I am hesitant to say anything that any lawyer might use as leverage to get their client to plead guilty. Far too few DUI cases are fought in Georgia. Generally speaking, criminal defense lawyers simply do not try enough cases in Georgia, so I am strongly averse to anything that discourages lawyers or their clients from contesting a case. That being said, prior DUI convictions in Georgiaare undoubtedly one of the things that must be considered when evaluating whether a case should go to trial.
THE DECISION TO TRANSFER A CASE FOR A JURY TRIAL AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSIDERING PRIOR DUI CONVICTIONS
Many DUI cases in Georgia begin in Recorders Courts, Municipal Court, or other non-jury trial courts. Frequently, DUI defendants with prior offenses will receive an offer from the state for mandatory minimum jail time in these non-jury courts that would not be available if the case is transferred to a court where a jury trial is available within the same jurisdiction. To illustrate, consider the example of a recent DUI client that had a case pending in Duluth Municipal Court. The client was facing a 2nd DUI within 5 years and a mandatory minimal jail sentence of 72 hours if convicted. A jury trial was not available in the Duluth Municipal Court, so the client decided that he wanted a jury trial and, therefore, wanted the case transferred to the Gwinnett County State Court. However, the state's offer changed dramatically once the case was accused in the Gwinnett County State Court. In the State Court, the solicitor's offer went from 72 hours in jail to 90 days in custody.
I give this example simply to illustrate that the decision regarding the transfer of a case to another court must be carefully thought out.
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NOT TRANSFER A CASE TO A COURT WHERE JURY TRIALS ARE AVAILABLE
- If you have prior DUI convictions and your case is pending in a court in the metro-Atlanta area, I strongly discourage transferring a case to the State Court based any of the following reasons:
- You are hoping to buy some time. The delay caused by virtue of the transfer to the state court may cost you some very real jail time.
- You are hoping that your case is lost in the transfer. Don't risk substantial exposure to jail time simply based upon the conjectural hope that the case is “lost” along the way.
Make sure that you have a concrete plan for challenging the State's case before you transfer your case for a jury trial if you have a prior DUI conviction. You must understand how the State's offer will likely change in the State Court.
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