Gwinnett 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Ask Mickey Roberts: What is the Definition of a Serious Injury?

If you are involved in an accident and charged with either Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Reckless Driving, and because of that driving, you cause another person to suffer serious injury, you could be charged with a felony, punishable with imprisonment anywhere from 3 to 15 years.

Serious injury by vehicle is one of two types of DUI cases which can be a felony case, with the other being vehicular homicide.

What is the definition of a “serious injury?”  A serious injury is “when another is deprived of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless.”

Here are some examples of Serious Injury by Vehicle from actual Georgia auto accident cases:

  1. Broken bone(s), even a little toe!
  2. Stitches
  3. Losing vision in an eye
  4. Losing hearing
  5. Contusion of the brain
  6. Leg injury which resulted in temporary use
  7. Facial lacerations
  8. Disfigurement from surgery

 

Anytime you are involved in an accident involving another person, and you are charged with DUI or reckless driving, it is IMPORTANT that you hire an experienced traffic lawyer immediately.  There are many things which must be done soon after the accident, like notifying your insurance company, finding out the extent of any possible injuries to the other party, and obtaining copies of the police accident and incident reports. In addition, many times I will go ahead and hire an accident reconstructionist so that he can evaluate the accident site and evidence immediately.

A felony conviction can be devastating. The likelihood of not only prison time but also the disabilities that go along with such a conviction call for an aggressive, well-planned defense.

If you find yourself facing such a situation, please call me, Mickey G. Roberts, PC, immediately!

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.

Fast Facts about Alcohol

When many people hear about DUI charges, they often have the misconception that only heavy drinkers need to be concerned about the possibility of one day facing a DUI charge. However, any driver can be forced to defend themselves against an accusation of a DUI. Throughout my 35 years of legal experience, I’ve noticed that many DUIs are the result of a simple lack of information, whether it’s a misunderstanding about how much of an effect alcohol can have on the brain, or an underestimate about the dangers of driving drunk. To help Georgia drivers develop a better understanding of alcohol and its effects, I’ve compiled some quick facts and statistics that can help you become a safer driver.

facts about alcohol consumption

There’s no question that drinking and driving can have real and powerful consequences. But similarly, drunk drivers aren’t the only ones who find themselves in defense against a DUI charge. The best step any driver can take is to be knowledgeable about their rights. To learn more about your rights as a Georgia driver, explore my website or join me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, or contact me to schedule an appointment regarding you DUI or traffic law case.

Researchers Open Up Possibility of Roadside Breath Testing for Drugs

In the state of Georgia, anyone suspected of DUI is subject to a number of field sobriety tests to determine whether a driver is unfit to operate a vehicle.  While most people may associate a DUI with alcohol consumption, it also includes the use of drugs.  With breath tests as a frequently used roadside test to determine an individual’s blood alcohol content detected in the breath, there has not been a similar device to determine the presence of drugs, until now.Police Officer - Eye Coordination




A group of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden conducted a study proving illegal substances such as cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines can be detected in the breath, opening up the possibility of a roadside drug breathalyzer test.  47 participants who had used drugs in the previous 24 hours submitted blood, breath, plasma and urine samples.  The breath samples were collected using a small portable breath sampling device that consisted of a mouth piece and a micro-particle filter.  Tiny particles that carry non-volatile substances (a substance that can’t be changed from a solid or liquid into a vapor) and have been inhaled or consumed contaminates the airway lining fluid and are subsequently passed through open airways when exhaled, trapping the micro-particles in a filter that can be sealed and stored for testing.




Similar to field sobriety tests conducted in DUI cases, drug tests may be administered roadside using the same breath test method.  With the possible drug breathalyzer test, police will be able to detect drugs and convict drivers of a DUI if drugs are present in their results.  As a Gwinnett traffic attorney with over 18 years of experience representing clients for DUI offenses, Mickey Roberts often reminds his clients to follow the 4 simple rules to understand their rights and to avoid incriminating themselves.




To learn more about the latest news on DUI and traffic laws, visit the MRGADUI blog.  To inquire about legal representation for traffic offenses, contact Mickey G. Roberts today.  Also be sure to connect with Mickey on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.