Hall County is home to the communities of Flowery Branch, Oakwood, Lake Lanier and many others, with the county seat in picturesque Gainesville, GA. The Hall County Sheriff's Office, Georgia State Patrol troopers and municipal have the authority to initiate traffic stops, conduct field sobriety tests and make arrests in all Hall County, GA municipalities. If you were arrested in Hall County and charged with DUI, there is a strong chance that you are unsure about your next move.
At first glance, the court system seems intimidating. You probably feel confused and unsure where to begin. Luckily, there is a world of resources at your fingertips to demystify this process. Above all, if you have been charged with driving under the influence in Hall County, you will require the assistance of an accomplished, knowledgeable DUI lawyer who is familiar with the specific laws of Hall County. This page is meant to provide an overview of how the Hall County Court system handles DUI cases, however, you are strongly encouraged to consult with experienced Hall County DUI attorney Richard Lawson as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of your unique case. Richard Lawson can help determine if any of your rights were violated in the course of an arrest. Time is of the essence in all DUI cases, as you only have 10 days to protect your license by requesting a license suspension.
Your DUI case could prospectively be heard by one of the following three courts in Hall County: municipal court, state court, or superior court. The factors that determine which court will hear your case include the scale of the offense and who carried out the arrest. Generally speaking, most DUIs are charged as a misdemeanor. Under certain circumstances, a DUI will be charged as a felony. Whether a DUI is charged as a felony or misdemeanor has a significant bearing in which court will hear the case.
Will My DUI Case Be Heard in Municipal Court?
If a municipal police department in any incorporated Hall County city carried out your arrest, then it is extremely likely that your DUI case will be heard in the corresponding municipal court. Municipal courts have limited jurisdiction, commonly hearing misdemeanor cases, ordinance violations and traffic offenses. Gainesville, Flowery Branch, and Oakwood are all equipped with municipal courts. Note that even if your arrest was conducted by a municipal police officer, if your DUI is charged as a felony then it will not go to municipal court but to a higher court.
It is a credit to you if your case is initiated in municipal court, which is generally less formal and more flexible than higher courts, at least with regard to plea negotiations and reschedulings. Municipal court prosecutors may have more leeway to accept sentencing that offers an alternative to jail time, such as enrollment in a treatment program. A number of Hall County municipal courts have been proactive in creating such programs, helping citizens to keep criminal convictions off their record. Failure to complete a program could result in prosecution and conviction.
The prosecutor in a municipal court case will usually speak to the arresting officer in a DUI case before reducing or dismissing a charge. This is why it is essential to secure a skilled attorney in your case as soon as possible, so that they may speak to and develop a relationship with these officers prior to your court date. If your case begins in a municipal court and cannot be not resolved there, you have the right to request your case be transferred to the State Court of Hall County.
Will My DUI Case Be Heard in State Court?
Your DUI case will likely be initiated in the State Court of Hall County if your arrest was carried out by a Georgia State Patrol Trooper or Hall County Sheriff's deputy, or if the arrest took place in an unincorporated area. Because municipal courts do not offer jury trials, those who invoke their constitutional right to a jury trial will see their case transferred to State Court. Transferring from municipal to state essentially hits the ‘restart' button on your case. You will be arraigned again, on the same charges.
Your DUI case in the State Court of Hall County will be heard by one of its three presiding judges, Judge Roberts, Judge Baldwin and Judge Breakfield. The State Court is more formally comported than municipal courts. Your Hall County DUI attorney will meet with the prosecutor to discuss whether certain hearings are needed and discovery has been properly handled and received.
Will My DUI Case Be Heard in Superior Court?
Based on the circumstances of the incident, your DUI may be charged as a felony. A fourth DUI charge in a 10-year span will be charged as a felony, as will instances of DUI Serious Injury By Vehicle, Habitual Violator, and DUI Vehicular Homicide and Feticide. The Superior Court is equipped to hear both jury and non-jury trials. If your DUI case goes to Superior Court, it will be heard by one of the court's four presiding judges: Judge Gosselin, Judge Oliver, Judge Deal and Judge Fuller.
Hall County DUI Court
Individuals with multiple DUI convictions will be asked to participate in Hall County's mandatory DUI Court program. The program does allow for reduced jail sentences, fines, and community service. You are eligible for this 15-month program if you are facing a third lifetime DUI charge, have no prior violent felony convictions and are a Hall County resident. One goal of this three-phase program is to reduce DUI recidivism. The program costs $25 per week and consists of biweekly drug and alcohol screenings and group sessions.
Demanding A Jury Trial
If you plead not guilty to your charges but are unable to reach an agreement with the prosecutor in your case, it is your constitutional right to ask for a trial by jury. If your case originated in municipal court and you request a jury trial, your case will need to be transferred to State Court as mentioned above. At an arraignment in the State Court, the request for a bench or jury trial will be made. If you make such a request, a jury of six will be empaneled. The jury will hear opening statements, and later be read instructions advising them of Georgia law. After private deliberation, the jury will reach a verdict.
Contact a Hall County DUI Attorney
If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI, you want a skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable attorney on your side. Hall County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson has been defending those accused of driving under the influence in Hall County and throughout Georgia for over 20 years. Let his dedication and legal expertise work for you. Contact his office today by calling (404) 816-4440, or contact him online.