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Georgia DUI License Suspension Laws

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“REFUSAL” PENALTIES

Georgia DUI License Suspension LawsGeorgia, 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, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) will seek to SUSPEND your driver’s license (for those licensed to drive by the State of Georgia) or for non-Georgia licensees your privilege to operate a car anywhere within the State of Georgia 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 10 business days 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 DDS.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE LICENSE SUSPENSION HEARINGS

Administrative license suspension hearings can be critical to a client’s DUI "criminal" case. To begin, if the licensee does nothing, his/her license (or privilege to drive in Georgia) will be suspended. By missing the "10 day letter" deadline, the client may lose all ability to drive in GA on the 31st day after arrest. This often hampers our efforts to successfully attack the DUI criminal case. A client without driving privileges often loses the motivation to challenge his or her case.

Secondly, the administrative license suspension hearing (if held) offers your 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 binding, sworn information about the officer’s case.

Thirdly, the administrative license suspension case is handled by 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. You will also get an opportunity to see the officer’s manner of testimony “in court”.

ALS SUSPENSION FOR DRIVING WITH AN
UNLAWFUL BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL

Effective July 1, 2001 and after, for all drivers charged with a violation of the Georgia DUI code who SUBMIT to the State’s test and yield a blood alcohol result 0.080 grams % or higher, a suspension under Georgia’s Administrative License Suspension Law (ALS) will be started by the arresting officer. [.02 is the applicable ALS level for those under 21 charged with a violation of subsection “k” and .04 is the applicable ALS level for commercial vehicle operators charged under subsection “i”]. This is sometimes called a “stop & snatch” law. Basically, the law says that if you are stopped for DUI and have an “unlawful blood alcohol level”, based upon a chemical sobriety test result, your license (of Georgia licensees) or your privilege to drive in Georgia (of licensees from other states) will be administratively SUSPENDED for the following time periods:

(a) 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) or a prior administrative license suspension action against them are considered to be FIRST OFFENDERS under the Georgia ALS law. The suspension period is for ONE (1) YEAR. However, FIRST OFFENDERS who submit to breath testing offered after arrest are eligible to seek the following favorable treatment. The arrested DUI suspect 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. A $25.00 charge for this limited driving permit is required. Also, if the person attends and completes a Risk Reduction Course (DUI 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.

(b) 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), or a prior administrative license suspension action against them, 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). However, these “SECOND OFFENDERS” who have submitted to an official breath test may attend a DUI Risk Reduction Program and pay a reinstatement fee (same as for FIRST OFFENDERS) and get their license (or privilege to drive) reinstated after one full year.

(c) THIRD (OR SUBSEQUENT) OFFENDERS: Any person who has already had two or more prior convictions, guilty or nolo contendere pleas to DUI or two or more prior administrative license suspension actions against him or her (or any combination of two or more ALS suspension or convictions for 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 who is age 21 or over can seek a probationary license that is basically a restricted right to drive, which is very similar to a “work” permit.

For any ALS or “REFUSAL” administrative license suspension, the only penalty is suspension of driving privileges. For all persons who receive a proposed suspension notice for "refusing" to submit to the official testing that the arresting offers AFTER the DUI arrest, an “appeal” (request for hearing) can and should be made. If successful in the “appeal”, none of the ADMINISTRATIVE suspension penalties will take place. However, the driver must still wait until the CRIMINAL (DUI) case is concluded to see if any license suspension penalties are assessed in that proceeding. Hence, winning BOTH the administrative case and the criminal case is CRITICAL.

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 Georgia 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”. Please note, this option is lost for arrests made July 1, 2001 and after. For out-of-state licensees, the effect on driving privileges permitted by your license from your home state (after obtaining “clearance” of the suspension in Georgia) will vary. However, most states will permit either full reinstatement or a “work permit” (limited driving privileges) of some type.

Many citizens charged with a DUI in GA ask us about a "nolo" plea or a first offender plea or possible diversion. NONE of these alternatives is presently sanctioned by Georgia law. The favorable nolo contendere law in Georgia ended July 1, 1997. Georgia has no "diversion" and specifically prohibits availability of "first offender" status for DUI convictions. In some "accident" cases where potential civil liability of the DUI driver may merit a "nolo contendere" plea, it is up to the sentencing judge to accept it or not.

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 2206 East View Parkway
Conyers, GA 30013 (ALWAYS OBTAIN A RECEIPT FOR DELIVERY) **directions to the Conyers DDS below**
or
(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 is

Georgia Department of Driver Services
Post Office Box 80447
Conyers, GA 30013

As an extra precaution you can FAX (with a printed "confirmation" of delivery) a request for hearing to (678) 413-8450. However, a fax request should not 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 United States Post Office mail or personal hand delivery (with a signed receipt).

The reinstatement of your driver’s license requires the payment of a fine. 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:

Georgia Department of Driver Services
Post Office Box 80447
Conyers, GA 30013

(Caution: Always keep copies of these documents. Always send it by certified U.S. mail, return receipt requested. Always keep your postage receipt, so that you can show that it was timely sent.)

Note: If the certificate is presented in person at the Department of Driver Services the reinstatement fee will be $210.00. They only accept cash, cashier’s checks, certified checks, or money orders. Lines are long, and one to three hour waits are common.

Directions to Conyers DDS:

From Atlanta travel I-20 East to Exit #82 Conyers/Monroe; turn left onto Highway 138. Drive approximately 2 and one half miles and turn right onto EastView Parkway. DDS is approximately .5 miles on the left. Follow signs to driver's license parking area.

If no reinstatement fee is required, mail the ORIGINAL certificate of completion of Risk Reduction School to:

Georgia Department of Driver Services
Post Office Box 80447
Conyers, GA 30013

To locate a Georgia DDS service location, use this interactive Internet "locator" link:

Driver's License Customer Service Centers

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