Frequently Asked Questions
I had been drinking when I was arrested. How can you help me?
As strange as it may seem, whether you were drinking or not is not as important as many people think. I have seen innocent people arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned. How can that happen? It's not that uncommon when folks decide they "would rather switch, than fight." On the other side, I've seen folks who were certainly not innocent walk out of court simply because they had the legal resources and moral courage to put the police, detectives, prosecutor, court and system to the true test to prove every single element of the crime "beyond a reasonable doubt".
It's really more a question of whether the state can prove you were guilty, than whether or not you were innocent. These concepts are not the same. The state has to establish the "probable cause" to investigate or arrest or even detain you in the first place and satisfy a judge that they didn't violate your rights in the process. Obtaining evidence illegally doesn't count for much unless the state can admit it into evidence. Fighting that admissibility is a large part of what defense lawyers do. Experienced defense attorneys do not concede any of these points. Making the state prove each of them beyond a reasonable doubt is often more of a burden than the state can bear. That result in the success of many clients!
What are my chances, if I want to defend?
You can begin by completing the online strategy session form at this website. CLICK HERE I will go over it and see if there is enough information initially to warrant a more in-depth analysis. In any event, I will get back to you by e-mail and you can decide then. You will not be charged for this strategy session. Remember, you only have 10 days to request a hearing in most cases. Act now to schedule a Free Strategy Session or call 706-284-4380.
Couldn't I represent myself and save some attorney fees?
You can represent yourself. Most prosecutors, and certainly the police who arrested, you would love for you to do just that. The prosecutor won't have to work at convicting you. The police won't have to worry about being seriously challenged on cross examination. The judge won't have to be bothered by expert witnesses and court reporters or have some lawyer fussing about protecting a record for appeal. These government employees can make you feel real cozy and comfortable. Yours is just another number on the docket to many court officials.
But these same people won't answer your questions on the long term effects on your job. They won't tell you what a criminal record will do to your future career or marriage. They will speak loosely of probation but won't discuss the details of this sentence or of satisfying the MANY DIFFERENT TERMS of probation. You will not hear of these matters or how you must report or how easy it is to violate and be re-arrested for violating this probated jail sentence. It is estimated by some experts that a conviction on even a first offense for a misdemeanor may result in long-term monetary costs as much as several thousand dollars! Remember the conviction may follow you for life.
What an experienced lawyer is working toward is an acquittal or reduction of the charge in order to avoid this serious conviction.
How much legal experience have you had with DUI defense?
My biogaphy is posted on the website. But most folks want to know something about my attitudes and policies before they hire me. So, here goes. If you live around where I practice you have likely become familiar with the motto of my office: Intense Defense. That came about because I saw a lack of enthusiasm by some members of the bar to take DUI cases to trial.
Adding to that, there is sometimes pressure from judges and prosecutors to encourage defense lawyers to "help the process" by not aggressively defending their clients. With the massive negative legislation and a biased press, many people are shy and nervous to even talk about how they felt when problems caused by an arrest came their way. I consider myself an advocate. I take sides. I encourage responsible behavior on the part of others. However, I firmly believe that the rights of many persons arrested have and are been regularly abused and I am proud to defend those persons and those rights.
How will I benefit by just conferring with you?
Well, first of all, discussing your case with me doesn't cost you anything more than your time. Your time is important to you, just like mine is to me. If your case is important to you, you should invest some of it in having your situation evaluated by someone who regularly tends to those sort of things in a professional manner. There was a time when would all take our cars to the local service station for repairs. The times have changed and with it there come a need for more specialization in everything we do. My interest is in criminal defense. It would be my opinion that if you have been arrested, you should discuss you case with someone who practices in that area, whether it is me or someone else. The State Bar of Georgia frowns on lawyers who advise people in areas they know they are not competent to practice.
All I will try to do is try to make you feel at ease and offer you a cup of coffee or something to drink and listen to what you have to say. I'll be gratified that you have placed your confidence in me and taken the time to allow me to be apart of your life, for a while anyway. Then I'll listen to you. Because I want and need your trust if I am to be your lawyer, expect me to tell you the truth. It might not be what you want to hear. On the other hand you may be worrying yourself more than you should. Either way, I will ask you to sleep on the information I give you before we finalize our arrangement so you can evaluate me in the comfort of your own home. Whether you hire me or not, I feel sure that we will both have benefited from meeting each other. I know I will be wishing you the best regardless of your decision to hire me.
How much control over my case will I keep if I hire you?
This is your case, not mine. I work for you, not the reverse. I know you are busy and I won't waste your time. I will strive to be on time for appointments and not keep you waiting in the lobby. When we speak and you ask questions I will try to ready with facts and answers. You are free to tell me what you expect of me as your lawyer. I encourage that, in fact. We will be working together for a good cause and need to understand one another. I make recommendations on how your case will proceed. YOU make the decision on my recommendations. I will seldom if EVER recommend changing a plea, once I have taken a case to try before a jury. I know you depend heavily on my recommendations. You can be confident that I will stand beside you and the decisions you make on those recommendations. Final decisions are, of course, always yours.
How can I be sure I will get my money's worth if I hire you?
All you can be absolutely sure of is death and taxes. But you can do a few things to put yourself at ease about whomever you choose to hire as your lawyer. Some of those things would include:
- Meet more than once with the attorney you are considering.
- Discuss the attorney's familiarity with the area of law involved.
- Note whether the attorney seem to be more interested in fees than facts.
- Check to see if the attorney is paying attention to the clock or to you.
- Ask if your fee agreement will be in writing
- Take notes of what you both discuss.
- Ask if you can see the affidavit he was required to file with the State Bar showing the legal seminars he attended over the past 12 months. If the areas are not in the area of criminal law it might be an indication of his desire to keep up current changes in the areas that affects you most.
- See if the lawyer wants you to act urgently to hire him. Don't confuse this urgency with an urgent need to meet a deadline that you know is approaching. That is totally understandable on the lawyer's part, if he is to be responsible to meet that deadline on your behalf.
- Once you make the decision, tell the lawyer you have trust and confidence in him or her and then show it later, when you begin to feel the pressure of the impending trial. That's when the lawyer needs it most.
I don't have a lot of money for a lawyer. How can I pay you?
I won't normally discuss the financial terms of a case until or unless I think I can help. If I believe, after a thorough evaluation of the facts of your case, that a viable defense is available to my clients, we will talk about the fees, costs and terms of payment at that time. That occurs once I know and understand what I will be expected to do in your specific case.
Most of my clients pay a "flat fee". That means I don't charge "by the hour". Clients need to know what "costs" will be associated with the defense. But they need even more to know WHY they might want to spend it or why they shouldn't. Since I strive to win, I usually recommend my clients make use of available "expert witnesses". These are people we can hire to explain to the judge or jury facts not readily understood by ordinary people in ordinary experience. They may help convince juries of my client's innocence.
Most people are not financially prepared to hire a lawyer. I understand that up front. That has never prevented me from conducting the best evaluation I could without regard to whether I got paid. But I have never had a client who did hire me tell me later he was disappointed in my efforts to represent him. I pledge that I will never take a fee and then pressure my client to change their plea. I have discovered that most clients who desire an aggressive defense will find some way to work out a satisfactory arrangement with me. I will be my intent to help them do that.
How can I find your office?
My main office is located in Evans, Georgia (Augusta). The address is 4325 Washington Road, Suite 101. I have office hours by appointment. I practice over a large area and I am often in court or out of the city. You may check to see if I have a satellite offices in another county near you. See the contact us page for more information or call me at 706-284-4380.
I refused the test and the police warned me that my license would be automatically suspended. Why defend?
Many people have lost their drivers licenses because of a refusal to comply with the state of Georgia's "Implied Consent" laws. But that is NOT automatic. My clients routinely are able to keep their privileges to drive despite refusing testing. A number of factors apply in every case. What is important is applying your right to an administrative hearing. It is there where a judge will decide whether or not your refusal was "voluntary and knowingly made" or whether it was a result of actually confusion, coercion or a variety of other sound legal grounds for not suspending the license. You must request this hearing in writing and you certainly need a competent DUI lawyer to help in this event.
The police did not read me my MIRANDA RIGHTS when I was arrested. Does that help my case?
In a typical DUI stop most police officers are trained that they do not have to read these particular rights before they begin to question you regarding the events that lead up to the traffic stop. They are also trained to ask certain questions to elicit voluntary admissions of drinking or using recreational drugs. They rely on the state "implied consent" law to obtain information in this "Civil" matter regarding your promise when you applied for a driver's license, that you would submit to a test of certain of your body fluids to determine whether you had an unlawful alcohol/drug content while or within a certain length of time of driving or operating a vehicle in the State of Georgia. Well, since "Miranda" only applies in "Criminal" cases, this civil investigation does not require such warnings.
That's the theory upon which the police operate. Of course they are fully aware that in parallel with the "civil investigation" is an ongoing "criminal investigation" for violating the DUI laws. But since the police seldom arrest until after the investigation is completed they attribute everything that was said to apply to the civil side of the investigation. Of course they use it all in the criminal investigation as well. That is exactly why, in part, it is important NOT to participate in answering questions, performing field sobriety tests or other such requests made by the police. They will use it all to suspend your license civilly and convict you criminally, resulting in additional suspensions.
Competent lawyers can evaluate at what time the facts of your case required "Miranda warnings" and at what point in the investigation you may have been in custody whether you were told or not. These warnings still have value and are still used, even in DUI cases, so ask your lawyer about how they affect you.
How will my Auto Insurance be affected if I plead guilty?
Many insurance companies check your motor vehicle record only once every three years or when you're applying for a new policy. Sometimes, accidents, tickets, and drunk-driving convictions can escape your insurer's attention or don't end up on your motor vehicle record. However, if your insurer does find out about a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction, you're likely to feel the pinch of higher rates and possibly policy cancellation or nonrenewal.
There are two ways insurance companies generally deal with customers convicted of DUI. First, your insurer will likely raise your insurance premiums and label you a high-risk driver if it finds out you've been convicted of DUI. In this case, you'll likely have to file proof of insurance for three ? sometimes five ? years with your state's department of motor vehicles. Your insurance company will have to provide the DMV with an SR-22 form, which removes your license suspension by providing the state with proof of insurance. An SR-22 also means your insurance company is required to notify the DMV if it cancels your insurance for any reason.
Most state laws require DUI convicts to get an SR-22 from their insurers, so you can't hide. In addition, your company may cancel your insurance mid-term or terminate the policy at the end of the term because of your DUI conviction, especially if you are currently in a preferred class. Your company will send you a notice stating why you've been canceled, and then you'll have to find another insurer while having a cancellation on your claims history.
Some insurance companies don't offer SR-22 policies, so you may also be nonrenewed or canceled because your company can no longer provide what you need. Certain states don't allow insurance companies to drop you in the middle of the policy term even for a DUI, so make sure you know the laws in your state.
It's possible that your insurance company will never find out about your conviction if you don't have to get an SR-22. A June 2002 study by the Insurance Research Council revealed that as many as one-quarter of driving convictions never end up on motor vehicle records, due to lack of shared information between courts and motor vehicle departments or because a conviction has been erased through alternative means, such as driving school. If you get your charge reduced in a plea bargain, or have a limited license suspension, such as 30 days, it's also very unlikely your insurer will find out about your conviction.
If your insurance company misses the conviction at the time it happens, it has three years, according to most state laws, to cancel your policy or raise your rates because of the DUI.
You may be surprised to know that when your insurer does find out about a DUI conviction it doesn't automatically impose higher premiums. The insurer will look at your history with the company and your claims record, and your fate is in its hands. For example, State Farm's action depends on which subsidiary you're with. If you have a preferred policy with State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. and receive a DUI, State Farm may move you into State Farm Fire & Casualty, which is the standard-policy company. If you're moved from preferred to a standard status, you'll be paying higher rates already. State Farm will also review your motor vehicle and insurance claims history to determine if it needs to raise your rates further.
Reprinted from insure.com. Last updated July 3, 2002. Visit www.insure.com for more information