Getting “jammed up” is a slang term that some lawyers use to describe being unprepared for an event in court. Increasingly, I see lawyers at administrative license suspension hearings who encounter officers that are unwilling to rescind refusal suspensions – even for agreements to plead guilty. Those lawyers typically have no idea how to address this uncomfortable position. This article is the first in a series addressing preparation for “refusal” administrative license suspension hearings. This introduction addresses how the lawyer should approach the “refusal” ALS hearing. These considerations do not apply to cases in which our clients submitted to the requested blood or breath test. Generally, a hearing should be conducted on those cases.
So, your client came into your office and showed you their ALS (DDS Form 1205), which indicated that they refused to submit to the request blood, breath, or urine test. Right after you tell the client that a refusal may result in a suspension of driving privileges for 12 months (with no work or school permit). Then, they proceeded to tell you that they absolutely cannot afford to lose their driving privileges for 12 months. Every lawyer who has handled any number of DUI cases has had this conversation with a prospective client.
UNDERSTANDING THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF THE GEORGIA DUI ALS HEARING IS THE KEY
Most lawyers approach this situation assuming that they can save the client's driving privileges, at least for work and school, if the client does not have a prior DUI conviction. This assumption, however, can be costly and the source of a lot of stress for both the lawyer and the client. Do not assume that you can obtain a withdrawal of the 1205. Under our Rules of Professional Conduct, we cannot guarantee any client that we can save their privilege to drive in this case. We do not control the discretion of the arresting officer (or the Department of Public Safety). The arresting officer or DPS has discretion to press forward with the suspension in these case. In most cases, the assumption that the officer will withdraw the ALS suspension if a guilty plea to the DUI is offered is correct. However, every case should be prepared as though the officer will not agree to withdraw the ALS for a plea to the DUI.
Most importantly, the client should be prepared for the possibility that the arresting officer or DPS may not agree to a withdrawal of the ALS in exchange for a plea. Clients rely on your expertise to prepare for these possibilities.
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