The Cherokee County Sheriff's Department has placed a strong emphasis on drunk driving arrests. Whether a driver is stopped by a Cherokee County deputy sheriff or a police officer in Canton, Woodstock, Holly Springs, Ball Ground, or Lebanon, law enforcement officials all over Cherokee County are instructed and motivated to make drunk driving arrests.
It should come as no surprise that when a car is stopped by a police officer (for a moving violation of any kind), that the officer is looking closely to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They are trying to identify “less safe” drivers who are impaired after ingesting certain substances – and those substances can be illegal street drugs or legal prescription medications and alcohol.
What are Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputies Looking For When They Make a Stop?
Before stopping a vehicle, the police officer must identify a traffic violation committed by the driver. You can be stopped for a minor violation or for a more serious infraction. If a driver is speeding, has rolled through a stop sign, or failed to use a turn signal (all common reasons for a traffic stop) then the officer has “probable cause” to stop the vehicle.
Traffic Stops and Probable Cause
The United States Constitution requires that the police officer have legitimate grounds for the traffic stop. A judge can rule that a stop was invalid if he or she feels that the law enforcement agent did not have an articulable reason to stop the driver. The driving infraction as well as the officer's interaction with the driver are often (but not always) captured on video.
Clues That A Driver Has Been Drinking
Once a deputy has stopped the vehicle, he or she will try to determine whether the driver has been drinking. There are a series of clues that can indicate a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These clues include:
- Odor of alcohol in the car or on the person
- Spilled liquids
- Incoherent and/or slurred speech
- Delayed response to police questioning
- Bloodshot or watery eyes
- Clumsily looking for license in wallet or purse
- Conflicting stories about point of origin and destination
Don't Leave Incriminating Evidence In Plain View (It Will Be Used Against You)
Police will make a visual assessment of the vehicle when they make a traffic stop. Some things they look for include:
- Beer cans and bottles in the cup holder or on floorboard
- Liquor bottles
- Bottle openers
- Prescription pill bottles
- Pills not in their original container
- Marijuana and other illicit substances
- Rolling papers
We can never understand why people will leave incriminating evidence in clear view for the officer to see on the passenger seat, in the cup holder, or on the dashboard. This happens more than you would think.
The Fourth Amendment
The Cherokee Police are bound by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects all people, citizens and non-citizens alike, from unreasonable search and seizure. Anything in plain view of the officer, however, does not fall under these parameters, as the officer is not "searching" for anything that falls in his plain view. It is unlikely that any attorney could keep incriminating substances in plain view of the officer from being entered as evidence against you in your case.
Prescription Drugs And DUI (It's More Common Than You Think)
Many medications have side effects that can cause a driver to be impaired, especially when these drugs are mixed with alcohol. Police officers want drivers to admit that they have been taking prescription drugs. Even if the driver's blood alcohol content is below the legal (per se) limit of .08 grams, a driver can be charged with DUI because of the way that their drugs interact with alcohol. Many drivers, not realizing that a DUI case can be made against them for using prescription drugs, will admit that they are using some of the following medications:
- Sleep medications
Warning: Any Drug Can Cause DUI
In Georgia, any “drug” that causes impairment to a person's ability to operate a vehicle in a safe manner can be the basis for a DUI drugs charge. Again, the term “drug” does not refer just to illegal substances. Even legal, over-the-counter medications can result in a DUI drugs charge.
Over-the-Counter Medication Can Cause DUI
Psuedoephedrine is a common ingredient in any over-the-counter drugs. It can "mimic" methamphetamines and amphetamines. Here are some popular over-the-counter products that contain psuedoephedrine:
Choose Your Words Wisely
After pulling over a motorist, Cherokee County police officers will try to gauge a driver's sobriety by starting a simple conversation. The police officer, who is hoping to make a DUI arrest, wants the driver to admit that he or she has been drinking. The cop will ask the driver what specific types of alcohol they have been consuming -- beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, gin, or tequila, for example. It is surprising that so many drivers will immediately admit to a law enforcement agent that they have been drinking. As Cherokee County DUI attorneys, we always tell our clients that disclosing information about your alcoholic beverage consumption is never helpful to the defendant's case.
Two Common Trick Questions
Two typical inquiries from police officers are:
- Where are you coming from?
- Where are you going?
Police are fishing for admissions to show that a driver has been drinking. Well-trained Cherokee County deputies take pride in getting drivers to tell them that they have been coming from a location where it is likely that they have been drinking. Some of these potentially incriminating locations include:
- fraternity or sorority party
- sporting event
Clearly one's presence at such a place does not act as conclusive proof that a driver has been drinking. No jury would ever find a defendant guilty simply based on their attendance at one of the events listed above. However, when a person tells the officer that they were at these places, the officer will make certain inferences. It also places in the mind of judges and jurors that the driver may have been drinking. It is best for a driver to decline to answer questions regarding their origin point, as well as their intended destination. Some problematic answers (that we've heard) regarding where a driver is going include:
- another house party
- a rave
- brewery tour
- the next stop on the bar crawl
- a bachelor party
- a wine tasting
- Atlanta craft beer event
While these answers do not prove anything, they do raise suspicions and will likely cause further inquiries from the officer. If you provide answers like any of the ones listed above, be prepared to step out of the vehicle for a field sobriety test.
DUI Field Sobriety Tests
Cherokee Sheriff's Deputies want suspects for DUI to take field sobriety tests, which in many ways, are designed for someone to fail. The police “score” these tests based on “clues” that the driver presents while trying to perform the tasks. Since police are encouraged to make DUI arrests and are given the freedom to determine a driver's sobriety based on their own testimony, there is reason to believe that officers might not be completely objective in their assessments.
Field sobriety tests are a series of physical tests given to DUI suspects, which have been developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The only three tests recognized as valid and admissible in a court are:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (or HGN) (looks for involuntary eye movements)
- Walk and Turn (tests a person's ability to walk in a straight line)
- The One Leg Stand Test (evaluates driver's balance)
Each of the three field sobriety tests administered is scored by the Cherokee County Sheriff's deputy. The results, or grades, are admissible in court. If a driver has certain physical ailments, such as back problems, neck issues or bad knees the field sobriety tests can give false-positive results -- the suspect can appear intoxicated when he or she is just physically unable to perform the required actions.
Some Tests Are Not Sanctioned
Other tests do exist to try to determine intoxication, but they are not officially recognized. You may be familiar with some of these tests, such as reciting the alphabet backwards, counting by fives or tens, or closing your eyes and touching your nose with your index finger. Although these tests have not been sanctioned by the NHTSA, if a driver performs poorly on any of these tests, the evidence can and likely will be used against them by the prosecution.
Don't Take the Field Sobriety Tests
You should refrain from taking the field sobriety tests, particularly if you are injured. We believe that these tests are unreliable and deliberately designed to make drivers look drunk. They are conducted and graded by the police (oftentimes on dark streets with plenty cars whizzing by to distract you) who have it on their agenda to make drunk driving arrests.
When the state of Georgia issues your driver's license, there are certain required documents that you must sign. One of these documents is called an “implied consent” stipulation. The document specifies that if you are issued a Georgia driver's license, you agree to allow law enforcement to request a test of your blood, breath, or urine if you are arrested for drunk driving. Therefore, if you refuse these tests, your Georgia driver's license can be suspended.
A Cherokee County DUI Can Affect Your Driver's License
A DUI charge impacts your driver's license, whether you are a Georgia resident or not. A DUI arrest can trigger a driver's license suspension, for up to a full year, before you've even been to court.
If you are charged with DUI and your breath or blood alcohol registers over .08 within three hours of driving, or you refuse a state administered chemical test of your blood, breath or urine, Georgia law requires the police to issue a Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) Form 1205 to the driver.
The 1205 issuance triggers certain events:
- the form acts as your official Georgia driver's license
- it is notification of the officer's intention to suspend your driving privileges
- the document affirms that the officer had valid grounds to arrest you for DUI
If you have an out-of-state driver's license, the 1205 becomes your valid driver's license. If, for example, your driver's license was issued by the state of North Carolina, South Carolina, or Tennessee the 1205 remains your driver's license, even when you return home to the other state. Depending on the law in your home state, however, that state may issue you a new driver's license.
If you were issued a 1205 and you have a non-Georgia driver's license, you should ask the proper authorities in your home state how it will treat a Georgia suspension. Every state has its own protocol for treating out-of-state suspensions for a DUI charge.
The 10-Day Letter
A driver must submit an administrative appeal with the Georgia Department of Driver Services, commonly known as a “10-day letter” in order to maintain his or her driving privileges. Even non-Georgia license holders must submit their appeal with the Georgia Department of Driver Services. In the appeal, you must request an administrative hearing and allege that the arresting officer made certain mistakes during the traffic stop and subsequent arrest.
Please be warned: failing to send in a 10-day letter can result in a license suspension for one full year. Failure to submit the appeal can also prevent the issuance of a driving permit. Many drivers, unfortunately, fail to file the appeal and, as a result, their license is suspended. That suspension is then reported by the state of Georgia to the motor vehicles departments around the country so that the other states can take the proper actions against your driver's license.
The ALS Hearing
An essential part of protecting your driving privileges, the ALS hearings are conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ) who is employed by the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH). An ALS hearing is unlike other legal matters in that the ALJ makes all legal and factual determinations, as opposed to decisions being made by a jury of one's peers.
During an ALS hearing the attorney will often have the opportunity to speak with the arresting officer regarding the traffic stop. The information received from the officer can be used as a valuable negotiating tool when it comes time to meet with the prosecutor.
Cherokee County, GA Basic DUI Information -- Who are the Prosecutors? Who are the Judges?
Under state law, Cherokee DUI cases made by Sheriff's Deputies or State Troopers are heard in the Cherokee County State Court. Located in Canton, GA the court's address is: 90 North Street, Canton, GA 30114.
There are presently three state court judges:
- Judge Alan Jordan (Phone: 678-493-6490; Fax: 678-493-6498)
- Judge Dee Morris (Phone: 678-493-6480; Fax: 678-493-6488)
- Judge Michelle Homier (Phone: 678-493-6480; Fax: 678-493-6488)
The Cherokee County Solicitor's Office
The Cherokee County Solicitor's Office, led by Solicitor General Jessica Moss, prosecutes DUI cases in Cherokee State Court. The Cherokee Solicitor's Office is a full-time prosecutorial office, which employs prosecutors, investigators and support staff. The Solicitor's Traffic Unit prosecutes all misdemeanor traffic offenses cited by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, as well as cases from the Georgia State Patrol that occur not within the jurisdiction of Canton, Ball Ground, Holly Springs, and Woodstock Municipal Courts.
The solicitor's office makes the decision about whether or not to investigate and prosecute a DUI case. While the DUI charge comes from a sheriff's deputy or police officer, the solicitor presents the case in state court. The prosecutor will negotiate a plea with the defendant's attorney, and, if the case is brought to trial, will present evidence to a judge and jury on behalf of the state.
Prosecutors: How Do They Make Decisions? What Do They Look For?
DUI cases in Cherokee county are divided between several prosecutors within the Solicitor's office. The prosecutors and their assistants read the police report, watch the arrest video (if one exists), and will interview any witnesses that may be relevant to the case. As Cherokee County DUI lawyers, we know that prosecutors look for some of the following elements:
- BAC (blood-alcohol content): This is usually obtained through a Breathalyzer or blood test.
- Accident: Did an accident occur?
- Other DUIs: Does the defendant have any prior DUI charges?
- Driving Record: How is the defendant's driving history?
- Criminal History: Are there other arrests on the defendant's record?
- Driver's Interaction with the Police Officer: Was the driver respectful or disorderly?
Is A DUI A Felony?
A DUI in which someone is seriously injured, or a fourth DUI offense within ten years can result in a felony conviction. Felonies typically entail harsher punishments (increased incarceration time, steeper fines, etc.) as they are considered more serious offenses than misdemeanor crimes. Most DUIs, however, are misdemeanor charges.
We Are Your Local DUI Attorneys For Cherokee County
For many people, a DUI is an embarrassing, and often overwhelming experience. At the Sherman Law Group, we pride ourselves on being non-judgmental client advocates. People going through their most trying experiences do not need someone lecturing them about their choices, what they need is straight-forward legal advice and focused, result-oriented direction to help them emerge from their situation with the least possible negative impact.
A former Senior Assistant County Attorney and an Assistant Attorney General, William H. Sherman understands how prosecutors think and he uses that knowledge every day to benefit his clients. Attorney Valerie W. Sherman is a former Magistrate Judge and Assistant County Attorney, experience which has proven extremely valuable throughout her tenure as a defense attorney.
Having worked as both prosecutors and defense attorneys, we have built strong relationships with judges and prosecutors across the state of Georgia. Our reputation for success and strong rapport with local law enforcement and judicial agents has made us among the most sought after DUI attorneys throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.
As experienced Cherokee County DUI lawyers, we can help you. Our experience, knowledge and relationships are vital when it comes to achieving a positive outcome for our clients. Please contact us at 678-215-4106 if you have been arrested for a Cherokee County DUI.