DUI CHARGES IN GEORGIA FOLLOW A 2-TRACK SYSTEM
When a driver is charged with DUI in Georgia, the arrest triggers the start of two separate and distinct legal processes. One is the criminal process that most people are familiar with. This will require the driver to appear in court and defend the charges that have been brought by the State. This process can be lengthy as the accused has many protections in the criminal system.
The other is the administrative license suspension in which the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services (“DDS”) will attempt to suspend the driver’s privileges prior to the completion of the criminal prosecution. This process moves much more quickly and has quick deadline for appealing following the arrest.
- Charges are filed in a municipal court (Recorder’s Court, Tybee Island, Pooler, Thunderbolt, Richmond Hill, etc.)
- If the driver is unable to obtain a dismissal or reduction of the primary charge at this phase of the prosecution, the driver can enter a plea of not guilty and request that the case be bound over to State Court for trial by jury. These rights are protected by the United States Constitution and are fundamental to a fair defense.
- After the Office of the District Attorney has filed an Accusation (charging document) in Sate Court, counsel for the driver will file and argue motions in an attempt to limit or exclude the State’s evidence. Favorable rulings can lead to the reduction or dismissal of DUI charges.
- Ultimately, the driver is entitled to a jury trial at which the State would have to prove each and every element of the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Should the driver be found guilty or enter a plea of guilt to one or more charges within the accusation, the driver would face incarceration and/or probation, fines, a minimum of 40 hours of community service, evaluations for drug and alcohol abuse, the completion a Risk Reduction class and attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel and a ‘judicial’ suspension of driving privileges.
- The judicial suspension does not go into effect unless and until the driver has been convicted of driving under the influence.
ADMINSTRATIVE LICENSE SUPENSIONS
- The arresting officer retains the driver’s license following the arrest and issues a DDS Form 1205.
- The form acts as a temporary permit and allows the driver to continue to drive for 45 days from the date on which it was issued. Should the driver not appeal the suspension within 30 days, the driving privileges will be suspended automatically without a hearing.
- Should the driver timely appeal the automatic suspension, the case will be set for an administrative hearing. This hearing will determine if the driver can continue to drive while the criminal charges are contested and, if so, will there be any restrictions upon that privilege.
- The length and severity of the suspension is partly determined by whether the driver is deemed to have submitted to the state testing or refused it. These suspensions can vary from 120 days with a limited permit (“soft suspension”) to up to one year without any driving privileges at all (“hard suspension”).
- Because this procedure is civil and criminal in nature, the driver is not entitled to a jury trial or the presumption of innocence in the administrative process.
IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE LIMITED PERMIT
A recent change in the law as of July 1, 2017 allows a new option for drivers who are served with the DDS Form 1205. It allows them to forego the administrative suspension process altogether. After the driver is served with the DDS Form 1205 following his arrest, he then has 30 days in which to arrange for the installation of an ignition interlock device on his vehicle. The driver then presents proof of the installation to the DDS and is given a
Presently, these permits are limited to drivers who, on the date of arrest:
- Were 21 years of age and older
- Had a valid Georgia driver’s license , or
- Had an expired Georgia driver’s license but was eligible to renew
- Had not been convicted of DUI within the past 5 years.
The length of time that the driver must keep the ignition interlock device installed is dependent upon whether the driver was deemed to have complied with State testing.