DUI Attorneys in Forsyth County
30+ Years Offering Aggressive & Experienced Legal Representation
At Zeliff | Watson, we are a team of trial attorneys prepared to go the distance in your DUI defense here in Forsyth County. We dedicate our practice to defending cases through all aspects of litigation and working with our clients to set up their best defense. Peter has been a defense lawyer for 23 years; Evan has been a defense lawyer for 13 years. It is what we know, it is what we do, and it is what we are passionate about.
With nearly four decades of combined trial-tested experience, defending all types of DUI charges in Forsyth County is a core focus of our legal team. With our primary office located just minutes north of the Forsyth County Courthouse, our team has almost daily appearances in front of the Judges that will decide your case if you are facing a DUI within the county.
While there are a lot of internet marketing websites designed to simply be sales pitches about what to expect in Forsyth, this page is written by our team of attorneys to inform you about everything you must know to successfully defend yourself from a DUI allegation in Forsyth County.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and HEAT Team/ DUI Taskforce
DUI enforcement in Forsyth County is left largely up to the HEAT (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic) Unit, commonly known as the DUI Taskforce. Deputies can rotate on and off this unit and have more training and experience in DUI detection than a uniform patrol officer. No special requirements are mandated when it comes to the HEAT Unit, but you can expect these officers to have a minimum of the basic NHTSA field sobriety course, an ARIDE, or advanced roadside impairment detection course, as well as sometimes being what they deem as DREs, or drug recognition experts.
These officers will also likely be trained to operate the Intoxilyzer 9000 device, should they ask you to submit to breath testing at the Forsyth County Jail. While we often see HEAT unit officers making DUI arrests in Forsyth, we have also taken note of the increasing number of DUI arrests made by uniform patrol officers as of late 2021.
These officers do not necessarily have the same level of DUI training, so thoroughly evaluating their investigation- especially their administration of the field sobriety tests- is crucial. A subpar DUI investigation is something we will use in negotiations to help you achieve the best result as your case winds it way through the court system.
Blood Draws and Breath Tests in Forsyth DUI Investigations
With the ever-evolving laws around blood and breath testing in Georgia DUI investigations, you need a team of attorneys who keep up with Forsyth County’s policies about chemical testing. Currently (late 2021), the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is directing DUI drivers to submit to either blood or breath testing, with the deputy controlling the decision. Under Georgia laws, the arresting officer does have 100% discretion on the type of test to ask you for and 99% of the time it will be a blood or breath test.
If you are read the implied consent notice (the green card usually read shortly after the cuffs go on and before you are driven to the jail) and the deputy requests a blood test, that blood draw was done either at the Forsyth County Jail or possibly at Northside Forsyth Hospital. Two tubes of blood should have been drawn by the medical personnel and enclosed in a cardboard mailer to be sent to the GBI’s crime lab for testing.
It is important to understand that the GBI has a significant backlog of testing to do, which can result in a 6–8-week delay in the processing of your blood test from the Forsyth Sheriff’s Office. Our team uses the discovery process to obtain these results from the prosecuting attorney for your defense.
If you were read the implied consent notice and the deputy asked you for a breath test, that test was done at the Forsyth County Jail on an Intoxilyzer 9000 machine, the only machine approved for official state chemical tests in DUI cases. The Intoxilyzer 9000 has been in service since approximately 2013; check out the test slip you were given and it will note the machine’s last calibration in 2013, usually.
Our team uses Georgia Open Records laws to obtain complete and accurate information about these Intoxilyzers’ recent track record and quarterly testing protocols and results. Additionally, we stay up to date on the science of the machine as well as current challenges being made to the state’s attempts to use breath tests against you.
Forsyth County Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Hearings
After a DUI arrest, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office may seek to suspend your driver’s license. The common habit of these officers is to confiscate and initiate suspension of your driver’s license if you allegedly refuse to test. In this case, you will not have your license on your property upon release from jail and should have a license suspension form/ a temporary permit. If you received this form, or if you do not see your license or any other paperwork, you need to assume your license is pending suspension.
In this case, we have 30 days (about four and a half weeks) from your arrest date to file an appeal or to have a certified ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle and obtain a limited permit. If you took a blood or breath test at the jail (or at the officer’s request elsewhere) Forsyth deputies will generally not seek to suspend your driver’s license after your arrest. These deputies know that if you ultimately plead guilty to, or are found guilty of, a DUI, your license will be suspended by the courts at that time.
In the event we file an appeal for any possible suspension of your driver’s license, you will have an administrative license suspension hearing 60-90 days out from your date of arrest. We will take care of filing for this hearing, as well as obtaining all evidence beforehand so that we can make an informed decision at that hearing date. Our attorneys have defended thousands of these license hearings and know how to use the system to help you negotiate the best outcome for your case.
The Forsyth County State Court and Solicitor’s Office
The State Court of Forsyth has jurisdiction over all misdemeanor DUI prosecutions. Your case will randomly be assigned to one of the two-State Court Judges who will follow the case from beginning to end. The Forsyth County Solicitor General’s Office is responsible for prosecuting all misdemeanor DUIs in Forsyth and your case will be assigned to one of six prosecutors, depending on your case’s courtroom assignment. Our team is constantly defending cases in both state court courtrooms and against all of the prosecutors within the Solicitor’s office. We keep up with the local trends and know exactly how to best prepare you for success.
DUI Punishments in Forsyth County
Often, marketing websites simply lay out the mandatory minimum punishment guidelines for DUIs in Georgia. While these minimum guidelines apply to Forsyth, they are far from realistic in terms of what to expect in defense of your case in Forsyth County. Whether it’s a first or a fifth DUI arrest, our attorneys not only know the punishment guidelines that will apply to your case, but we know and understand how to navigate the realistic punishment demands made by the solicitor’s office in plea bargaining.
We can anticipate, for instance, that some people will go in alone and be told 60 days in jail is required due to a past DUI arrest that is often several years old. We also know how to prepare your defense to avoid such a harsh and life-changing punishment being handed out. Rather than attempt to lay out all the various options for DUI sentencing on this page, we would simply invite you to set up a consultation to discuss your case and your defense with us. You will have a firm understanding of the various options you have and how a proactive approach will help you achieve the best outcome.
Forsyth County DUI Court
If you have more than one DUI arrest in your lifetime, chances are you are deemed a candidate for the Forsyth County DUI Court program. The Forsyth County DUI Court is a two-year, court-run treatment program designed to offer DUI offenders an alternative to severe jail sentences.
In general, the DUI Court consists of a mix of group treatment meetings; community support (12-step) meetings; weekly drug/alcohol testing; and group court sessions at least twice a month. You can expect to spend several hours a week fulfilling commitments to the DUI Court program, should you choose to participate. There are also severe limitations on your ability to travel during your tenure in the DUI Court.
If you have prior DUI convictions, we will certainly discuss your options with you at our initial consultation, including possible DUI Court or private treatment options you may explore to avoid a heavy jail sentence.
Forsyth County Case Progression Timeline (Dec. 2021 update)
Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of defending a DUI case in 2021/2022 is the timeline you are facing to fully resolve your case. While each case is certainly different, you can usually expect the following timelines to apply to your defense:
- DUI review hearing – When you bonded out of jail, your bond paperwork will have an “arraignment” date noted on it, typically two to six weeks from your date of arrest. While the paperwork may call it an arraignment, chances are, it is a “DUI Review.” This DUI review hearing is an informational session for all multiple DUI offenders who could be eligible to participate in the DUI Court. Assuming it is your first DUI arrest, we will be able to plan with the prosecutor’s office to have you excused from this hearing.
- Arraignment date – The second hearing in a DUI case progression will be the actual arraignment date. This date can be anywhere from 2-4 months out of your arrest, based on current wait times and backlogs. Judges actually prefer that attorneys handle the arraignment date by filing in their not guilty plea, along with other pleadings and motions that must be filed at or around the time of arraignment. If you do not have an attorney before your arraignment date, you will be expected to appear, enter your plea, and secure counsel or file motions on your own behalf, per Georgia’s criminal rules and procedures.
- Motions, Pretrial Hearings, Plea Hearings, Trial – At some point after your arraignment date, you will be given your next hearing or set of hearings. If you or your lawyer has filed motions regarding evidence, the Court will set the hearing down on a specific date to hear all such requests. If a plea agreement can be reached, the court will set your case down to come before the Court and enter everything on the record. Trial calendars, both bench trials, and jury trials, are also scheduled throughout the year, depending on the Court’s busy calendar. Remember, all courts, including Forsyth County, have been severely delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so expect your case’s timeline to be extended!
Why You Need a Forsyth DUI Attorney
Auto accidents involving alcohol are responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths annually. In an effort to reduce the number of DUI offenses that take place in our state each year, as well as the accidents that often follow, law enforcement officials and prosecutors are aggressively pursuing and punishing those that do commit DUI crimes.
Unlike many other criminal offenses, DUI laws are written to place strict liability on offenders. It takes vigorous defense in a DUI case to clear a defendant of wrongdoing. If you have been arrested for DUI, you do not want to face your charges alone, as you do not have a chance of an equal fight. You will want to retain an experienced attorney who can utilize effective defense tactics in court in an effort to obtain the reduction or elimination of your charges.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, it is important that you contact a Forsyth DUI lawyer at Zeliff | Watson who can provide you with legal representation in your case. Our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in practicing criminal defense, and have secured favorable results on behalf of many clients.
- GA DUI Laws
Drivers in Georgia are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more. The laws addressing DUI call for serious penalties to be levied in the event of a conviction, even for first-time offenders. These penalties increase exponentially for multiple DUI convictions, or offenses that involve an "aggravating" factor, such as an injury accident.
- 30 Day Warning Rule
If you have been arrested for DUI in our state, and have either tested over the .08% legal limit, or refused to submit to chemical testing, you have only 30 business days to notify the Georgia Department of Driver Services that you will be appealing the planned suspension of your Georgia drivers' license or the planned suspension of your ability to drive in the state.
- Multiple DUI
Multiple DUI convictions can result in a person facing increased penalties. Any person who is arrested for a fourth (or higher) offense will face felony charges that can carry penalties including $5,000 in fines, 60 days of community service, mandatory enrollment in an alcohol treatment program, and up to 5 years in jail.
- DUI Serious Injury
If you are driving while under the influence causes an accident that results in injury, your DUI offense becomes a felony, and you can face penalties that include large fines, restitution to the victim(s), and even time in state prison. You may also be hit with personal injury lawsuits from the injured party or the injured party's loved ones.
- Leaving the Scene
If you have been in an auto accident, you are required by law to stop and provide aid (if possible), as well as give your information to law enforcement and the other individuals involved in the accident. If you fail to do this, you can be charged with hit-and-run, which becomes a felony offense when the accident has resulted in death or injury.
- Breath & Blood Tests
Breath and blood tests are designed to measure the amount of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. They are administered during or after DUI stops to establish whether or not an individual was driving over the legal limit, which is .08%. Refusal to take a breath or blood test can result in the suspension of one's drivers' license or one's ability to drive within state lines.
BAC stands for "blood or breath alcohol content," which is the amount of alcohol that a person has in their breath or bloodstream. In our state, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC that is higher than .08%. Currently, BAC can be measured by law enforcement in three different ways: a breath test, a blood test, or urine test. (Minors and CDL holders have lower legal limits.)
- Suspended Licenses
If you are arrested for DUI, it is possible that you will have your license suspended. License suspension can be included in your punishment if you are convicted, or it can occur as a result of an administrative license suspension following a DUI arrest. It is possible for you to schedule a hearing with the Georgia Department of Driver Services in order to appeal your suspension.
- Less Safe
There are two basic types of DUI violations that you can face in our state: "Per se" and "less safe." If you are charged with a "less safe" violation, prosecutors must be able to prove that you were a less safe driver as a result of your intoxication in order to obtain a conviction.
- Sobriety Checkpoints
Sobriety checkpoints are essentially "roadblocks" created by law enforcement in order to catch drivers who are driving while under the influence. These checkpoints are usually set up late at night or very early in the morning. If you have been arrested after being accused of DUI at such a checkpoint, it is recommended that you contact an attorney, as there is a chance that your rights have been violated.
BUI stands for "boating under the influence," and refers to the crime of operating a boat while possessing a BAC that is over the legal limit or being less safe. As BUI is considered very similar to DUI, many of the same penalties can be applied in the event of a conviction, including fines, mandatory rehabilitation classes, and jail time. In fact, while BUI crimes used to be considered "less" severe, in today's climate, they are punished on equal footing with DUI.
- Traffic Offenses
In addition to DUI, there are many serious traffic offenses that can result in the imposition of serious penalties, including reckless driving, speeding, hit and run, aggressive driving, driving without insurance, driving with a suspended license, following too closely, failure to yield, and passing a stopped school bus.