A DUI charge and the possibility of a DUI conviction can be devastating for most people. Most of the stress and anxiety associated with both a DUI charge and the possibility of a conviction arise from the uncertainty of the process and the potential penalties (court-imposed penalties and secondary penalties such as the loss of employment). Our DUI lawyers will help you understand the process and will relieve must of the worry associated with the unknowns caused by your DUI arrest.
You will not find a more qualified DUI attorney in Georgia.
Ben Sessions is 1 of 4 DUI attorneys in Georgia to attain Board Certification through the National College for DUI Defense which is the only organization sanction by the American Bar Association to issued the Board Certification status. Ben has successfully defended DUI, serious injury by vehicle, and vehicle homicide cases throughout Georgia, and he has successfully litigated complex DUI-related issues before the Georgia Supreme Court.
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Do you have an arraignment upcoming for your DUI case?
The first court date in your DUI case will almost certainly be an arraignment. Do not be anxious about the arraignment. It is not something that you should stress over. If you are not represented by an attorney on your arraignment date, enter a "not guilty" plea in order to give yourself time to hire an attorney. You should not enter a guilty plea without having an attorney advise you on the consequences of the plea. The purpose of the arraignment is to inform the person accused of a DUI (or any criminal offense) with what charges they face. The requirement of an arraignment is established by statute:
(a) Upon the arraignment of a person accused of committing a crime, the indictment or accusation shall be read to him and he shall be required to answer whether he is guilty or not guilty of the offense charged, which answer or plea shall be made orally by the accused person or his counsel.
PENALTIES FOR DUI CONVICTION
The exact penalties for DUI depend on the number of prior convictions, if any, the driver has, as well as any other relevant circumstances in the case. Generally, state law allows for the following DUI punishments upon conviction.
- First offense: misdemeanor; penalties may include jail time between 10 days and 12 months, fines between $300 to $1,000, community service, and alcohol counseling.
- Second offense: misdemeanor; penalties may include jail time between 90 days and 12 months, fines between $600 and $1,000, at least 30 days of community service, alcohol counseling, and 12 months probation.
- Third offense: high and aggravated misdemeanor; mandatory minimum jail sentence between 120 days and 12 months; other penalties may include fines between $1,000 and $5,000, at least 30 days of community service, alcohol counseling, and 12 months probation.
Frequently Asked Questions & Important DUI Issues That You Should Consider
- What is a DUI less safe charge?
- When must Miranda warnings be given in a DUI case?
- Think strategically about the order and type of pre-trial motions argued in your DUI case
- Why do most lawyers encourage people to refuse to submit to blood, breath, or urine tests?
- What happens when an officer provides misleading information about the implied consent notice in a Georgia DUI case?
- If you have a chance to have a preliminary hearing in your DUI case, take advantage of the opportunity.
- How do I decide whether to take my DUI case to trial?
- How do I choose a DUI lawyer when every lawyer seems to claim that they are "the best" or an "expert in DUI defense"?
- Are DUI field sobriety tests a "search" for the purposes of the 4th Amendment in Georgia?
- Did the police obtain a search warrant for your blood in your DUI case?
Are you worried that you may have missed your court date in Atlanta?
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Have you been charged with driving under the influence of drugs?
If you have been charged with DUI drugs, it is important to recognize that a charge of driving under the influence of drugs presents different challenges from a DUI alcohol case. The tactics that your lawyer employs in your DUI drugs case is different from a DUI alcohol, and if your attorney is knowledgable, it is likely that you many of the tests performed upon you maybe successfully undermined as unreliable or unverified.
How do we effectively defend DUI cases in which our clients did all of the tests?
Yes, we have a track record amongst judges, prosecutors, and other lawyers of defending exceptionally difficult cases, including those in which our client submitted to all DUI field sobriety tests and the blood or breath test after arrest.
It is essential that evaluate and challenge the admissibility of field sobriety test evidence and blood, breath, or urine test in your case.
Before we begin to try to make a decision about how your field sobriety test evidence or your blood or breath test result evidence should be challenged at trial before a judge or jury, we need to challenge the admissibility of this evidence. If the evidence is not going to be admissible in your DUI trial, then we do not need to worry about it should be explained to a judge or a jury.
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CAN YOU PLEAD UNDER THE FIRST OFFENDER ACT FOR A GEORGIA DUI CHARGE?
Many people ask if they can plead under (or be sentenced pursuant to) the First Offender Act for a Georgia DUI charge. The First Offender Act presents some defendants with tremendous opportunities if they can successfully the sentence imposed by the Court. If a defendant sentenced pursuant to the First Offender Act successfully completes their sentence, they can honestly say that the charge has been dismissed.
THE FIRST OFFENDER ACT IN GEORGIA IS NOT APPLICABLE TO (ORDINARY) DUI CHARGES
The First Offender Act in Georgia provides, in part:
(a) Upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere, but before an adjudication of guilt, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant:
(1) Defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as provided by law; or
(2) Sentence the defendant to a term of confinement as provided by law.
O.C.G.A § 42-8-60.
Unfortunately, the First Offender Act is inapplicable to DUI charges in Georgia:
(f) The provisions of Code Section 17-10-3, relating to general punishment for misdemeanors including traffic offenses, and the provisions of Article 3 of Chapter 8 of Title 42, relating to probation of first offenders, shall not apply to any person convicted of violating any provision of this Code section.
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391.
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The First Offender Act may be available in a Vehicular Homicide or Serious Injury by Vehicle case.
However, the First Offender Act can have an important impact of very sever DUI-related charges. For example, DUI – vehicular homicide charges and DUI – serious injury by vehicle charges are subject to the First Offender Act. It seems a little ridiculous, but under Georgia law, a misdemeanor DUI charge is not subject to dismissal under the First Offender Act, but a felony vehicular homicide charge for a DUI-related death is subject to the First Offender Act.
Often times, the applicability of the First Offender Act to these very difficult felony cases can be the difference in resolving the cases prior to a trial. Many defendants in felony vehicular homicide cases have never been charged with a felony previously (let alone convicted), so the hope that they will be able to retain their civil rights is an important consideration.
Do not make this huge mistake in the handling of the administrative license suspension part of your DUI case.
One thing that I see continually in DUI cases, that absolutely is preventable that's absolutely ridiculous that any lawyer would do, but that people obviously are continuously doing this is they're making agreements at the administrative license suspension hearing, for their clients to plead guilty in a breath test case. There is absolutely no reason to do that. All that it takes is a little bit of communication between the lawyer and the client so the client understands that this is a suspension with a limited permit for thirty days and they're fully eligible for reinstatement license if they completed the DUI school and pay reinstatement fee. They'll also get credit for time towards the suspension if they're ultimately convicted of the DUI case. What I see is that the lawyers are now after Elliott, the vast majority of breath tests are being suppressed, excluded from evidence by the trial courts. And then, you'll have the solicitor the prosecutor who comes back and says, well I still want to try to introduce evidence of the agreement to plead guilty from the ALS. It's just a whole confusing mess that was completely preventable that never should have happened in the first place. I mean there's no reason at all to enter into that sort of agreement in a breath test case. The only case in which an agreement is possible, that you should really consider it, is in a refusal case and that's because you face the possibility of a hard license suspension with no limit of permit whatsoever for twelve months.
If you're in that situation I can understand that a lawyer advising their clients to negotiate for a guilty plea at the ALS hearing, so that they can save their license. But if you're in a breath test case particularly of first lifetime DUI breath test case, there's no reason at all why you should be entering into that agreement. Almost every lawyer who actually defends DUI cases would tell you that if you've got a breath test with a really experienced officer, the vast majority of them are just going to withdraw that suspension and that's because it's not worth the time, the effort to go through an hour hearing in the administrative license suspension, just to have that sort of suspension imposed, with limited permit for thirty days and then full reinstatement. It's just generally not worth it. And then second if you do have to actually go through the hearing is usually helpful to you. You'll learn a lot about the officer, you'll learn a lot about the case, and you'll learn it prior to the criminal case even be initiated.
So, if you are a client and you have your lawyer is entered into that sort of agreement or advised you to enter into that sort of agreement, really reconsider whether or not that person is competent handling your case. That is not the sort of agreement that a person who really understands what's going on in these cases would do. Second if you're a lawyer who's doing that, who's entered into those sort of agreements at the administrative license suspension hearing in breath test cases, don't do it anymore. Really reconsider your course of action because strategically it just doesn't make any sense at all. If you have any questions about these issues feel free to call me, my name is Ben Sessions. My phone number is 470-225-7710. Again, 470-225-7710, thank you.
What is the administrative license suspension part of my DUI case?
The administrative license suspension case is probably the least understood part of the DUI case, and it is unquestionably one of the most important parts of the case because it can impact your driver's license severely. The Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings is responsible conducting hearings on the administrative license suspension action initiated by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.