Choosing an Atlanta DUI attorney can be an overwhelming and extremely risky task, particularly if you are relying solely upon the internet to make your decision. In evaluating various lawyers, considering some of these factors can be helpful:
- Is the lawyer Board Certified in DUI Defense? – Ben Sessions is 1 of 4 Board Certified DUI Defense Attorneys in the State of Georgia.
- Has the lawyer been recognized as a SuperLawyer? – Ben Sessions has been consistently recognized as a SuperLawyer since 2015, and since 2019, he has been continuously recognized as a Top 100 SuperLawyer.
- When was the last time that the lawyer actually tried a case? – During the COVID pandemic, we tried more cases than most lawyers tried in regular years. In 2021, we had 3 jury trials and 2 oral arguments before the Georgia Supreme Court. This is far less than our customary trial numbers.
- How active is his/her trial practice? – We have far more trials than most other DUI attorneys and that results in better negotiating leverage for our future clients.
- Is the lawyer willing to meet with you in person to help you make decisions? – We are always available to meet with you by Zoom or in person to discuss your DUI.
Our commitment to our clients has been recognized through numerous accolades including:
- 1 of 4 Board-Certified DUI Defense Attorneys in Georgia
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® Top 100 – 2022
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® Top 100 – 2021
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® Top 100 – 2020
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® Top 100 – 2019
- Inclusion in Georgia Trend’s Legal Elite
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® – 2018
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® – 2017
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® – 2016
- Selection to Georgia’s Super Lawyers® – 2015
- AVVO – Superb (10.0) Rating
Atlanta DUI Charges
There are a few things that you absolutely must know about your Atlanta DUI charge, and there are some really common mistakes that lawyers handling Atlanta DUI charges commonly make. One of the decisions that defendants (and lawyers) really do not understand is when and under what circumstances cases should be bound over (transferred) to the Fulton County State Court. Here, we will address some of those concerns.
- Treat the Atlanta Municipal Court as an opportunity. It should be viewed as an opportunity to successfully resolve the DUI charge or an opportunity to set up procedural defenses in Fulton County State Court. There was a time when lawyers were binding cases over from the Atlanta Municipal Court without even conducting any review of the evidence or knowing anything about the case. This should never occur. Every person charged with a DUI that is pending in the Atlanta Municipal Court has the right to transfer the case out of the Atlanta Municipal Court to the Fulton County State Court, but this decision has to be made with a full consideration of the potential risks of such a decision.
- Deals do not always get better in the Fulton County State Court. Many lawyers mistakenly believe that the resolution of a case will always be better in Fulton County State Court. That could be a huge mistake. Yes, some offers on 1st lifetime DUI charges and reckless driving offers will be better, but there is always some risk in rejecting a reckless driving reduction with the hope that the offer will improve in Fulton County State Court. I have had cases where a client rejected a reckless driving offer in Atlanta Municipal Court, and the prosecutor’s office in Fulton County State Court decided not to offer a reckless driving reduction of the DUI. Those cases ultimately ended in a jury trial.
- Make the State bind the case over to Fulton County State Court and use that decision to your advantage. Frequently, I will ask for a bench trial in Atlanta when I have a case that will be difficult for the City to put together or a case a with difficult legal hurdles for the state. Often times, the City will ask that the case be bound over to the Fulton County State Court prior to trial. It is imperative that your lawyer make a record of the prejudice that you and your defense will suffer if a trial in your case is delayed. Set the case up for a motion to dismiss on constitutional speedy grounds when the Fulton County Solicitor’s office files on an accusation on the DUI charge approximately 14 – 18 months later. Obviously, this strategy relies upon a couple of assumptions and your lawyer must understand what types of DUI cases the City prosecutors will seek to bind over to the State Court.
- Unless the case is truly exceptional (exceptionally high BAC of .20 or greater, a really bad accident, other aggravating non-DUI history, extremely bad behavior on behalf of the defendant, etc.), a 1st lifetime DUI charge should generally not be resolved with a guilty plea to DUI involving any jail time in Atlanta Municipal Court.
- Unless the case is truly exceptional (exceptionally high BAC of .20 or greater, a really bad accident, other aggravating non-DUI history, extremely bad behavior on behalf of the defendant, etc.), a guilty plea to DUI is generally not advisable if it involves anything in excess of statutory mandated penalties in Atlanta Municipal Court.
- If you are facing a 2nd or more charge of DUI in the Atlanta Municipal Court, the City prosecutor will likely ask that your case be transferred to the Fulton County State Court. The City solicitor’s office has jurisdiction to prosecute 2nd or even 3rd DUI charges within 10 years but for some reason, they tend bind these cases over to the Fulton County State Court for prosecution.
- If your case is transferred from the Atlanta Municipal Court to the Fulton County State Court and you anticipate that your case could go to trial, begin working to complete a substance abuse evaluation, Risk Reduction program, and community service if you have not done so already.
- There will be a protracted delay in the initiation of a prosecution in the Fulton County State Court. You cannot rush that process. Plan for it as your DUI is bound over from Atlanta Municipal Court.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE TO APPEAR WITHOUT A LAWYER FOR MY 1ST APPEARANCE ON A DUI IN ATLANTA MUNICIPAL COURT?
It is not at all uncommon for people to appear at their 1st appearance on a DUI in Atlanta Municipal Court without an attorney. Do not be discouraged, overwhelmed, or afraid if you are in this situation. Understanding a few basic rules about the process followed in that court can make your appearance go very smoothly. Below are some of the basic rules that you must know when you appear in the Atlanta Municipal Court.
The Atlanta Municipal Court is really focused on efficiently resolving cases. Most people recognize that part of efficiently resolving cases is getting people to court, informing them of the process, and getting the process going. So, the Court generally gets people arrested for DUI to court the next business day. That is extremely quick in comparison to many other courts that handle DUIs. This short timeline, however, means that many people cannot obtain counsel prior to their 1st appearance. Do not worry about that. I can assure you that nothing substantive is going to happen at that appearance, unless you want to enter a guilty plea at the 1st appearance. Generally, you should not enter a guilty plea at the 1st appearance.
Many people are really confused by the question from the Judge about whether they waive formal arraignment upon their charges. Do not over think this question. It is not a trick question. Whether you waive formal arraignment or not, that decision is not going to have any real impact upon your rights and the charges whatsoever. Most lawyers that regularly appear in the Atlanta Municipal Court for DUI charges recognize that little information, if any at all, is gained by virtue of the formal arraignment process in that court, and no strategic advantage is gained by being formally arraigned upon the charges. When you are asked if you waive formal arraignment, I would generally recommend that you respond say “yes, Your Honor” and move the process along.
You may be excused from your 1st appearance in a DUI case if you have retained a lawyer and that lawyer has filed an entry of appearance.
The inquiry court date scheduled by the Atlanta DUI court at your 1st appearance is a status hearing. At it, the Court is really just looking to see if the City prosecutor has provided discovery to you and also conveyed an offer to the defendant to resolve the case.
Atlanta DUI Attorney Expert – Nationally Recognized Authority on DUI Defense
We bring local knowledge and nationally-recognized expertise to every Atlanta DUI case that we take on. No lawyer knows the process by which Atlanta DUI cases are prosecuted better than the DUI defense attorneys at Sessions & Fleischman. Likewise, very few attorneys (in fact, only 5 within the State of Georgia) can claim to be Board Certified in DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense (the only organization sanctioned by the American Bar Association to issue Board Certification recognition in the area of DUI defense). You undoubtedly want a lawyer that understands both the process and the very best defenses available in your case, and Sessions & Fleischman provides both at an exceptionally high level.
Most Atlanta drivers are familiar with the phrase “driving under the influence.” New drivers are taught about the dangers of driving under the influence, and some have seen these risks firsthand. The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reported that in 2012 alone, 277 driving fatalities were related to alcohol. Impaired drivers pose a risk to local communities, which is why state law treats this offense so harshly. Strict state DUI laws impose tough penalties of convicted offenders, even for their first conviction. If you are facing a DUI charge, read the important information below to learn more about this type of criminal case.
All too often, lawyers dabble in defending DUI cases. They don’t really understand what is going in the Court or in the evidence in the DUI cases. They let the State dictate the flow of the case. In short, they simply react to the State’s prosecution. The State has the burden of proof, and experienced Atlanta DUI attorneys recognize the value in making the State do its job. However, in the vast majority of cases, your Atlanta DUI lawyer must understand the intricacies of the court in which your case is pending and the unique procedural and evidentiary issues in Georgia DUI cases if you hope to obtain an exceptional result. Don’t take your chances with a lawyer that dabbles in the defense of DUI cases.
Your Atlanta DUI attorney at Sessions & Fleischman understand how to effectively mount procedural and evidentiary challenges to the State’s case against you. Ben Sessions of Sessions & Fleischman is 1 of 4 attorneys in Georgia to be Board Certified in DUI Defense. Our Firm remains on the forefront of DUI litigation in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.
Georgia DUI Law
Georgia law defines DUI, or driving under the influence, as being in control of a moving vehicle while:
- Under the influence of drugs (prescription or illegal) or alcohol, and that influence creates a driving safety risk
- Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least 0.08% or
- Driving with an illegal controlled substance in your body system
Often, DUI charges are related to impairment by alcohol, which is often referred to as “drunk driving.” A driver must be legally drunk, with a BAC of at least 0.08%, to be charged with a DUI related to alcohol. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. A minor driver (under the age of 21) can be charged if he or she has a BAC of as little as 0.02%. A commercial driver could face a DUI while driving with a BAC of 0.04%. As mentioned above, drivers under the influence of drugs can also face this criminal charge.
Penalties for a Georgia 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.
It is crucial to understand the distinction between the administrative license suspension case and the criminal case pending in the Atlanta Municipal Court, but it is also important to recognize the interplay between the two processes.
For most of our clients, the criminal consequences of a DUI conviction are only part of their concern. Often times, the “collateral” consequences of a DUI conviction are more significant than the mandatory requirements of the law. Among the penalties that must be considered during the course of representation for a pending DUI in Georgia are:
- the impact upon the driver’s license for both Georgia licensees and out-of-state licensees
- the impact upon employment, and
- the impact upon professional licenses.
Are You Looking for An Atlanta DUI Attorney that Understands the Complexities of How a DUI Charge May Impact a Professional License?
Our DUI attorneys have successfully defended doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and pilots charged with DUI. If you are facing an Atlanta DUI charge and you hold a professional license, it is vitally important that you understand how the licensing authority will treat a DUI conviction. It is also crucial that you act proactively to preempt the punishment that may be impose in the event that you are convicted of DUI.
If you are seeking the services of an Atlanta DUI attorney that understands how sensitive various professional licenses may be to a DUI charge or conviction, Sessions & Fleischman can help you.
The Atlanta DUI Court Process and What Your Atlanta DUI Attorney must Know
Not knowing the process followed in the Atlanta DUI court can lead to a lot of wasted time, and it can cause you a lot of stress in the Atlanta Municipal Court. The Atlanta Municipal Court has a standardized process for addressing DUI cases. The process is efficient, and cases move a long at an appropriate pace. Unfortunately, many lawyers do not take the time to learn the process, so here are the basics:
- With the filing of an entry of appearance by an attorney, a defendant is excused from appearing all court dates except for the Final Plea.
- You must appear on the Final Plea date.
- Expect your case to be completed in the Atlanta Municipal Court within 6 months from the date of arrest.
About the Atlanta DUI Court
If a DUI arrest occurs within the city limits of Atlanta, the case will generally begin prosecution in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. In the Atlanta Municipal Court, DUI cases are presided over by the Honorable Christoper E. Ward, who is the Chief Judge of the Atlanta Municipal Court.
The City of Atlanta Municipal Court has a well-defined process for the handling of DUI cases:
- Arraignments – Generally, arraignments are scheduled within 1 – 2 business days from arrest in DUI cases. If an attorney files an entry of appearance, the Defendant is excused from appearing.
- Inquiry Court Dates – Generally, inquiry court dates are scheduled 45 – 60 days after the arraignment date. At the inquiry court date, the Court inquires of the City and the Defendant whether the discovery process has been completed.
- Final Plea Date – Generally, the final plea date is scheduled 3 – 4 months following the arraignment. The final plea is a date on which a plea is entered, the case is scheduled for a bench trial, or the case is bound over to the Fulton County State Court for a jury trial. Below is the National Center for State Courts guidelines on the timelines for the resolution of misdemeanor cases. This is the guideline that is followed in the Atlanta Municipal Court.
Should You Consider a Bench Trial for Your Atlanta DUI Case?
Absolutely, you should consider whether a bench trial in your Atlanta DUI is a potentially advantageous course of action.
An Atlanta DUI Attorney that You Can Rely upon To Deliver the Best Possible Results.
Atlanta DUI lawyer Ben Sessions arguing before the Georgia Supreme Court Ben Sessions of Sessions & Fleischman has developed a reputation in Atlanta and throughout Georgia for being a go-to lawyer for complex and serious alcohol- and drug-related cases. Lawyers that need some expertise in developing defenses to difficult DUI, serious injury by vehicle, and vehicular homicide cases, routinely rely upon Ben Sessions. If you need an Atlanta DUI lawyer, call Ben today for a consultation.
An Atlanta DUI Lawyer with True Local Presence, Connections, and Understanding of These Cases.
Knowing the courts and processes by which a DUI case will be prosecuted is crucial to a successful defense. You will not find an Atlanta DUI lawyer that knows ins and outs of the court in and around Atlanta, GA, better than Ben Sessions of Sessions & Fleischman, LLC.
How Much Does a DUI Attorney Cost in Atlanta, GA?
As expected, one of the 1st things that prospective clients ask is: how much does a DUI attorney cost in Atlanta? This is a completely legitimate question. Prices for DUI attorneys are all over the map. And the predictable answer to this question is: it depends on whether the lawyer is good and experienced.
ARE THERE RULES THAT GOVERN THE AMOUNT OF A FEE THAT A LAWYER MAY CHARGE IN YOUR DUI CASE?
Of course, there is. Rule 1.5 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct establishes the standard for setting fees.
Unfortunately, Rule 1.5 doesn’t really tell you anything about what a DUI in Atlanta should cost. That’s right, the rule simply requires the attorney fee to be “reasonable”. The rule does give us a little guidance about some of the factors that can impact the attorney fee:
- the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
- the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
- the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
- the amount involved and the results obtained;
- the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
- the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
- the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
- whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
Most of my clients are really intelligent and savvy, but if you’re not wise to the game that is lawyer fees, you need to talk with someone who knows before you negotiate a fee.
You absolutely must know how the fee structure incentivizes (or creates disincentives) for your attorney. You also must be able to appreciate what the fee agreement says about the work that the lawyer does (and does not) want to do.
Our Rule 1.5 requires that the lawyer define the scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible. Rule 1.5 does not require a written fee agreement. Do not hire a lawyer that does not provide a written fee agreement.
If you interview lawyers regarding your Atlanta DUI arrest, you will hear all different types of sales pitches and all different fee ranges. Some will seem to be too good to be true, and – truth be told – at the end of the case, those stories will probably not resemble the lawyer’s performance and the fee that seemed very cheap will be very costly to you in the long-term.
Ben Sessions has developed a reputation as a go-to lawyer in cases involving difficult and complex issues. He is a frequent lecturer in Georgia and nationally, and he also serves as a State Delegate for the National College of DUI Defense.
Contact Our Atlanta DUI Defense Attorneys Today
At Sessions Law Firm, we understand the impact a DUI conviction can have on you and your family. Attorney Ben Sessions is dedicated to defending those charged with this serious crime. In fact, he is one of just five attorneys across Georgia to be certified by the National College for DUI Defense. In addition to years of experience, our legal team offers each client an unparalleled level of attention. To learn how our Georgia DUI lawyers can help you, contact Sessions Law Firm today.