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2017 Trends in DUI Defense


In 2017, fighting DUI charges throughout Metro Atlanta and Forsyth, and surrounding counties is harder than ever. Increased police funding, a hard push for accountability court participation, along with judges handing out heavier jail sentences than ever before are all leading to this shift in defending against DUIs. As it relates to attacking DUI evidence, we are seeing more and more police that are proficient in making a DUI arrest, and Georgia is relying on newer, more state-of-the-art testing machines and even more blood testing to prove a run-of-the-mill DUI case.

Increased Police Funding

While DUI units within a police department used to be the exception, today, most cops are outfitted with sophisticated gear that aids in a DUI arrest. Dash-cam, lapel and body cams, along with accompanying audio recording devices are becoming more common place, especially in light of news on the national stage, where a few tragic police-citizen encounters have captured national attention. Don't get us wrong, we believe these particular advances in recording aids are helpful to both sides, helping protect the rights and provide a neutral third party view of DUI arrests. But, with this increased funding for technology comes better trained officers, and more awareness on the part of routine "beat" cops to call in a specialist if they suspect they have a DUI driver on their hands.

Accountability Court Push (DUI Court)

Forsyth, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Hall and many other surrounding counties have upped the ante in fighting DUI cases by making a hard push for offenders to enroll in a DUI Court program. "DUI Court" unlike other accountability courts like Drug Court, Veteran's Court, Mental Health Court, and the like, does not, however, result in a dismissal of charges for those who make it through. DUI Court is a 18-24 month program requiring daily check-ins for drug and alcohol screening, weekly group meetings, monthly court sessions, among other requirements. While 5 years ago DUI Courts were seemingly more voluntary in their participation, 2017 has seen a serious uptick in DUI Court numbers. Almost all 2nd or more DUI offenders will be considered for DUI Courts, while even some first offenders will make the cut.

Judges Giving Out Heavier Jail Sentences

For those who decline to participate in DUI Court, or exercise their right to a jury trial, jail time being handed out by judges is higher than ever before. To clarify, if you win your trial, of course you are in the clear, however, if you come out on the losing end, you are facing some serious time. Serious to the tune of 30, 60, 90 days, plus. Every courtroom is different, but even courts where 3 years ago we could confidentially tell a client to have a trial without fear of being thrown in jail if we come up short, we now must prepare for the worst. Many DUI offenders simply can't "chance it" on going to trial and facing jail if they come up short. Unfortunately, this has no real-world effect except to chill the right to trial, and on the DUI Court front, "encourage" participation just because a determination has been made someone is eligible to be enrolled.

Better Trained DUI Cops

In 2017, we are seeing more cases where a DUI arrest is made by an officer with at least a basic understanding of DUI laws. In larger Metro jurisdictions, and even some outlying counties like Douglas, Forysth and the like, you are seeing cops conduct a DUI investigation in a more effective manner than before. Increased training opportunities, along with more readily available DUI-trained officers account for the majority of this uptick in decently put together DUI cases. If you're out in a popular area, of on a major thoroughfare, like 285 or 400, expect to run into cops who know DUI investigations.

Newer Breath Machine, More Blood Testing

By now, Georgia has been using the newer Intoxilyzer 9000 machine for a few years, and relying more on blood testing than ever before. While the 9000 model intoxilyzer is certainly not infallible, let's face it: it is not the almost 30 year old model 5000 that was in use until 2012-2013. While infrared breath testing has inherit limitations, blood tests, which are considered the gold standard, are showing up in more DUI cases than ever before. Anytime a cop suspects alcohol plus any other intoxicant, and sometimes even in alcohol-only cases, cops are asking for blood test, or threatening with driver's license suspensions. Remember, in Georgia, once an officer has arrested you for suspected DUI, you must submit to a test of their choosing, or lose your license for a year, minimum.

At Zeliff | Watson, We Are Aware of the Changes in DUI Defense, and Fight to Win

Both Attorneys Peter Zeliff and Evan Watson have a proven track record of fighting and beating tough DUI cases. Just last year (2016), Attorney Zeliff defeated the State at trial where his client's blood test (admitted into evidence at trial) well exceeded the legal limit of .08. Attorney Watson likewise defeated the State in a case where his client's breath test was at twice the legal limit (.16) and the test came into evidence! Both Attorneys bring a mix of negotiation and trial experience to the table, along with placing an emphasis of defending a case wisely from the beginning. While others will show up to court empty handed, clients of Z|W have been informed on what they can do to liken their chances of success, and have a support team behind them.

If you have been charged with DUI in Atlanta, Forsyth, or surrounding counties, give us a call today at (770) 676-1340 to discuss your best defenses and how we will begin fighting your case.

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