For many people, a DUI arrest is the first time they have to think about getting a lawyer. After considering the potential penalties that go along with even a first-offense, you may realize that you want some help to avoid jail time, heavy fines, and a suspended license. You may be deciding between getting a public defender and hiring an Atlanta DUI defense lawyer. Before you make that decision, you should understand the differences between a public defender and a DUI attorney.
Public Defender for a DUI Case
“You have the right to an attorney,” is part of the language from the “Miranda Rights” warning. You have the right to an attorney and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. That attorney is a public defender. But public defender, or PD, is not just a free lawyer. There are certain things they can and can't do.
Not everyone is even eligible for a public defender. Public defenders are for people who really cannot afford a lawyer. To be eligible, you have to be considered indigent according to U.S. federal poverty guidelines. This involves filling out an affidavit for the court, that includes information about your education, your employer, income, family, vehicles and property you own, and bank accounts. On top of this, you'll have to pay a $50 application fee (which can be waived in some cases). Then it is up to the court to determine whether or not you qualify.
Finding the right lawyer should not just be about the cost. You should try and get the best lawyer you can, especially considering how costly a DUI conviction can be. A DUI can add up to thousands of dollars, not including the social costs of having a criminal record and the public stigma of a drunk driving conviction. The fines and fees alone amount to over $1,000. After that, you will have to pay for the mandatory DUI school, substance abuse screening and counseling, and pay to get your driver's license reinstated. In addition, your auto insurance premiums may be increased for a few years.
Atlanta public defenders are lawyers licensed to practice law by the State of Georgia. Some public defenders may be experienced lawyers who have handled a number of DUIs. Other public defenders may have never handled a DUI. Unfortunately, you don't get to pick you public defender, one will be assigned to you. If you don't like your public defender, it can be very difficult to try and get a different public defender.
Even when public defenders are hard-working and dedicated lawyers, they may be handling a massive caseload. Your DUI case may be piled on top of a hundred other cases. They may be handling your DUI case while at the same time as going through a murder trial, defending an arsonist, and showing up for a drug trafficking case. It can be tough to try and call your public defender when you have a question.
A private DUI attorney is working for you. If you choose to hire an Atlanta DUI lawyer, they will be there to help from the second you call until the end of your case. They can help you get out of jail, defend you in your administrative license suspension hearing, get a better plea bargain, and defend you in court. They will be available to answer any questions or concerns you have, around the clock.
One of the major limitations of public defender in a DUI case is that they can't help you fight your license suspension. In Georgia, the Department of Driver Services handles you license suspenion. It is not part of the criminal process, but instead is an administrative procedure. DDS will not wait for your criminal case to be resolved, but will automatically suspend your license 30 days after your arrest. Even if you are later found not guilty, your license may have already been suspended. An Atlanta DUI attorney can defend you in both the administrative and criminal proceedings.
In order to fight an administrative license suspension (ALS), you will need to formally request a hearing within 30 days after your arrest. If you do not, you have effectively waived the opportunity to fight your license suspension. A public defender can only represent you during the criminal proceeding, not the ALS hearing. However, a DUI lawyer will be able to file the ALS hearing request, and fight to keep your license to drive. For many people, losing their license is one of the worst parts of a DUI. To keep your license, you need to fight the administrative license suspension.
Another benefit to a private attorney is that you can find a lawyer with experience in exactly the kind of criminal case as your own. If someone is arrested for a drug possession charge, they can find a lawyer who exclusively handles drug possession cases. If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, you can find a lawyer who exclusively handles DUI cases. Focusing on one legal practice area can have the benefit of in-depth understanding of specific cases and charges. Your DUI lawyer will be familiar with the DUI judge in your case, the DUI prosecutor, and often times, the arresting police officer.
An Atlanta lawyer who exclusively handles DUI cases will also be up to date on all the latest developments in DUI law and technology. They will also have access to experts in the field of alcohol and drug detection, who will be able to offer reports and act as an expert witness in your case. These added benefits may not be available for a public defender.
DUI Legal Defense
A conviction for an Atlanta DUI can result in some very serious penalties. You need to make your decision of who will represent you based on what is best for you. If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Atlanta, the knowledge and courtroom experience of a qualified Atlanta DUI lawyer can help to defend your rights in court, and keep your license to drive. Just because the police arrested you does not have to mean you will be convicted of any crime. Call me anytime, day or night, and I will fight for you to keep a clean record, and keep your license to drive.