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Defending a First DUI in Georgia in 2020


At Zeliff | Watson, we know the ins and outs of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges in Georgia.  Our courtroom presence and firm understanding of all areas of DUI law make our team one of the best when the stakes are high in a DUI case.  Read this up to date information on DUI charges in 2020, and then call us to consult about your particular situation.

What can realistically happen to my driver’s license or privilege to drive on a first DUI?  Do I need to file a letter immediately?

After being arrested for DUI in Georgia, one of two things can happen to your license or right to drive.  (1) The officer may do nothing and return your driver’s license so you have it when you get out of jail or (2) the officer may serve you with a 1205 Form and seek to suspend your driving privileges for your DUI arrest.

It is common for officers to do nothing and return your license in Forsyth County if you took the requested state test, whether it was a blood or breath test they asked you to submit to. If we can verify this during our consult, you will not be required to file any appeal letter or take immediate action to save your driver’s license.  Likewise, if you were arrested in Atlanta, or any other jurisdiction, we will be able to speak to you and decipher from your paperwork whether this appeal letter needs to be sent.

If the officer did take your license and/or you were served a 1205 Form that discusses suspending your driver’s license, then you need to act.  In 2020, you have 30 days to follow the directions on the back of that form and either (a) have an ignition interlock installed on your vehicle for 1 year, or (b) mail your appeal to the Dept. of Driver Services requesting a hearing before the Office of State Administrative Hearings.  Again, you have 30 days from your date of arrest if this occurred.  If you miss that window, there is no going back.

Our team at Zeliff | Watson does handle all aspects of our client’s appeal process including filing the appeal correctly and representing our clients throughout the appeal process and at the hearing regarding the DUI and your license. 

What is a DUI Court program?

DUI Court programs are court-run 1-2 year treatment programs for multiple DUI offenders.  As of 2020, our information is that the Forsyth County court system is not referring first DUI offenders under any circumstances.  DUI Court, unlike some other accountability courts, does not result in your charges being dismissed at the end.  In fact, you plead guilty to the charges before you enter the program.

Why did the officer who arrested me request a blood test?

2019 was a major year for DUI defense with some bombshell cases that resulted in a major loss of confidence of breath testing in Georgia.  The long and short of it is that rather than risk asking DUI suspects for a breath test, only to have it later thrown out by a judge following the law, officers are now more comfortable requiring drivers to take blood tests, as many judges, prosecutors and law enforcement believe blood testing provides greater protection to the case. 

So, if you are arrested for DUI, under Georgia law the officer must read you the implied consent notice.  This notice is printed on a lime-green card and begins “The State of Georgia has conditioned your privilege to drive on the highways of this state...”.   The card goes on to stumble and stagger through various scenarios for taking a blood, breath, urine, or “other bodily substances” test.  To note, we have never experienced any bodily substances besides blood and breath tested for alcohol.  A urine test can perform a quick or first check for certain drugs.  

Depending on your answer and the subsequent handling of your case, your license of privilege to drive in Georgia maybe at risk of suspension as discussed above. 

Can my field sobriety tests be thrown out of the case?

Chances are there will be a video of you walking a line, trying to balance on a leg, and following a pen or finger for what seems like an eternity if you participated in a DUI investigation in 2020.  So, the question becomes: Is this really evidence that can be used against me in court? 

Generally, yes.  The standardized field sobriety battery (SFSTs)  are approved for use in Georgia DUI investigations.  These three tests, in particular, date back to the 1980s, though they are still in use today. While generally speaking they are admissible, there are certain times when they will not be admissible in your case.

If you were wrongfully stopped or detained, or forced or coerced into the tests, or the officer performed the testing woefully incorrectly, then these could be times that the test results can not be used against you in court.  However, assuming none of the above occurred, it is up to us to fight the methodology, scoring, and inherit unreliability of these tests.  At Zeliff | Watson, we do NOT believe these tests to be accurate and reliable indicators of impairment.  Why have a defense lawyer who does, or who simply refuses to truly battle against these tests?

Our trial team at Zeliff | Watson has the knowledge and resources to effectively defend your DUI case, even if you participated in these inherently flawed sobriety tests.  

What type of punishments am I really looking at on a first DUI in 2020?

On a first DUI case, do not believe lawyers whose sales pitch includes chiding you about the months or even year you will spend in jail without them.  Yes, people do go to jail (for more than a weekend or so) on first DUIs from time to time, but it is the exception rather than the norm.  For the most part, on a first DUI case you are fighting about your record; both criminal and driving.  You are fighting for the chance to avoid an alcohol or drug related crime forever staying on your record. 

At Zeliff | Watson, we take a proactive approach to the defense of your case.  As I often tell clients, you want to look like a million bucks when we roll into court.  You want the judge, prosecution, and anyone else following your case to know this was an isolated occurrence that will not happen again.  A DUI arrest does not have to define who you are, and the way you respond and move forward will show that.  From Day 1 of our defense of your case, we will make sure you are armed with the tools needed to have the best chances of success both in and out of the court. 

What is the DUI legal limit in Georgia for alcohol?

Georgia’s legal alcohol limit remains 0.08 or “08” in 2020. Whether a blood test or breath test was taken from you, the same .08 limit applies.  (Of course the measurement units will be different.). If you are under 21 years old, the same 0.02 or “02” applies, even though this is often and technically misconstrued for “zero tolerance.” 

Even if you submitted to a test and were over the legal limit, there are still defenses to pursue in your case.  Both blood and breath test cases are subject to challenge and our firm has successfully defended both.  Additionally, if you did not elect to take a test, or were marked as a “refusal,” our team knows how to defend a “less safe” DUI case.  Remember, to prove a less safe DUI the prosecutor does not have to have a blood or breath test, but rather the officer’s opinion based on his training and observations will be how they attempt to convict you.

Can I get a DUI on my prescription drugs in 2020?  Can I get a DUI on my CBD oil?

A widely believed misconception is that you can NOT get a DUI charge on prescription drugs. This is not true: You absolutely can get a DUI even from properly prescribed and consumed prescriptions.  However, in order to prove that you were DUI, the state must be able to prove that the drugs rendered you incapably of driving safely, not simply that they were in your system.  This becomes problematic for prosecutors because often times only standard field sobriety tests were used by the investigating officer.  These field sobriety tests have never been studied for their ability to detect and predict drug impairment. Officers will still use them for DUI investigations, including showing up in court and testifying against you, but they have not been validated.  Knowing the ins and outs of these tests and the stats behind them is CRUCIAL to defending your DUI case. 

Another misconception is that in order to prove DUI drugs, their must be a blood test.  Again, this is not true, as drivers have the ability to refuse this after-arrest blood testing.  Therefore, cops are essentially left speculating or using circumstantial evidence to attempt to prove their DUI, but they may still attempt to do so.  Cops will testify about their training, experience, your driving, physical manifestations, field tests, and any other factors they feel may help convict you of DUI. 

CBD Oil DUIs should NOT happen, BUT they may.  This is because CBD is virtually unregulated at the time of this publication, making it impossible to truly know the THC content of the product you are using.  True CBD (<.3% THC) is not impairing.  But, how do you know your product is truly less than the .3%?   Also, cops have become very skeptical of drivers claiming any possible impairment is based on CBD products.  Chances are the officer will simply not believe this and push the DUI case forward claiming THC (marijuana) was the cause of impairment.  Marijuana DUIs, like prescription drug DUIs, must be proved by the less safe standard.  It is NOT illegal to simply have THC in your system and drive.  Unlike some other states that have further regulated marijuana usage, Georgia does not currently have a "per se" or legal amount of THC, like we do for alcohol. 


If you are reading this information, give us a call.  Our team successfully defends hundreds of DUI cases annually and is a true criminal defense LAW FIRM. We are happy to discuss your case with you and give you real, honest, and reliable insight into your potential defenses available no matter the situation.  Peter, Evan, Candy, Jennifer and Michele can be reached at: 770 887 3720.  

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