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Georgia’s July 1st Statutory Update on New DUI ALS Procedure

For DUI arrests occurring after July 1st, 2017, a refreshing new set of administrative law procedures regarding license suspension is now in place. The old rule was: a person arrested for DUI had 10 business days to file a request for an administrative license suspension hearing with the Georgia Department of Driver Services (“DDS”). This request, accompanied with the mandatory $150 hearing fee, ensured that a person accused of DUI could contest their administrative suspension by the State. 10 business days is an extraordinarily short amount of time to make decisions regarding a possible 1 year suspension of a Georgia driver’s License. If this request was not timely filed with DDS, then the accused’ license would be automatically suspended on the 31st day after the arrest.

The new law, taking effect July 1st, 2017, now allows a person accused of DUI 30 calendar days to appeal their administrative license suspension. This is a much more appropriate amount of time. This gives persons in this situation time to breath, consult with an attorney, and think about their options. Furthermore, if the request is not timely filed, the license is automatically suspended on the 46th day after arrest.

The new law, however, offers something potentially far more exciting regarding the ability to fight a DUI effectively, from arrest to trial. The new law allows a person accused of DUI up to 30 days to apply for an ignition interlock permit. This allows an accused person the ability to not worry about the administrative license suspension hearing, which can be treacherous, and instead agree to install an ignition interlock in their car for 4 months, if consent was given to the state-administered chemical test, and 1 year, if consent was refused.

In an ALS hearing, the most ideal option is the officer not showing up (which occurs in a much higher frequency than one would expect, with the exception of State Troopers, they always show up). If the officer shows up to an ALS hearing, it is often necessary to enter into a “consent withdrawal” with the officer. This occurs when the attorney for the petitioner, and the officer, basically make an agreement that says: “if you agree to plead guilty to reckless driving/DUI or above, the officer will agree to withdraw the administrative license suspension”. This tough position that an accused is in results from the burden of proof being so low at an administrative hearing.

The new option of an ignition interlock bypasses all this nonsense. If there is a triable DUI case with good facts, no longer does a defendant have to make the choice between “beating the case” and “keeping the license”. Now there is an option that allows someone accused of DUI, that has a great case, to both drive and fight their case – at the same time. It comes with drawbacks though. Ignition interlocks are expensive.

There are some requirements. First, the application must be made within 30 calendar days. Second, there cannot be a fatality or serious injury in the incident. Thirst, The accused cannot have any other suspensions, cancellations, or revocations on their license. Fourth, if the accused holds a CDL, they must downgrade to a regular Georgia drivers license. Fifth, the accused cannot have any prior DUI convictions in the preceding 5 year period. Sixth, the accused must surrender their drivers license to the arresting officer, or to DDS prior to receiving the permit.

Gregory Clement