Gwinnett County DUI

Georgia Courts Show No Flexibility on 10 Day Letter

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.

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.

The Importance of Doing “Nothing”

My last two DUI case wins show the importance of doing “nothing.”  While there are many self-help books and articles going around that emphasize the importance of being able to do nothing when alleviating stressful situations, the same advice should be applied when you are stopped for DUI.




dui-in-georgiaThe important thing to understand is that during any police stop, the officer, in asking you questions and asking you to perform certain “field sobriety evaluations,” is in reality attempting to gather evidence which he can use against you at trial. Therefore, even a seemingly harmless admission of drinking can be used against you.




In one of my DUI cases this month, my client ran through a stop sign obscured by a tree limb; she actually had only consumed one glass of wine.  She never admitted drinking anything, never took the field tests, and refused to take a State chemical test. As a result, the DUI was dismissed.




In another case, my client was stopped for failure to wear a seat belt; he did admit to having a couple of beers at the Braves game.  However, he did NOT do any field tests, nor did he take the State chemical tests. As a result, his DUI was also dismissed.




In another case I had a client stopped who admitted drinking a couple of beers. She agreed to submit to field tests; however, the video showed the field tests were administered incorrectly by the officer.  My client, however, then agreed to take a State breath test at the jail and registered a .13 (above the legal limit of .08). Had she refused to take the State breath test, the DUI charges more than likely would have been reduced to reckless driving charges.




It seems to go against human nature to do “nothing.” Not only in DUI stops, but in most areas of our lives we feel the need to do something.  My advice is to cultivate the habit of doing nothing. It just might help if you find yourself charged with a DUI.




For more DUI arrest advice you can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  Keep reading the MRGADUI blog for the latest traffic law news.

Bannister’s DUI: Is Intox Accurate or Not?

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister’s arrest raises an important question: Since the arresting officer says the standard field sobriety tests indicated Bannister was impaired, why did the State’s own breath test indicate no alcohol in Bannister’s blood? More