April 30, 2019
Why You Must Have a Lawyer if You Are Charged with DUI
You’re in your car with your significant other, leaving the new trendy restaurant in Midtown, Atlanta at which you both had dinner and enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine. You forget to flip on your turn signal while turning right onto North Avenue to head home. Suddenly you hear sirens and see blue lights. You pull over for the officer, gather your license and registration, and as the officer approaches the vehicle, you hear the dreaded question: “How much have you had to drink tonight?”
You agree to perform the tests the officer asks because you think, “Hey, I only had a couple of glasses of wine, right? Surely, the officer will realize I am not drunk.”
After being compliant with the officer and performing all the tests, the officer places you in handcuffs, reads out loud to you the contents of an orange card, asks if you will take a breath test, and takes you to jail.
Many Georgians have found themselves in the exact situation described above, and it can be one of the most frightening and confusing things to ever happen to a person in their life. People hire attorneys to shepherd them through the rest of this unfortunate ordeal. Others get out of jail after being arrested for DUI and think: “DUI is just a misdemeanor traffic charge. I have never been in trouble before. I am sure I can handle this on my own and save attorney’s fees.”
This article examines several reasons why you should always retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible after being charged with DUI.
First, you should hire an experienced DUI attorney because there are certain time-sensitive components related to being charged with DUI that will affect your case significantly. In addition to having criminal charges brought against you by the State of Georgia, the arresting officer will often file what is commonly referred to as an “ALS” which is short for “Administrative License Suspension.”
By filing an ALS, the officer is asking the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings and the Georgia Department of Driver Services to suspend your driving privileges for allegedly driving under the influence. If an officer files an ALS in your case, you have a very short time frame within which to respond. If you do not respond within the requisite time frame, your license will be automatically suspended for one year without you having ever been convicted of any crime at all. This is because the license suspension is a civil matter that is separate from the criminal DUI matter.
To avoid your license being administratively suspended after being charged with DUI, it is important to hire an experienced attorney right away that knows the law regarding ALS hearings and can assist you in maintaining your privilege to drive.
Because the law in Georgia regarding DUI constantly changes and evolves, it is important to hire an attorney who is up to date on these changes in the law. For example, the Georgia Supreme Court recently handed down a decision which holds that in a DUI case the prosecution can no longer present evidence that a Defendant refused to give the officer a sample of his or her breath. This decision by the Court is huge for Defendants in DUI cases because the prosecution is no longer allowed to argue to a jury that the reason a defendant refused to provide a breath sample is because the defendant was drinking. The lawyers at the DeWoskin Law Firm have filed motions based on this recent Supreme Court decision, and other favorable decisions, in pending DUI cases where our clients refused to provide breath samples.
Another reason you should always hire an experienced DUI attorney is that there is an absolute wealth of information that can be used pertaining to the tests an officer will ask a person suspected of driving under the influence to perform. It is imperative that your attorney know all of this information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that officers give very specific instructions to DUI suspects before having them perform these tests, otherwise the results of the tests can be unreliable. It is also critical that the investigating officer ask certain medical qualifying questions to a DUI suspect to ensure that the results of the tests are accurate. It is essential that the officer conducting these tests perform them correctly, or else the results of the tests can be skewed, and the DUI suspect can be wrongfully convicted of DUI.
Last but not least, you should hire an experienced DUI attorney because a conviction for DUI in the state of Georgia is almost always permanent. If you are pleading guilty to DUI in the State of Georgia, you cannot utilize Georgia’s First Offender Act. A DUI cannot be expunged from your record in the state of Georgia. The best way to avoid a conviction for DUI ending up on your record is to immediately hire an experienced attorney who knows how to get the charges dismissed or reduced, or who may be able to convince a jury to return a verdict of “not guilty.”
Call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm if you or someone you know is charged with DUI.