Getting stopped by the cops after you’ve had one too many drinks is terrifying. As soon as you see the red lights flashing behind you, there’s no going back. As much as you wish you had called an Uber, it’s too late now. There’s nothing you can do but cross your fingers and start to look up the names of the top DUI law firms in Atlanta. The Atlanta DUI lawyers at Howard & Arca are here to help you in this trying time. Call (678)916-8649 to get answers to all of your questions and learn what we can do to help you avoid a conviction.
At Howard & Arca, we have spent years handling specifically these types of cases. We know the law in Georgia and have learned the best techniques to defend our clients against these charges. While we never advocate for driving under the influence, our attorneys also believe that everyone’s entitled to a good defense. As such, we offer a risk-free initial consultation to anyone in need with one of our expert attorneys.
If you or a family member has been arrested and charged with DUI in Atlanta, you’re going to need a strong defense lawyer. This is not something you want to face alone. Our main goal is to protect our clients from the harmful impacts of a DUI conviction. Being arrested and charged is embarrassing enough, but we will help you avoid conviction and start the process of returning your life to normal. Don’t put your freedom and livelihood at risk, contact our office today!
- 1 How Can A DUI Lawyer Help Me?
- 2 What Should I Expect After the Arrest?
- 3 What Are My Rights?
- 4 How Will an Atlanta DUI Lawyer Defend My Case?
- 5 Common Defenses Used by Atlanta DUI Lawyers
- 6 Do I Need to Go to Trial to Get My Charge Reduced or Dismissed?
- 7 What is the Georgia First Offender Act?
- 8 Can I Get My DUI Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving?
- 9 Contact Howard & Arca Today!
How Can A DUI Lawyer Help Me?
Some drivers make the mistake of trying to handle their DUI case on their own. Or, they a hire cheap lawyer who promises to get the charges dismissed or reduced for a few hundred dollars. Be wary of these types of lawyers. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”, and the last thing you want with a charge as serious as driving under the influence is a cheap defense.
A good amount of attorneys in Atlanta do nothing but try to get their clients quick plea deals. This likely isn’t going to help you. Depending on the evidence against you, it could be very difficult to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced. No attorney can manage to do this effectively after meeting with you for just a few minutes.
If you want a competent defense, you need to obtain competent and experienced representation. An experienced lawyer will do several things after your Georgia DUI arrest. Some of these things include:
- Reviewing a full and detailed copy of your driving history
- Examine the police report and charges
- Watch the video of the traffic stop, field sobriety test, and arrest
- Research the police officer’s record for unlawful stops and arrests
- Investigate to see if you qualify for alcohol or drug treatment as part of a legitimate plea bargain
You need to be prepared as well. Prior to your meeting, secure a copy of the following so you can bring it to your initial consultation:
- Your full seven-year driving abstract from the Georgia State Patrol
- A copy of your complete criminal history from the Georgia Criminal Information Center (GCIC)
- A complete copy of the police report
- Proof that you’ve started to attend AA meetings in your town
- Evidence that you’ve arranged to attend DUI school
Your drunk driving attorney will need to review all of this information to get an idea of what you’re up against. It’s faster and easier for you to gather all of this information prior to the meeting. If your lawyer has to get this information himself, he’ll have to charge you for his time. It will also delay how quickly he can start preparing your defense.
You won’t have much time between your arrest and your first court hearing. The court isn’t going to postpone this hearing because you dragged your feet retaining an attorney. This is why your second (or first) call after your arrest needs to be to a competent criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta.
A conviction for driving under the influence can have a big impact on your life. It’s crucial that you have someone handling your case that understands Georgia DUI laws and the court system.
What Should I Expect After the Arrest?
If you’re arrested for DUI, your life will change. It’s not just a matter of getting bailed out of jail and showing up to court. The charge will follow you for months, if not years. It can have long-term consequences as well.
Here are some of the things you can expect to happen after you’re arrested in Atlanta:
- You’ll have to attend at least 3 court hearings, maybe more depending on whether or not your case goes to trial
- You’re going to have to spend about $3,000 to $7,500 in legal fees, depending on how far you want to take your case. For example, if you want to go to trial and fight the charges, it’s going to cost a lot more than it will negotiate a plea deal.
- Your driver’s license will be suspended for some time, perhaps up to a year
- If you do plead guilty, expect to spend anywhere from 1 day to a year in jail
- Understand that you may be placed on probation for at least 12 months, maybe longer
- During your probation period, you won’t be allowed to drink or use any drugs that aren’t prescribed to you
- You may have to install an ignition interlock device
- Once placed on probation, expect to pay about $50 a month in probation fees
- If you plead guilty or are convicted at trial, you’ll be ordered to complete community service. The time can range anywhere from 40 hours to 240 hours, depending on your plea deal.
Having an experienced lawyer by your side can make this a little easier. He’ll fight to keep you out of jail and get you the lowest penalties possible.
What Are My Rights?
You probably don’t want to hear it, but you don’t have a lot of rights if you’re arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Georgia. For all intents and purposes, you’re a criminal defendant and will be treated as such. Our Atlanta driving under the influence lawyers will do their best to protect these rights. However, we can’t provide you with more rights than you’re entitled to under the law.
Some of the rights you do have in Georgia pertaining to DUI stops and arrests are:
- You have the right to refuse to do the field sobriety test but, if you do refuse, your license will be suspended
- You have a right to a phone call after you’ve been booked at the jail
- You have a right to a lawyer once you arrive at the jail
- You have the right to remain silent during and after your arrest
- You have a right to demand an independent chemical test but only after you’ve submitted to the State’s mandatory tests.
As you can see, you won’t be treated with kid gloves after a DUI arrest. The law is strict and you will be treated accordingly.
How Will an Atlanta DUI Lawyer Defend My Case?
You have to remember, there is no such thing as a guarantee. No honest attorney can promise that they’ll get the charges dismissed. And no prosecutor can guarantee a conviction. Every case is different. Your chances of being acquitted depend largely on the evidence and the facts of your case.
However, that doesn’t mean our Atlanta DUI experts can’t defend you. There are a lot of defenses that may apply in your case. For example, if the cops had no right to stop you in the first place, all the evidence will have to be thrown out. If this happens, there’s a very good chance the charges will be dismissed entirely.
One of the first things your lawyer will do is file a motion to have certain evidence suppressed. Suppressed evidence is the evidence the court will throw out. It can’t be used to help or hurt you. Any evidence that was obtained unlawfully will have to be suppressed.
Your DUI attorney will demand that any tainted evidence be suppressed based on a doctrine called the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”. This means that, if the traffic stop was illegal, then everything that happened afterward is also illegal. The tree is the traffic stop and the evidence obtained after the stop is the poisoned fruit.
Some of the types of evidence that will suppress include:
- Evidence found as a result of an illegal search and seizure
- Evidence that was tainted or didn’t follow the legal chain of custody
- Evidence found as the result of an illegal traffic stop
- Evidence obtained only after receiving an anonymous tip
What Evidence Will Be Used Against Me?
Once your attorney files these motions, they’ll get to the heart of your case. They’ll ask the state to send over their discovery, which includes any evidence that the state intends to use in your case. You have a right to all of this information in order to prepare your defense. The same is true of your lawyer. He’ll have to turn over any evidence he intends to use in his defense.
What are some of the kinds of evidence your lawyer will use to prepare your defense? Some of this evidence includes:
- The police report
- Any accident or incident report from your arrest
- Videos of your stop, field sobriety test, arrest, and intake
- Police dashcam and body camera videos
- The way the field sobriety test was conducted and performed
- 911 calls
- Your driving history
- Your criminal record
- The arresting officer’s disciplinary record
- Calibration reports from the breathalyzer tests administered
Obviously, your lawyer probably won’t use all of these things. Different cases involve different types of evidence. It really depends on what your main defense will be.
Common Defenses Used by Atlanta DUI Lawyers
While every case is inherently different, there are some common defenses that Atlanta DUI lawyers use to fight a DUI charge. Call Howard & Arca to speak with one of our experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers risk-free. They can take the information and evidence from your case to formulate the best defense possible.
Some of the common defense arguments are:
If the cops didn’t have reasonable suspicion to stop you in the first place, your lawyer will argue that the arrest was unlawful. The police must have a legitimate reason for pulling you over. They can’t just stop random cars and check to see if their drivers have been drinking.
For the most part, anonymous tips aren’t the basis for a lawful traffic stop. The tip would have to be very detailed and accurate in order to constitute probable cause. This is intended to prevent people from retaliating against people by calling the cops and reporting an alleged DUI.
Field Sobriety Test Issues
If you’ve ever watched a video of officers conducting field sobriety issues, you know they are often flawed. Not all cops use a standard test. This is a problem all in itself. In other cases, your DUI lawyer can show that the test wasn’t administered properly. For example, the cops may not give you clear instructions. Or, they purposely made the test harder so you would fail.
Issues with the Breathalyzer Test
Whether you submit to a portable breathalyzer test or the machine in the police station, there can be issues. If the officer didn’t administer the test properly, the results could be skewed. And, if a machine isn’t calibrated properly, it may not be reading your BAC correctly.
Chemical Tests are Unreliable: If you submit to a chemical or blood test, the readings could be unreliable. Your DUI lawyer in Georgia will do research to see if the lab who produced the results has a history of credibility or reliability issues.
You Weren’t Driving
You’d be surprised at how many people were arrested for DUI who wasn’t actually driving at the time of their arrest. The cops may follow someone to their home and wait to arrest them until after they’ve entered the home. You have to actually be behind the wheel of a car and the keys have to be in the car to be charged with DUI. Now, the car doesn’t have to be running, but the keys do have to be in the ignition. Sometimes, drivers are arrested when they were simply “sleeping it off” in their vehicles. This doesn’t constitute a lawful arrest for DUI.
Medical or Health Issues
A lot of people have medical issues that make them appear to be drunk when they are really just sick. If you’re asked to complete a field sobriety test, it may appear that you’re drunk when you’re not.
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are a lot of unique defenses that may apply in your case. Your lawyer has years of experience handling cases like yours. He’ll dig and investigate to find a suitable defense to your charges.
Do I Need to Go to Trial to Get My Charge Reduced or Dismissed?
There are times when, no matter what your lawyer does, he won’t be able to get your charge dismissed. Some clients really were drunk at the time of their arrest. And, if the arrest and stop were lawful, there will be no obvious defenses at your disposal. This is when your lawyer’s negotiation skills come into play.
Most DUI cases do not go to trial. Nobody likes a trial. Not only is it expensive for you, but it can take months or even a year to resolve your case. Plus, you’re likely not going to go before a jury. A lot of DUI cases are decided by a judge. Like it or not, that judge is going to be biased in favor of the state. This may not be fair, but it’s the way it is.
The real work your Atlanta DUI lawyers will do is negotiate a solid plea deal with the prosecutor. This doesn’t mean he’ll call him up and ask for a quick plea. He’s going to present enough evidence to convince the prosecutor to consider the following pleas:
- Reduce the charges to reckless driving
- Consider no jail time
- Keep the fines to the mandatory minimums
- Reduce your license suspension to under 6 months
- Get a work license so you don’t lose your job
- Agree to probation so that the DUI doesn’t end up on your permanent record
Some people think it’s easy to get the State to agree to these things. But it’s not always a matter of money and time. The prosecutor would rather settle your case but he has no qualms about going to trial. His odds actually increase if he goes to trial. And, you’re the one who will have to pay thousands in legal fees to take the case to trial.
Also, the prosecutor has no real incentive in offering a plea deal. Yes, he wants to keep the court docket as clear as possible. And, if his case is weak, he will want to resolve it with your attorney. But he doesn’t lose anything by pursuing your charges. In fact, a conviction could help his position depending on whether there’s anything at stake from a political perspective.
Can I Negotiate a Plea Deal by Myself?
The bottom line is if you try to handle your case yourself, you’re bound to make mistakes. The prosecutor isn’t going to take you seriously. In fact, other than a few minutes at your initial court hearing, you probably won’t get to speak to him at all. You’ll more than likely speak to one of the court officers like the other 200 people in court that day.
The other thing about having a lawyer is that you are given some priority. When you have an Atlanta DUI lawyer, your case will be heard first. You won’t have to wait in the courtroom all day with the other pro se defendants. Your attorney is also more likely to get permission to get your case continued or postponed as needed. The court isn’t very likely to agree to do this for someone without a lawyer.
When it comes to negotiating a plea deal, you definitely don’t want to handle this yourself. You don’t even know the law let alone how to negotiate a plea deal. There are certain statutes, such as the Georgia First Offender Act, that you don’t even know to exist. How are you supposed to argue your case when you aren’t sure what arguments are available to you?
Your DUI defense attorney in Atlanta also knows how to do the research necessary to defend you. He knows how to find case law that supports your defense. He also has the connections to hire expert witnesses if necessary. These are the big differences between having an experienced lawyer handle your case and doing it yourself.
There is really too much at stake to handle your DUI defense yourself. You’re much better off if you rely on one of the experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers at Howard & Arca in Atlanta, Georgia.
What is the Georgia First Offender Act?
Georgia has something called the “First Offender Act.” Under Georgia Law O.C. G. A. section 42-8-60, you may qualify for a certain program. If you are a first-time offender, your DUI lawyer may be able to negotiate probation rather than have the court find you guilty of the DUI.
In order to qualify under the act, you have to meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include:
- You’ve never been convicted of a felony before
- You haven’t taken advantage of the First Offender Act program before
- You aren’t currently in violation of any other sort of probation
- You have not yet pleaded guilty to the charges or been convicted at trial
- You have not yet been sentenced for the crime at hand
- You must consent to the probation
Under this First Offender Act, you may be allowed to go on probation rather than go to jail. As a first offender, your lawyer may be able to negotiate this with the prosecutor. Taking advantage of this law does not mean you won’t suffer any of the consequences associated with a DUI. It just means you’ll have a chance to keep a conviction from being on your permanent criminal record.
Requirements of the Georgia First Offender Act
Some of the components of the First Offender Act are as follows:
- Rather than plead guilty or be convicted of DUI, you’ll be placed on probation.
- You can only use the program once. If the judge sees that you’ve used the program before, you won’t be eligible for the program and you’ll be sentenced to the maximum penalties under the law.
- If you violate the terms of your probation, you’ll be dropped from the program. You’ll also be sentenced to the maximum terms under the law in Georgia.
- If you violate probation, it doesn’t matter how much time you’ve completed. So, if you were on probation for 23 months and only had a month left, it doesn’t change your sentence. You’ll be sentenced as if you had never been on probation.
The good news is that, once you complete probation, the original charges will be dismissed. This is important as it keeps the crime off your criminal history. However, that doesn’t mean the court won’t be able to see that you completed the program. So, if you try to use the program in the future, it will be denied. And, if you lie about whether you’ve used the program before, you will be sentenced to the maximum DUI penalties.
Can I Get My DUI Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving?
A lot of people charged with DUI ask if their Atlanta DUI lawyers can get the charges reduced to reckless driving. They may have a friend or relative who’s done something similar in the past.
Although it is possible to get your charges reduced to reckless driving, it isn’t easy. There’s certainly no guarantee that a prosecutor or judge would agree to something like this. It may be possible in situations where the driver’s BAC was only slightly over the .08 legal limit. Or, in the case where the driver had a perfect driving record, the judge may entertain something like this.
Some of the benefits of having your charges reduced to reckless driving include:
- You won’t have your driver’s license suspended
- You won’t show a conviction of DUI on your record. Keep in mind, however, that your record will still show an arrest for DUI.
- Your insurance won’t go up as much with reckless driving as it would with a DUI.
- It’s quicker and cheaper to resolve your case if the charges are reduced.
Just keep in mind, a reckless driving conviction is great but it’s not perfect. You’ll have insurance points and points on your license. You’ll also have to pay some pretty hefty fines. And, if you’re a commercial driver, your license could still be in jeopardy with a reckless driving conviction. However, a reckless driving conviction is much less damaging than a DUI conviction. One of our expert Atlanta DUI lawyers at Howard & Arca can help you determine the best course of action following your DUI charge.
Contact Howard & Arca Today!
If you’ve been arrested and charged with DUI in Atlanta, you’re going to need a DUI defense lawyer. Contact the experienced Atlanta DUI lawyers at Howard & Arca in Atlanta, Georgia today. They have the talent and experience to help you fight your DUI charges.
You don’t want to face your DUI charges alone. There is simply too much at stake. And, as tempting as it may be to call an attorney who promises to get your case settled for $500, be careful. There’s only so much an attorney can do for you in an hour or two. Do you want a competent attorney or just someone who shows up to court in a suit?
Call us at (678) 916-8649 and schedule your initial consultation today. The money you spend on an Atlanta DUI lawyer will be money well spent. Your entire future could be at stake. At a time like this, you want to rely on the very best.