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In the state of Georgia, a DUI (Driving under the Influence) is an offense that can have a detrimental impact on your criminal history and future job prospects. If you are proven guilty of driving under the effect of alcohol or any drug, it can result in terrible consequences like a heavy fine, imprisonment, and even license suspension.
If you are arrested on this charge in Georgia, you should hire the services of an experienced DUI attorney without wasting any time. If you are facing DUI charges, Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP is your pick. We specialize in criminal law, and Phil Pilgrim is the DUI lawyer you need on your side. We are your first choice in 24 hour DUI attorneys.
While located in Suwanee, we represent clients from Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Hall County, Barrow County, Jackson County, and Dawson County. We have a reputation for successfully defending some of the most difficult cases with a strong success rate. Since Mr. Pilgrim used to prosecute DUI cases, he has the negotiation tactics that often result in a favorable plea bargain or a dismissal.
Our team has the insight, experience, and answers that you need on your side for a favorable outcome. Call us for a free consultation today.
How is DUI Defined in Georgia?
The state of Georgia has two ways to assess if you have violated DUI laws.
The first is through an examination by the police officer. It can be done either by observation or by a field sobriety test. If you show manifestations of impairment, you can be charged for DUI of alcohol or drugs.
Without a breath or blood test, driving mannerisms coupled with the observations made by law enforcement can lead to a charge of DUI “Less Safe”.
The second way you can be charged with a DUI is through chemical analysis of blood, urine, or breath. Having a 0.08 percent BAC (Blood alcohol content) or any other illegal drug while driving is an offense, and you can be charged for DUI. This is known as DUI “Per Se” since there is now physical evidence that you have been using chemicals that could possibly impair your driving.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has specified three methods that are considered a standard for sobriety tests in the field. All the police officers are trained to carry out these tests.
Field Test For Sobriety
Walk and Turn Evaluation
In this evaluation, you will be asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, a turn, and nine steps back along a straight line. The officers assessing the walk will look for clues that detect whether the suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, if you lose balance, start too soon, take an incorrect number of steps, stop while walking, and step offline or make an improper turn you can be charged for driving under influence of alcohol or any other drug.
One Leg Stand Evaluation
The officer can instruct you to stand on one foot while the other is almost six inches off the ground for 30 seconds. You may also be asked to count along thousands until told to put the foot down. If you lose balance or hop, you can be under DUI offense.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
It is another standardized field sobriety test for DUI suspects. The officers look for an involuntary jerking movement in the eyeball when the suspect is asked to follow a stimulus with his eyes. However, people who have a concussion or other head and eye conditions might have natural nystagmus. This fact makes this test partially reliable. Moreover, there is a chance that law enforcement officials might administer the test incorrectly. Our experienced DUI attorney can use any mismanagement or inappropriate method from a police officer in your favor.
The State of Georgia can also charge you with DUI if your driving is impaired by a substance other than alcohol, such as illegal drugs, prescription medications, or even over-the-counter substances such as inhalants, cold or sleep medications, cough syrups, or pain relievers. Remember if you have any amount of marijuana or other controlled substance in your blood or urine, you can be prosecuted, even if you that substance has been legally prescribed.
Once you are asked for the test by a police officer, you cannot refuse to test as you have already implied consent to it by obtaining a driver’s license. In case of refusal, it leads to Administrative License Suspension (ALS), which means that your license may be suspended for one year.
When DUI Is a Felony in Georgia
DUI has been considered a misdemeanor in Georgia for a long time but recently, the law has been changed. According to the latest changes, if you are charged with DUI 4th time in 10 years, you will be charged with a felony.
Someone driving under the influence involved in an accident that results in serious injury or death to the other party will also be tried on felony charges.
Criminal Penalties for DUI
Depending on the circumstances and type of DUI charge, in addition to a license suspension, a guilty verdict for DUI may result in, among other things:
- Jail time
- Community service
- DUI school and substance abuse treatment and associated costs
- Increased car insurance rates
Certain factors will affect the severity of your punishment, such as how high your blood alcohol content was and/or whether this is your first offense or one of multiple convictions. To illustrate: depending on the jurisdiction penalties will be harsher for anyone, regardless of age, whose BAC is 0.15 percent or higher. Each judge and jurisdiction have their own nuances and tendencies.
The law is also harder on commercial drivers who drive a commercial vehicle while under the influence; for them, the BAC standard is 0.04 percent rather than the 0.08 percent that applies to other drivers. Even if you weren’t operating a commercial vehicle at the time, a conviction for DUI will result in either a 1 year suspension of your commercial privileges or a lifetime disqualification of your CDL.
An important factor affecting your sentence is your age. Under Georgia’s policy of Zero Tolerance, if you are under 21 years of age and your BAC is 0.02 percent or higher (a much lower limit than for those 21 or older), your driver’s license will be revoked for a minimum of 6 months along with other potentially elevated sanctions. If your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher, you will face adult penalties.
Another factor that will affect the penalties you face for a DUI offense is the presence of one or more children under the age of 14 in your car at the time of arrest. For each child you are transporting at the time of your arrest you face an additional charge of DUI with Child Endangerment. Each charge carries additional penalties and amounts to an additional DUI on your record for each child in the vehicle.
Why You Need DUI Defense Attorney
Although DUI may seem to be a black or white issue, it actually involves many gray areas. As our experienced DUI attorneys will help you understand, any apparent evidence of guilt can be considered tainted by false interpretations, inaccurate instruments, biased assessments, or environmental circumstances. Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP has the resources you need to fight a DUI charge.
For one thing, field tests for sobriety are frequently subject to interpretation. Although police officers have been trained to detect the presence of alcohol by taking note of the odor of the driver’s breath, the redness of his or her eyes and the ability of the subject to maintain normal balance, each of these criteria can be misleading. Failure to pass all three of these criteria can be caused by other factors, for example:
Bloodshot eyes may be the result of allergies, illness, irritants in the environment, or even lack of sleep
Alcoholic odor on the breath can be strong if the subject has just recently taken a single drink or if he or she suffers from certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, GERD or severe acid reflux
Balance difficulties may occur due to age, weight, fatigue, neurological defects, or even weather conditions
Beyond this, much depends on the accuracy of the officer’s judgment and is, at least in part, a matter of personal opinion. Even scientific tests are not 100 percent accurate.
At Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP, our attorneys have the know-how to question many aspects of the details upon which the charges are based, such as:
- Was the police officer biased against the defendant?
- Did the officer exaggerate evidence?
- Did another witness’s observations contradict those of the officer?
- Was standard protocol utilized in administering field tests?
- Is it possible that the breathalyzer malfunctioned?
- Does the defendant have any medical conditions that might have been misconstrued as intoxication?
- Might the blood or urine tested have been contaminated?
When you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, you face two major problems. You will be facing a criminal case and civil administrative licensing issue. The criminal case will be settled in the criminal court. The administrative case will be handled by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
If you refuse the test or your test result is higher than the legal limit, a police officer will initiate the process to suspend your license. You will get only 30 days to save your license. To protect yourself from losing your right to drive for a year, you must act timely and contact a DUI defense attorney. It requires prompt action, and you need to contact our office to avoid the nuisance of license suspension. If the license gets suspended it leaves you with no choice as the period of suspension cannot be reduced even if you are having a financial or medical issue.
Why Choose Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP?
When you are charged with DUI, your money, freedom, time and reputation are on the line. This is why is essential that you hire an attorney with expertise in successful DUI defense. Only the experienced DUI attorney will know the technical aspects and fight a DUI charge for your rights.
At Banks, Stubbs & McFarland LLP, we understand how much this case can affect your job prospects as well as the rest of your life. It only makes sense to hire a DUI attorney that used to prosecute these cases and knows the way your prosecutor is thinking.
We know what potential mistakes police officers make that can be beneficial for your case. Our DUI lawyers can fight to prove unlawful police stop, inaccurate blood alcohol reading, faulty breath test, and any other type of evidence that may be used in your case. We can also file a motion if a piece of evidence is taken improperly. We know the ins and outs of the legal system and how to use them to give your defense a better position. So, trust us and let our DUI law firm help you.
What To Do If You Are Pulled Over For A Georgia DUI
When your rear view mirror is filled with blue lights, it’s time to consider what you are going to do next. The first thing to do is deal with the rush of adrenalin and understand how that affects your thinking. Take a few deep breaths and remember a few tips.
Pull Over: It’s common sense, but the first thing you need to do is to pull over. To not do so relatively quickly can subject you to additional charges. Try to find a safe, well-lit place to pull over to help improve your personal safety.
Have Your Papers Ready: As soon as your vehicle comes to a stop, find your driver’s license and proof of insurance. An officer can use your fumbling to find and produce these papers as evidence of being under the influence, so make sure you always have these documents where you can access them quickly if necessary.
Quiet All Passengers: Having your passengers interact with the officer can only serve to confuse a difficult situation, so make sure they are quiet unless directly spoken to by the officer. Responses should be direct, concise and courteous.
Be Respectful At All Times: It’s common sense to be polite and respectful to a police officer at all times. Remember that the less you say, the less your speech patterns can be used against you, so limit your conversation to only what is necessary.
It’s also important to remember that your behavior is likely being recorded on the officer’s body camera, so inappropriate comments or statements can hurt your defense.
Say As Little As Possible: It’s just a fact that “slurred speech” is the description listed on many, many DUI arrests. Many DUI attorneys will tell you to not discuss your drinking with the officer, and when you’re asked “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”, simply respond with “I’d rather not answer that question.” If pushed, you may ask if you need a lawyer. It’s not advisable to admit that you’ve been drinking or get into any description of how many you’ve had.
Should I Do Take A Field Sobriety Test? The first thing to understand about field sobriety tests are that they are voluntary. The officer is not required to tell you that. They simply give you directions without letting you know which directions are voluntary and which are mandatory.
Second, it’s important to understand that there is a lot of subjective interpretation involved in field sobriety evaluations. Most of what an officer observes on the side of the road cannot be seen on a video (if one exists). Therefore, as attorneys, we are left with the officers’ observations when assessing your case and what manifestations are exhibited on video.
Finally, field sobriety evaluations, overall, can be affected by many different external variables that have nothing to do with driver impairment. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for anyone to tell whether the “clues” exhibited on any of the tests (other than the HGN evaluation when performed properly) were caused by impairment or something unrelated altogether.
Therefore, field sobriety evaluations do more to help the prosecution than the defense in a DUI case. However, it is your decision and YOU are the only one encountering that decision at that time.
Contact Our Georgia DUI Defense Lawyer
Whatever decision you made at the time was the decision you made. We will deal with it as it stands. There have been many occasions where field sobriety evaluations have helped exonerate our clients; however, remember every case has its own set of circumstances.
Whether you took fields or not there is always a chance to successfully defend your case. Give our office a call for a free initial consultation with our DUI attorney.
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