A DUI in Georgia can result in almost immediate suspension of your right to drive in the state, and, if you're a Georgia licensee, your right to drive anywhere.
Every person charged with DUI must pay close attention to the paperwork that they are given during the arrest. Officers will often give the arrestee a DPS/DMVS 1205 form telling them that it will allow the person to drive for thirty or forty-five days or until court. Even if the officer's description is not accurate, it can still allow a suspension to take effect.
An officer is authorized to give a DPS/DMVS 1205 if you refuse to submit to the state administered chemical tests or if your alcohol concentration meets a certain level or greater (0.08 grams percent for persons 21 and over, 0.04 grams percent for persons operating a commercial vehicle, or 0.02 grams percent for persons under the age of 21).
The DDS 1205 form seems to be designed to confuse and deprive drivers of their rights. Near the bottom of the form in a nondescript typeface, it gives you notice of the intent to suspend your license and refers you to the back of the form for hearing and appeal procedures which are printed in a faint type.
Since July 1, 2017, you now have thirty (30) calendar days to appeal the suspension of your license and keep your license active. If you do not appeal within the ten (10) days or do not receive permission to file a late appeal (which is rarely granted), your license will be SUSPENDED for 12 months beginning thirty days after your arrest.
In some cases, you can choose to avoid a first ALS suspension by applying for and being granted an ignition interlock permit within that 30 day appeal period. You should consult with an experienced DUI lawyer to determine whether an appeal or a permit is most in your interest.
You will be required to pay a $150 filing fee to pursue an appeal of the administrative license suspension.
A DUI lawyer will know how to preserve your rights under the state's administrative license suspension system, but only if he has the opportunity to make the appeal. You should seek legal counsel as soon as possible after being arrested for a DUI offense.
Georgia, like every other state, has an administrative penalty for any driver who (upon being requested by a law enforcement officer to submit to a state-administered chemical sobriety test) REFUSES to take the test. This refusal does not cause any monetary fines to be payable, nor can you be jailed simply for refusing to take the State's test. However, Georgia will seek to SUSPEND your driver's license (for those licensed to drive by the State of Georgia) or your privilege to operate a car anywhere within the State of Georgia for non-Georgia licensees FOR A PERIOD OF ONE YEAR. A person who contests this suspension by filing a request for a hearing within 10 business days after the alleged refusal may be successful in preventing this suspension for refusal. [When counting days, the day of arrest does not count. Also, do not count Saturdays, Sundays or State holidays]. Failure to “appeal” the suspension within the prescribed time will almost certainly result in this ONE YEAR suspension. In rare cases, where “providential cause” for late filing can be shown, a late “appeal” will be accepted by DMVS. For cases made prior to July 1, 2017, the prescribed time for appeal was ten business days. For cases on or after July 1, 2017, there is a 30 day window to file the appeal.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS
Administrative hearings can be critical to a client's case. If the licensee does nothing, his/her license (or privilege to drive in Georgia) will be suspended. This often hampers efforts to defend the DUI criminal case. A client without driving privileges often loses the motivation to challenge his or her case, because it may delay the date when they can obtain their driving privileges. This opportunity to challenge the administrative suspension should not be missed.
The administrative hearing offers the DUI attorney a chance to cross-examine the arresting officer under oath, so that important issues can be reviewed before the criminal (DUI) case ever starts. A transcript of this sworn testimony can be instrumental in helping to settle or win the DUI case. In many cases, it is our only chance to obtain sworn testimony from the officer prior to trial..
The administrative case is handled before an administrative law judge who works for the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. If you decide to testify (after consulting with your attorney), this will be good practice for you in the event you go to a jury trial or a bench trial in the companion criminal case. Caution should still be exercised in deciding whether or not to testify. You will also get an opportunity to see the officer's manner of testimony “in court”.
The suspension period you will receive depends upon how many prior administrative suspensions you have previously received. These periods are set out below:
- FIRST OFFENDERS: Persons who have not had a previous DUI arrest within 5 years (where the arrest resulted in either a conviction, guilty plea or a nolo contendere plea) are considered to be FIRST OFFENDERS under the ALS law. The suspension period is for ONE (1) YEAR. However, FIRST OFFENDERS are eligible to seek the following favorable treatment. At the end of the initial 30-day “temporary” driving permit allowed by the form received at the time of arrest, the person can apply for and receive a 30 day “work” permit that allows him/her to drive to work, medical treatment, DUI Risk Reduction Program, College, etc., but no recreational driving. There is a $25.00 charge for this limited driving permit. Also, if the person attends and completes a Risk Reduction Course (driving school) and pays a reinstatement fee ($200 by mail; $210 if done in person), he/she can obtain EARLY REINSTATEMENT of his/her license (or privilege to drive) after the 30 day permit expires.
- SECOND OFFENDERS: For persons who have one previous DUI arrest within the past 5 years (where the arrest resulted in a conviction, guilty plea or nolo contendere plea), a THREE YEAR SUSPENSION is triggered. No “work” permit is allowed. The suspension begins on the 31st day following arrest (unless an appeal is sought). Twelve months of this suspension is a "hard" suspension meaning that the person will have no license or permit during this period. During this period of time, the person will need to complete a Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Course (DUI School) and a Drug and Alcohol Clinical Evaluation and Treatment program approved by the Georgia Department of Human Resources. After the twelve months, the person will be eligible for a driving permit subject to the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device into every vehicle that the person will operate. This permit is for six months and after successful completion of the permit period, the person will be able to get their full license back from the State.
- THIRD (OR SUBSEQUENT) OFFENDERS: Any person who has already had two or more prior convictions, guilty or nolo contendere pleas to DUI in the past 5 years will be suspended for FIVE YEARS. No “work” permit of any type is allowed. However, after two (2) years (and subject to stringent requirements set forth in Georgia's Code section 40-5-58) a person can seek a probationary license that is basically a restricted right to drive, which is very similar to a “work” permit. Any driving during the period prior to obtaining the probationary license can be prosecuted as a felony and driving in violation of the DUI statute after obtaining the probationary license can be prosecuted as a felony.
If a person has suffered a suspension under the ALS law (for driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level) or for “REFUSAL”, the imposition of a suspension by a judge in the CRIMINAL (DUI) case will entitle the person to CREDIT for any administrative suspension already suffered. However, for drivers under age 21, a “revocation” does not get reduced by any time served on an administrative suspension.
Even more important to a person who is suspended under an ALS or “REFUSAL” administrative license suspension, if he/she ultimately WINS the criminal (DUI) case, all suspensions are LIFTED, and any reinstatement fees which have been paid must be refunded by the Department of Public Safety. Moreover, a “win” can be a dismissal, a “nolle prosequi” (decision by the prosecutor to not prosecute), a plea to an alternative offense (such as a minor traffic offense). Any “win” will result in the administrative suspension being LIFTED or “rescinded”.
FILING AN “APPEAL” (REQUEST FOR HEARING)
A timely appeal or request for hearing must be made within 10 business days. It must include certain basic driver identification information (name, address, phone, license number, date of birth), but should also state the “grounds” or reasons for appealing. The grounds for REFUSAL appeals are not identical to the grounds for ALS appeals. To set forth all available grounds, an attorney's assistance is needed. Dozens of potential issues may be raised in the appeal letter.
Upon the completion of the WRITTEN appeal, it should be either:
(1) Hand delivered to DDS in Covington, Georgia (ALWAYS OBTAIN A RECEIPT FOR DELIVERY)
(2) Sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and be POSTMARKED within the 10 business day time period. [Don't just drop it in a mailbox, and keep no record of it being received at the Post Office.] The address for certified mail appears on the back of your suspension notice form.
The appeal should be accompanied by payment of $150 as a filing fee.
A fax request cannot be relied upon as the official appeal notice, since the law doesn't specifically authorize this method of filing the appeal. We recommend using either certified mail or personal hand delivery (with a signed receipt).
The reinstatement of your driver's license requires the payment of a fee. You must mail the ORIGINAL certificate of completion of sentence, the original proof of completion of the Risk Reduction course, and a $200 reinstatement fee (cashier's check, certified check or money order) to the DDS.
Obtaining Information About the Status of Your License
You may obtain information about the status of your driver's license through an automated telephone service by dialing 404-657-9300
This information is also available online at the Georgia Department of Drivers Services website.
The New IIDP Alternative
Beginning July 1, 2017, some drivers facing a DUI administrative license suspension have another alternative to the appeal process described above. Georgia drivers, over 21 years of age, who do not have a CDL permit and facing their first DUI ALS in 5 years can choose instead to apply for an ignition interlock driver's permit. They will have to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle and pay monthly maintenance on the device for the time required by law. For alcohol test results of 0.08 or greater, that period is four months. For refusal cases, the period is twelve months.
In many cases, this is not a desirable alternative. Your attorney needs to review with you the benefits and costs of this alternative before you make the decision to opt for an IIDP. For someone who is not interested in fighting the DUI, it may be a better alternative than simply letting the ALS go into effect, but it is definitely worth a consultation with a DUI lawyer.