ga dui lawyer

When Cops Lie

The recent case in Gwinnett County, Georgia, involving the firing of two officers , is troubling in many ways. The incident shows why we need body cameras on all police officers in this country, and it also shows the absolute need for citizens to vigilantly record police encounters.

Sergant Michael Bongiovanni stopped Demetrius Hollins for a minor traffic violation. According to Bongiovanni’s incident report, Hollins was so uncooperative that he (Bongiovanni) tasered Hollins. A citizen witness videotaped a second officer, Robert McDonald, stomping on Hollins’ head after Hollins was lying on the ground handcuffed. McDonald was summarily fired by the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Later, a second video surfaced which showed what had actually happened before McDonald arrived on scene: Hollins was out of his car, both hands raised, when Bongiovanni punched him in the face, knocking him down. There was absolutely no justification, at least by viewing the video, that any reasonable person could say Bongiovanni acted properly. In fact, what we see is a crime, either of simple battery, but more than likely a felony of aggravated assault.

It sickens me that an officer would act this way, but more than that, it sickens me that Bongiovanni would lie in his report, not only throwing McDonald under the bus, but lying to save his own hide.

I am saddened by this incident. On the whole most Gwinnett officers are professional and do their jobs. But there are 2 really important lessons that come from this incident:

  1. Police must do a better job “policing” their own. Over his 17 year career, Bongiovanni had numerous “use of force” complaints, all of which had been dismissed by GCPD. When there are numerous use of force complaints filed by average citizens, that should be a red flag causing police supervisors to more closely scrutinize the officer.
  2. This incident once again undermines the trust we have in our police and in our criminal justice system. And when the citizenry loses trust in its institutions, the entire system is in danger of breaking down.

The Gwinnett solicitor, Rosanna Szabo, dismissed 89 cases involving arrests made by Bongiovanni and McDonald. Good for her; there is no way the officers credibility, especially Bongiovanni, would have been believed by any fair minded, reasonable juror.

In our criminal justice system, the “players”: police, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers, all have roles to play. All are considered “officers” of the court. ALL are, and should be, held to higher ethical standards than the citizen not engaged in the criminal justice system. When any of these people act in an unethical manner, it undermines the very foundation of a fair, balanced system, and those unethical actions must be punished accordingly.

 

 

 

 

How Relationships Can Win a DUI Case

When you are looking to hire a DUI lawyer, which is more important: the price the lawyer charges, or the experience and reputation the lawyer brings to the table?

There is a debate in legal circles as to how lawyers should charge. On one side is the old school billable hour crowd, which believes lawyers should charge by the hour. On the other side is a new group which believes a lawyer should charge based on his/her knowledge and experience.

A recent case illustrates why I am now leaning towards the second group. Throughout my 35 years of practice, I have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge not only about the law, but also knowledge about and relationships with certain courts, police departments, prosecutors, and judges. That knowledge and the relationships derived from practicing for 35 years is, in many ways, invaluable.

In this recent case, my client was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Even the video showed his speech was slurred, he was slightly unsteady, and he exhibited the maximum clues on the HGN field sobriety test.  He also had supposedly run over a curb with his car.

At first glance, most lawyers would assume that it would be impossible to win a DUI case like this one.  However, the client had been involved in a serious injury accident several years ago, which left him with some head injuries and partial memory loss.  The client provided me with proof of his injuries sustained in the accident, as well as a letter from his lawyer indicating the evidence of permanent disability.

I first approached the officer and told him, in a nice way, of my concerns about whether the symptoms were the result of alcohol impairment or the result of injuries sustained by my client, and told him I would be talking to the prosecutor about reducing the charges. Then I spoke with the prosecutor, whom I have known for over 25 years, and eventually she agreed with me and reduced the charges.

Now, how valuable was it to my client that I had developed enough experience to consider other causes for this supposed DUI and established those relationships with the officer and prosecutor? Or that I had worked hard to develop a reputation with many prosecutors as someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to DUI cases, so that if I discuss with these prosecutors that they have a problem with their traffic law case, they listen, research, and consider other possibilities?

Yes, my opinion is that experience, knowledge, and relationships are invaluable when it comes to DUI defense.

Driving Habits That Could Lead to a DUI Arrest

Unless a police officer smells your breath as you drive by, he or she will have to rely on visual cues based on your driving behavior to determine whether you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Most people know that fast, reckless driving can indicate DUI, but you may not know that some seemingly innocent driving habits can lead to a traffic stop and potentially a DUI arrest. If you’ve been drinking at all – even if you’re not over the legal limit of .08 – these driving behaviors can give police officers probable cause to stop and even arrest you.
should you take test after dui arrest

Improper Acceleration & Braking
We’ve all been in the car with a stop-and-go driver whose jerky braking nearly causes whiplash. It can be irritating, but it can also get you pulled over on suspicion of DUI. Drivers who have been drinking mimic the behavior of such a driver; braking too late or too soon, accelerating sharply for no apparent reason, and failing to maintain a reasonably constant rate of speed are all signs of DUI.

Carelessness
It happens to everyone: the driver in front of you suddenly begins slowing down, almost stopping, and then abruptly makes a turn. “Nice blinker,” you mutter. Or maybe you’re on the interstate, where most drivers are doing north of 70 mph, and see someone change lanes without signaling. It’s obviously dangerous, but failing to signal can also signal to cops that you may be under the influence. The same is true for forgetting to turn on headlights when it’s dark, raining, or foggy or taking longer than normal to respond to traffic signals, such as a light change from red to green.

Poor Judgment
Did you know that tailgating can be an indicator of impaired driving? It’s tempting to “ride” someone who’s driving more slowly than you’d like, but following too closely can get you pulled over on suspicion of DUI. Other examples of poor judgment include rapid and frequent lane changes, especially in dangerously narrow spaces, and turning too sharply, broadly, quickly, or slowly.

Failing to Maintain Lane Position
It’s critical to stay in your lane while driving for both your safety and the safety of other drivers. Failure to do so could result in a traffic stop and subsequent DUI charge. Weaving, straddling a line (a common practice among sober drivers in rural areas with very little traffic and road lighting), swerving, and drifting on a curve are just a few examples.
If you find yourself arrested and charged with DUI – no matter whether or how much you’ve been drinking – get in touch with an attorney with extensive experience in handling Georgia DUI cases. As an attorney with over 33 years of experience handling both DUI and traffic-law cases, I urge you to contact me, Mickey Roberts, and to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for all the latest in DUI news and laws.