There are two separate potential license suspensions. First, the DUI arrest triggers an administrative license suspension (ALS) which must be contested within 30 days of your arrest. Second, a DUI conviction triggers an automatic suspension which can only be avoided by pleading to a different charge or being found not guilty at trial.
You only have 30 days to act on the administrative license suspension that is triggered by the arrest. You have two options which I will explain in detail below: 1) file an ALS appeal to contest the suspension or 2) waive the ALS appeal and install the ignition interlock device (IID).
How do you contest the ALS? The simplest answer is to hire an attorney and pay the $150 filing fee directly to the attorney so they can file the appeal on your behalf. If you choose to file it yourself, you must mail the appeal and $150 filing fee to the Department of Driver Services (DDS). You should send it via certified mail so that you can prove compliance with the strict 30-day deadline. The appeal itself is a form on the DDS website, DDS-1206, and must be mailed to Georgia Department of Driver Services, Attn: RM-Hearing Requests, P.O. Box 80447, Conyers, GA 30013.
Once you have filed the appeal, you should receive a hearing date within a few months. The hearing is civil proceeding handled by the Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH) and is entirely separate from any criminal proceedings. If you appear on your own, just be aware that you can be called to the witness stand and forced to testify. You can assert your right to remain silent, but in the civil context, that assertion is viewed as an admission. For that reason, it is common practice for attorneys to appear without their clients to prevent them from being called to the stand as a witness.
The ALS hearing is a civil proceeding, so the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence which is a much lower standard of proof than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, the parameters of the hearing are narrower than a criminal trial, meaning that the officer must only prove why they stopped you, that there was probable cause for the arrest, that they read you the Implied Consent Notice, and that you either refused or consented. If you consented, then the results of the test must also be presented.
Because of the narrow parameters and low burden of proof, it is not uncommon to lose the administrative license hearing but still win the criminal case. In most situations, I try to negotiate with the officer and work out a deal to avoid having the hearing altogether while also saving your license. However, if the hearing is held, I cross-examine the officer with an eye towards getting as much testimony under oath as possible so I can lock down the officer’s statement before they can clean it up for the criminal trial.
Sometimes, the officers do not show up for the ALS hearings. In those situations, the ALS would be dismissed in your favor. However, you cannot assume they will not appear so you need to know whether you to plan to have the hearing or will just be seeking to strike the best deal possible to avoid the hearing.
The potential consequences for losing an ALS hearing depend on whether you took the chemical test and whether you have any prior suspensions. For a first ALS in the last five years, you would get a 30-day limited permit if you took the chemical test, and you would receive a 12-month hard suspension if you refused the test. The limited permit would be good for work, school and medical appointments, and you could get your full license reinstated after 30 days. For a refusal case, you would have no ability to drive for the full 12 months. The only way to get your license back early would be to beat the DUI at trial or negotiate a plea that dismisses the DUI in exchange for a plea to lesser charges.
For a second ALS in five years, you are looking at an 18-month hard suspension if you took the test. For the refusal, you are still looking at the 12-month hard suspension on both a second and third ALS in five years. However, for third ALS in five years in which you submit to the test, you are looking at five-year suspension with the potential for a limited permit after the first two years.
If you took the chemical test and the results come back below 0.08 grams of alcohol, then there would be no license suspension at all. Likewise, there is no administrative license suspension for DUI drugs. So, you only need to worry about an ALS suspension if you refused the test or the alcohol concentration was 0.08 grams or more.
For more information on DUI Law in Georgia, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you seek by calling (470) 728-1725 today.