atlanta dui defense

Why Motions Are Important in a DUI Case

One of my recent cases shows why it is so important to consider filing a “Motion to Suppress” in every Driving Under the Influence (DUI) case. Many attorneys structure their fees to always include a motion to suppress. I don’t normally do this, because there may be some cases where even a motion to suppress is not called for, and in those cases, a defendant may pay more than necessary to resolve their case.

That being said, however, in MOST DUI cases it might be worth the money to consider filing a motion to suppress.

What is a Motion to Suppress?

A Motion to Suppress is a legal pleading which asks the Court to either throw out the case or throw out (suppress) evidence such as the State Breath Test.  While the vast majority of motions to suppress are not granted, the mere fact of forcing the State’s witnesses to show up for court always renders the possibility of good things happening for a Defendant.

I tell my clients there are three potentially positive outcomes of going forward with a hearing on a Motion to Suppress:

  1. The State’s witnesses don’t show and you either win the case or force the State to offer a reduction of the charges.
  2. The State’s witnesses do show, and you are able to cross-examine them just like you would at a trial, which opens the possibility for some or all of the case to be thrown out.
  3. Even if the Court denies the Motion, it can sometimes show the State that their witness doesn’t testify as well as perhaps they would like, which gives the State pause to consider whether to go forward with the charges or offer a reduction.

How a Motion to Suppress Helped My Client

On this recent case, I had filed a Motion to Suppress which included a request to exclude a breath test due to 4th Amendment search issues. While the “stopping” officer did appear at the hearing, the arresting officer and breath test operator failed to show up.  The Court indicated  that it would not grant the State’s request for a continuance, meaning that if the hearing went forward, the State would not be able to prove the officer had “probable cause” for the arrest, and the entire case would be thrown out.  Of course, the State could have also dismissed the case and re-accused the client within six months.

Based on the above, my client accepted an offer to plead to a reduced charge, which kept him from losing his job and also kept his license from being suspended.

A lawyer should consider a Motion to Suppress in every DUI case, although quite frankly, many attorneys rarely file these motions. That is why it is so important to hire a lawyer who is qualified and experienced specifically in DUI defense.

Georgia Drivers Have a New Way to Be Haunted by Prior DUIs

There are many reasons why a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction can be disastrous. Besides the immediate consequences of license suspension, jail, probation, community service, etc., a DUI conviction ALWAYS stays on your driving and arrest records. While some drivers already know that a prior DUI conviction can result in a harsher sentence for any future DUIs, there is another, lesser-known reason why you don’t want a DUI conviction: if you are arrested for a subsequent DUI, the prior DUI conviction MAY be introduced into evidence at trial against you.

Georgia is one of the few states (potentially the only state) that allow such evidence, which used to be known as “similar transaction evidence”. That is because a prior criminal conviction generally is only admissible to show motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.  And since DUI is not a crime where someone specifically intends to drive while impaired, (unlike, say, a crime spree where someone robs several banks), most states have ruled that prior DUIs are just not relevant to a current DUI charge.

Oh, but not Georgia, where the Constitution seems to apply to every citizen except those charged with DUI!  In the recent case of State v. Jones, decided on June 1, 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court held that prior “other acts” evidence (the new name for “similar transaction evidence”) IS admissible for the purpose of showing a general intent to drive while either impaired or over the legal blood alcohol limit.

So, when charged with a first time Georgia DUI offense, it’s wise to hire an experienced traffic attorney specializing in DUI defense to try to fight that charge as aggressively as possible in hopes of avoiding a conviction, because if convicted, the DUI stays on your record forever and can come back to haunt you should you ever receive another DUI arrest.

Why Every DUI Arrest should be Aggressively Defended

This past week I had 2 cases that exemplified why every DUI arrest must be aggressively defended. By that, I mean that a qualified, experienced DUI attorney should look at both the Defendant’s evidence and  the State’s evidence before making a decision to plead guilty.  A guilty plea to a DUI stays on your criminal record and driving record for life, and carries not only a social stigma but can  prevent a person from obtaining employment.

Case 1: Client supposedly backed into a car in the parking lot of a bar, although there was no damage to either car. My client suffers from anxiety disorder which causes her to vomit when placed under stressful situations. The police officer reported that my client’s speech was slurred, that she was unsteady on her feet, and that she had vomited in her car. Additionally, his report said she refused to do any field tests and refused the State breath test. The prosecutor would not dismiss or reduce the case, so we set the case down for a bench trial. By fully investigating the case, I learned that even though my client did originally refuse the State breath test, at the jail she told the sheriff’s deputy that she would take the test, but the arresting officer refused to let her take the test, violating the law. The arresting officer failed to put that in his report, however. By having the sheriff’s deputy appear and tell the prosecutor what had happened, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the DUI. This was extremely important to my client as she was an employee for a public school system.

Case 2:  Client was involved in a one car accident when a deer ran in front of him. No one witnessed the accident. He called his girlfriend to pick him up from the scene. About an hour later, Suwanee Police showed up at his house, had him perform field tests, arrested him for DUI, and he agreed to a State breath test, which registered .14. However, the client, as well as his girlfriend, both testified that the client had drank after arriving home. In addition the breath test was administered more than 3 hours after the accident. The State eventually agreed to dismiss and reduce to reckless driving. At first glance, it would have appeared to be an impossible case to defend, with the accident, performance on field tests, and a .14 breath test.

So next time you hear someone say that they were arrested for DUI and are planning on pleading guilty without talking to a DUI lawyer, try to convince them to call me!