If you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, your license may be suspended immediately unless you file for an administrative appeal. You have only ten (10) days to submit that appeal to the Georgia Department of Driver Services so it is vital to properly request the appeal as soon as possible after the arrest. An appeal hearing, known as an Administrative License Suspension Hearing (ALS Hearing) at least gives you the opportunity for a judge to lift the suspension.
A copy of the form you need to submit to DDS is found here. (https://dds.georgia.gov/sites/dds.georgia.gov/files/related_files/document/HearingRequestForm.pdf). Payment of $150.00 is also required.
Successfully obtaining an ALS hearing is often an important step in a DUI case, as no one would want their license suspended for several months or even years while they wait on their court date to resolve their criminal DUI charge. Obtaining a hearing at least gives you the opportunity to lift that suspension while you wait on your day in court.
Georgia law allows the Department of Driver Services to suspend your license based on various circumstances when you are arrested for a DUI. The most common situation is that you refuse the tests that the officer used to ascertain whether you are intoxicated while driving, such as a Field Sobriety Test, blood test or breathalyzer test. The other common situation is that a test administered by the officer registered an intoxication level of .08 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or higher. However, other situations can lead to an administrative suspension based on the age of the driver and driving history, etc.
When a driver does not consent to the tests, or another criteria for suspending the license is met, the arresting officer will confiscate the license and submit paperwork to the DDS notifying them of the situation. The DDS will then suspend the license. Various degrees of suspension including length and the terms of the suspension are based on several factors, including the age of the driver and the number of previous DUI convictions. Most situations result in what is known as a “hard” suspension, meaning there is no ability to legally drive at all for at least six months to a year or even more, based on the drivers age and circumstances.
Fortunately, you do have the ability to appeal this DDS suspension. Once DDS receives notice of the suspension, (assuming the paperwork is submitted by the officer to DDS the same day of the arrest), you have only ten days to submit an appeal and pay a $150.00 fee to DDS for the right to a hearing. These requests must be submitted to the proper department, and there are rules for where and how the funds should be sent. If the funds or the request are not timely received by DDS, they do not have to allow your hearing to move forward and your license will be suspended for the appropriate period or until your case is adjudicated in Court. Oftentimes, DUI trials do not occur until several months or even a year after your arrest, so this is a very burdensome penalty.
The ALS hearings are held before an administrative law judge at various locations around the state. For arresting agencies in the Chatham County area, the ALS hearings are typically held once a month in Garden City at the city courthouse. Typically, the hearing will occur within a few weeks or months of your appeal. Your license suspension is automatically lifted during this period while you wait on the hearing date. It is up to the administrative law judge to determine at the hearing whether there were sufficient grounds at the time of the arrest to suspend the license in the first place. The administrative law judge can lift the suspension, or change the terms of the suspension based on various facts and circumstances they are presented with at the hearing. Most importantly, the arresting officer must be present at the hearing to testify under oath the reasons for making the stop, why they decided to arrest the driver and there reasons for suspending the license.
It is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney at these hearings. If you have not filed your appeal, talk to an attorney immediately to determine if you still have grounds to obtain the hearing. If you have been alerted of a hearing date, hire an attorney before you attend. There are numerous reasons why you may be able to get your license suspension lifted, but it is not always possible. An experienced DUI attorney will give you the best chance for success during this stage of your case which goes a long way toward the ultimate resolution of your DUI charge.