive on Georgia’s roads and by driving thereon, you have impliedly consented to a chemical test of your blood, breath, urine or other bodily substance. The Implied Consent reading advises that a refusal to submit to a requested chemical test will result in a one-year administrative suspension of your license. After reading it in its entirety, the officer asks whether you will submit to a chemical test, yes or no.
- Depending on the arrestee’s response, there are a number of potential outcomes that can arise, both in criminal court and with the Department of Driver Services.
What happens if I agree to the chemical test?
No matter what the results are, you will not be released from custody. The results of the chemical test will become evidence against you If the results in indicate an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, your privilege to drive in Georgia will be suspended (unless you contest the suspension, see below)
What happens if I refuse the chemical test?
Officers can take out a search warrant for your blood and extract it that way (but they often don’t do this). Officers can petition the Department of Driver Services to suspend your license for a full year SO IT IS IMPERATIVE YOU ACT QUICKLY AND CALL US TO BETTER UNDERSTAND HOW WE CAN FIGHT THE SUSPENSION.
If you refuse and there is no search warrant taken out and executed for your blood, there is no evidence of you having an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater. This limits the evidence the State has against you in the criminal case.
Again, if you or someone you know and care about has been arrested for a DUI or a traffic violation in the State of Georgia, contact Rachel Kaufman Law now and get the legal help you need to fight the charges!