Your Georgia driver’s license can be suspended for up to a year, with NO limited permit available, if you or your lawyer fails to send in a letter requesting a hearing with the Department of Driver Services (DDS) within 10 days after your arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), according to a recent Georgia Court of Appeals case.

justice-scaleUnder Georgia law, the license of any person charged with DUI can be “administratively” suspended by the DDS even before a person’s DUI case is resolved. After being arrested for DUI, if you register above a .08 (or .02 for drivers under age 21)  on the State breath machine, or if you “refuse” to submit to a state chemical test, the arresting officer takes your license and gives you a copy of a “1205” form, which acts as a temporary driver’s license. He sends in your license and the original 1205 to DDS.

You then have 10 business days in which to send in a letter, along with the $150 filing fee, requesting a hearing on the issue of whether you will receive an administrative license suspension. If you fail to do so, your license is automatically suspended 30 days after the arrest for up to 1 year!

In the past, DDS has “waived” the 10 day requirement if they received the letter close to the deadline and the filing fee was submitted. That policy apparently changed last year, and this case, Mikell v. Hortenstine,  decided in late 2015, now puts everyone on notice that the DDS does not mess around when it comes to deadlines. Look at the facts of this case:

An officer arrested Hortenstine for DUI on Sept. 25, 2014 and served him with a notice of suspension of his driver’s license. Hortenstine hired a traffic attorney 8 days before the deadline, BUT the attorney failed to send in the letter until the 11th business day, one day outside the time period!

The trial court had some compassion for Hortenstine, and found that since he had provided all of the information to his lawyer in a timely manner, the DDS could not suspend his license without a hearing. However, in a cold and heartless decision, our Court of Appeals said,

“Since the lawyer was acting as an agent for Hortenstine, and since we are bound by the acts of our agents, the fact that the letter was sent 11 business days instead of 10 precluded Hortenstine from having a hearing, and the license suspension is upheld.”

I suppose the moral of the story is that you need to:

  1. Hire a DUI lawyer as soon after your arrest as you can, and
  2. Make sure that your DUI lawyer is experienced as well as competent and can be trusted to get that letter in well before the 10-day deadline.