Georgia, like every other state, has an administrative penalty for any driver who (upon being requested by a law enforcement officer to submit to a state-administered chemical sobriety test) REFUSES to take the test. This refusal does not cause any monetary fines to be payable, nor can you be jailed simply for refusing to take the State's test. However, Georgia will seek to SUSPEND your driver's license (for those licensed to drive by the State of Georgia) or for non-Georgia licensees your privilege to operate a car anywhere within the State of Georgia FOR A PERIOD OF ONE YEAR. A person who contests this suspension by filing a request for a hearing within 10 business days after the alleged refusal may be successful in preventing this suspension for refusal. The State currently charges a filing fee of $150 for this appeal. An appeal will extend your permit to drive through the hearing date. [When counting days, the day of arrest does not count. Also, do not count Saturdays, Sundays or State holidays]. Failure to “appeal” the suspension within 10 business days will almost certainly result in this ONE YEAR suspension. In rare cases, where “providential cause” for late filing can be shown, a late “appeal” will be accepted by the Georgia Department of Drivers Services.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS
Administrative hearings can be critical to a client's case. To begin, if the licensee does nothing, his/her license (or privilege to drive in Georgia) will be suspended. This often hampers our efforts to proceed on the DUI criminal case. A client without driving privileges often loses the motivation to challenge his or her case.
Secondly, the administrative hearing (if held) offers your attorney a chance to cross-examine the arresting officer under oath, so that important issues can be reviewed before the criminal (DUI) case ever starts. A transcript of this sworn testimony can be instrumental in helping to settle or win the DUI case. In many cases, it is our only chance to obtain binding information about the officer's case.
Thirdly, the administrative case is handled before an administrative law judge who works for the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. If you decide to testify (after consulting with your attorney), this will be good practice for you in the event you go to a jury trial or a bench trial in the companion criminal case. You will also get an opportunity to see the officer's manner of testimony “in court”.
ALS SUSPENSION FOR DRIVING WITH AN
UNLAWFUL BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL
Effective July 1, 1997, for all drivers charged with a violation of subsection “a” of the DUI code who SUBMIT to the State's test and yield a blood alcohol result of 0.08 or higher, a suspension under Georgia's Administrative License Suspension Law (ALS) will be applicable. [.02 is the applicable ALS level for those under 21 charged with a violation of subsection “k” and .04 is the applicable ALS level for commercial vehicle operators charged under subsection “i”]. Basically, the law says that if you are stopped for DUI and have an “unlawful blood alcohol level”, based upon a chemical sobriety test result, your license (Georgia licensees) or your privilege to drive in Georgia (licensees from other states) will be administratively SUSPENDED for the following time periods:
- FIRST OFFENDERS A person with no prior administrative suspensions faces a twelve month administrative suspension. However, at the end of the initial 30-day “temporary” driving permit allowed by the form received at the time of arrest, the person can apply for and receive a 30 day “work” permit that allows him/her to drive to work, medical treatment, DUI Risk Reduction Program, College, etc.. There is a $25.00 charge for this limited driving permit. Also, if the person attends and completes a Risk Reduction Course (driving school) and pays a reinstatement fee ($200 by mail; $210 if done in person), he/she can obtain EARLY REINSTATEMENT of his/her license (or privilege to drive) after the 30 day permit expires. This permit is currently only available through the Covington headquarters location of the Department of Drivers Services.
- SECOND OFFENDERS A second administrative suspension within five years will result in a THREE YEAR SUSPENSION. No “work” permit is allowed. The suspension begins on the 31st day following arrest (unless an appeal is sought). However, these “SECOND OFFENDERS” may attend a DUI Risk Reduction Program and pay a reinstatement fee (same as for FIRST OFFENDERS) and get their license (or privilege to drive) reinstated after 120 days.
- THIRD (OR SUBSEQUENT) OFFENDERS: Any person who has already had two or more prior administrative suspensions in the past five years will be suspended for FIVE YEARS. No “work” permit of any type is allowed. However, after two (2) years (and subject to stringent requirements set forth in Georgia's Code section 40-5-58) a person can seek a probationary license that is basically a restricted right to drive, which is very similar to a “work” permit.
For any ALS or “REFUSAL” administrative license suspension, the only penalty is suspension of driving privileges. For all persons who receive a proposed suspension notice, an “appeal” (request for hearing) can and should be made. If successful in the “appeal”, none of the ADMINISTRATIVE suspension penalties will take place. However, the driver must still wait until the CRIMINAL (DUI) case is concluded to see if any license suspension penalties are assessed in that proceeding. Hence, winning BOTH the administrative case and the criminal case is CRITICAL.
If a person has suffered a suspension under the ALS law (for driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level) or for “REFUSAL”, the imposition of a suspension by a judge in the CRIMINAL (DUI) case will entitle the person to CREDIT for any administrative suspension already suffered. However, for drivers under age 21, a “revocation” does not get reduced by any time served on an administrative suspension.
Even more important to a person who is suspended under an ALS or “REFUSAL” administrative license suspension, if he/she ultimately WINS the criminal (DUI) case, all suspensions are LIFTED, and any reinstatement fees which have been paid must be refunded by the Department of Public Safety. Moreover, a “win” can be a dismissal, a “nolle prosequi” (decision by the prosecutor to not prosecute), a plea to an alternative offense (such as a minor traffic offense). Any “win” will result in the administrative suspension being LIFTED or “rescinded”. For out-of-state licensees, the effect on driving privileges permitted by your license from your home state (after obtaining “clearance” of the suspension in Georgia) will vary, but most states will permit either full reinstatement or a “work permit” (limited driving privileges) of some type.
FILING AN “APPEAL” (REQUEST FOR HEARING)
A timely appeal or request for hearing must be made within 30 calendar days and should be accompanied by the $150 filing fee. It must include certain basic driver identification information (name, address, phone, license number, date of birth), but should also state the “grounds” or reasons for appealing. The grounds for REFUSAL appeals are not identical to the grounds for ALS appeals. To set forth all available grounds, an attorney's assistance is recommended. Dozens of potential issues may be raised in the appeal letter.
FOR ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING THE STATUS OF YOUR GEORGIA DRIVER'S LICENSE CALL THE GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF DRIVERS SERVICES COMPUTERIZED INFORMATION LINE AT 404/657-9300 FROM ANY TOUCH TONE PHONE. THIS INFORMATION IS ALSO NOW AVAILABLE ON THE GOVERNMENT WEBSITE LOCATED HERE.
An alternative means of avoiding an administrative license suspension is available to Georgia licensees but requires the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device on the driver's automobile. Its expense means that it is not always the right choice for most people. A consultation with an experienced DUI lawyer can help you sort out what the right choice is for you. But remember, the time limit is strict. A decision has to be made ahead of the 30 day time frame.