The police in Forsyth County, Georgia, take DUI arrests very seriously. The Forsyth Sheriff's Department has made DUI arrests a priority for its traffic officers. After being arrested for DUI you need good, up-to-date information so that you can plan an effective legal defense and save your driver's license.
Forsyth County, GA Basic DUI Information -- Who are the Prosecutors? Who are the Judges?
Under state law, Forsyth DUI cases are heard in the Forsyth County State Court. Not all counties have a state court.
Located in downtown Cumming, GA the court's address is: 101 East Courthouse Square, Cumming, GA 30040.
There are presently two state court judges:
- Russell McClelland, the Chief Judge of State Court (Phone: 770-781-2130; Fax: 770-886-2821)
- Judge Leslie C. Abernathy-Maddox (Phone: 770-205-4670; Fax: 770-205-4577)
In Forsyth, DUI's are prosecuted by the solicitor's office. The solicitor's office is led by the solicitor general, Mr. Bill Finch, and is a full-time, professional prosecutorial office. The office employs prosecutors, investigators and staff. They prosecute all Forsyth misdemeanors.
It is the solicitor's job to investigate and decide whether to actually prosecute a DUI case. Of course, people are charged with DUI by a sheriff's deputy or police officer and arrested. But it falls to the prosecutors to actually bring the case in state court.
What Things Do Prosecutors Look At To Make Decisions On Cases?
In Forsyth, because of the volume of cases, cases are divided among the prosecutors. The prosecutors and investigators will read the police report, watch the video (if any) and interview any witnesses they believe are relevant to the case. Various factors can influence how a DUI case may be prosecuted. As Forsyth County DUI lawyers, we know the solicitors look at such elements as:
- The suspect's blood-alcohol content. (Was there a Breathalyzer test or a blood test? What were the results? Were drugs involved? What type of drugs were involved?)
- If there was an accident involved. (How many cars were involved—was it a single car accident? Were there injuries—how serious?)
- The driver's demeanor with the police officer. (Was driver the respectful? Was the driver acting in a disorderly manner?)
- Whether the driver has been arrested for DUI in the past. (How many other DUIs are in the suspect's criminal history? How long ago were the other DUIs—were they within 5 years or were they 20 years ago?)
- The defendant's traffic citation history. (Does the driver have other traffic citations? If so, for what? )
- The suspect's criminal history. (Has the driver been arrested in the past? What were the charges?)
If a DUI involves a serious injury or if it is a 4th within 10 years, then Georgia state law provides that it be charged as a felony. Felonies are considered more serious than misdemeanors and generally have greater punishments. If charged as a felony, then it is prosecuted by the Forsyth County district attorney's office. Most DUI charges, however, are prosecuted by the solicitor's office. As Cumming DUI lawyers we understand how both the solicitor's office and the district attorney's office work.
How do the Forsyth County Police Make a DUI Case? What Are They Looking For?
The Forsyth County Sheriff, headquartered in Cumming, places a high priority on training his officers to make DUI arrests. The investigation actually starts even before a car is pulled over. The deputy observes the car to see if it violates a traffic law. Perhaps the driver has failed to maintain his lane, is speeding or has gone through a red light or stop sign—all typical reasons for a traffic stop. Legally, the officer needs a reason to stop the car. He is looking for probable cause. Forsyth cops are taught to always find probable cause for a stop. Without probable cause, a judge can rule the stop invalid. Many times the driving infraction and the pursuit by the officer are captured on video.
After the stop, the deputy wants to determine if the driver has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or both. The police officer will immediately start looking for signs of drinking or drug usage. Here is a list of some things an experienced police officer will look for:
- Slurred speech
- Watery, bloodshot eyes
- Smell of alcohol on or near the person
- Conflicting stories of where the person is coming from when he or she was pulled over
- Incoherent speech
- Slow responses to the officer's questions
- Fumbling with driver's license and wallet
Watch What You Tell the Officer about Drinking or Drug Use
After the stop for a traffic violation, the police officer wants the driver to admit that they have been drinking or taking drugs. Since many DUIs are for prescription drug use, the officer wants the driver to admit that he or she is taking medication. Many medications can cause driver impairment by themselves and many will cause impairment when mixed with alcohol. Many drivers, not realizing that a case for DUI can be made from admitting prescription drug use, will tell the deputy that they are taking drugs such:
- sleep medications
- fentanyl & analogs
- Oxycodone HCL
Oftentimes, the police officer will try to get the motorist to admit that he or she has been drinking simply by asking the driver how much he or she has consumed. It is a common police trick, but it is entirely legal.
We've had Forsyth County clients make statements like, “I had to have a few shots with my boss,” “I had some drinks at the bar but I'm the designated driver,” and “I just had a bunch of free beers.” Since the officer is investigating for signs of intoxication, these statements were unwise and only served to encourage the cop's suspicions. As Forsyth DUI attorneys we always tell our clients: the police are paid to make DUI arrests and statements admitting to alcoholic beverage consumption are not helpful to a defendant's case.
Don't Leave Bottles or Drugs in Open View
Once a driver is stopped, the police will look inside the car for incriminating evidence including:
- marijuana and other illegal drugs
- pill bottles that are visible
We are always amazed that people will leave open bottles, pot and pills just lying on a car seat or on the dashboard in open view.
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people (citizens and non-citizens alike) from unreasonable searches and seizures. It states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
In the landmark 1961 case Mapp v. Ohio, the United States Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment is applicable to the states as well as to the federal government. This means that Cumming police, not just federal authorities like the F.B.I., are bound by the Fourth Amendment.
However, if bottles, pills and drugs like marijuana or cocaine are left in open view (on a car seat or in the center console) and a police officer can see them simply by standing outside the driver's car when speaking to the driver, it is unlikely that a court will prevent them from coming into evidence in your case.
Even Over-the-Counter Medications Can Cause Impairment
Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications have been proven to affect drivers. Don't assume that just because a medication is available without a prescription it is safe to drive on. Here are some OTC medications that have been scientifically proven to impair driver performance:
- Antihistamines: often used to treat allergies,colds, indigestion, heartburn, insomnia, menstrual discomfort, motion sickness
- Analgesics/nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): usually used to treat pain
- Cough and cold preparations: have been shown to cause drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion, drowsiness and/or dizziness
- Antimotility agents: anti-diarrheals that contain loperamide can cause dizziness or drowsiness
To be on the safe side, when pulled-over by a police officer, do not admit to taking any of the above-mentioned products. And do not keep them in open view in your car.
Where Are You Coming From? Where Are You Going? (2 Trick Questions)
Two common questions that the police like to ask a DUI suspect are:
- Where are you coming from?
- Where are you going?
With these questions the police want a driver to make incriminating statements—admissions that help to show that the driver has been drinking. Well-trained Forsyth deputies are quite effective in getting many drivers to admit that they were in a location commonly associated with drinking alcohol. Here are some incriminating locations that one might associate with consuming alcoholic beverages:
- pool hall
- fraternity or sorority party
- boxing match
- night club
Certainly, just stating you were at a “game,” “wedding,” “party,” or “concert” is not conclusive proof that a driver was drinking. No jury should ever find a defendant guilty of DUI or anything else, for that matter, simply because they attended an event listed above. However, when someone states that they were at one of the events above, that allows the cop to make certain inferences (rightly or wrongly) and it plants the idea in the minds of jurors or a judge that the defendant may have been drinking. From a psychological standpoint, as well as an evidentiary one, it is best if a driver declines to state from where he or she was coming. Because the United States Supreme Court has given police officers wide latitude in talking with drivers, your statements are admissible in court as evidence against you. And your “Miranda rights” do not apply because you are not in custody or under arrest.
Where Are You Going?
The same logic holds for the question about where you are going. Here are some answers that have been problematic for the driver:
- another party
- the liquor store
- back to the pool hall
- a wine tasting party
- a bachelor party
- picking up a keg of beer
Again, none of these answers prove anything. But they do raise suspicions in the police officer's mind and will likely cause the officer to inquire further.
DUI Field Sobriety Tests
Forsyth County police are trained in the techniques of field sobriety tests, the sheriff makes sure of that. As a general rule, you should not participate in field sobriety tests. Although they sound official and are designed to seem scientific, they are not. Like any test of physical dexterity, they have limitations—what we believe to be severe limitations.
Generally, it is our belief that physical tests not administered by a competent and knowledgeable doctor have limited value. Tests administered by a police officer on the side of a road should not be conflated with tests done in a specialized medical facility by a physician. So not only are the tests of limited scientific value to determine physical ability, but we believe that they lack effectiveness to determine intoxication—whether a driver is drunk or impaired. In our opinion, they should not even be referred to as “tests.” That label merely gives them a quasi-scientific imprimatur that, we believe, is unwarranted.
Developed for use by law enforcement agencies around the country by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a federal agency in Washington, D.C., the police “grade” the tests based on observed “clues.” Clues are mistakes the driver allegedly makes while performing the tests. It is the job of the Forsyth officer to determine what mistakes were made.
The Police Have An Obvious Bias
So the cop has a significant bias in “finding” clues. He pulled you over and wants to make a DUI arrest. The police officer is not a disinterested third-party.
The officer has every incentive to grade strictly. If the field sobriety tests are captured on videotape, the video may corroborate the officer's version of events and ratify his grading of clues. But it is possible that the videotape will help to exonerate the driver by showing that the driver performed well on the tests--making few, if any, mistakes.
These are the 3 tests recognized by the NHTSA and courts as being accurate:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) (an involuntary eye motion that appears to be “bouncing”)
- Walk & Turn (nine steps, putting heel-to-toe each step, along an imagined straight line; then done in the opposite direction)
- One Leg Stand (stand with one foot six inches off the ground and count out loud by thousands)
Police, especially in Cumming, may ask a suspect to engage in other field sobriety tests. Although other tests have not been deemed reliable by the NHTSA to the extent of the 3 mentioned above, if one or more are performed poorly by a driver, they can certainly be compelling evidence of guilt to a judge or jury.
It is often said that field sobriety tests are designed for the driver to fail. From what we have seen, this is often the case.
A Forsyth DUI Charge Can Suspend 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—even before you have gone to court. The suspension can be for a full year. The driver might not be eligible for a limited permit.
Under certain circumstances, you cannot legally drive in Georgia for a year.
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 (a) blood, (b) breath or (c) urine, state DUI law requires that you be issued a Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) Form 1205 by the police. The 1205 is usually yellow or white in color.
The “1205” issuance triggers certain events:
(1) it acts as a 30-day temporary driver's license (even for people who have an out-state driver's license); and
(2) it is also an official notice of intention to suspend your driver's license. As part of the 1205 procedure, the arresting officer has sworn that he or she had reasonable grounds to arrest you for DUI.
Interestingly, if you have an out-of-state driver's license (a non-Georgia driver's license), the Georgia 1205 Form now becomes your legal driver's license. So, for example, if you are arrested for DUI in Forsyth and you have an Alabama driver's license, your Alabama license will be seized by the police officer and you will be issued the 1205, which is a Georgia driver's license.
If you were issued a 1205 and you possess a non-Georgia driver's license, you should check with the proper authorities in the state where you have a driver's license to determine how that state will treat a Georgia suspension. Each state has its own rules and regulations for treating out-of-state suspensions for a DUI charge.
In order to maintain your driving privileges you must submit an administrative appeal, commonly known as a “10-day letter,” with the Georgia Department of Drivers Services. Again, Georgia license holders and non-Georgia license holders alike must submit a 10-day letter. In the appeal, you must request an administrative hearing and allege certain mistakes were made by the arresting officer. The hearing is known as the “ALS hearing,” the administrative license suspension hearing.
To protect your driving privileges, the ALS hearing is vital. A word of caution: failing to file the 10-day letter your license can result in a license suspension for one full year—and you do not receive a driving permit. Many drivers, unfortunately, fail to file the appeal and have their driver's license suspended. That suspension is then reported by Georgia to the motor vehicles departments in other states so that the other states can take appropriate action against your driver's license.
Driver's license hearings are conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ) employed by the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. Unlike many legal matters, you are not entitled to a jury trial — the ALJ makes all of the legal and factual determinations.
The Forsyth County Jail
The address of the Forsyth County Detention Center is:
202 Veteran's Memorial Blvd., Cumming, GA 30040
The jail's phone number is: 770-781-2226.
The jail was originally built in 1976 and an additional facility was erected in 1997. Beds have been added to accommodate the greater amount of inmates. The jail, which is operated by the sheriff, is a safe facility, if a bit crowded. A new, improved and modern detention facility is scheduled to open in 2014. The new facility is expected to better serve the community, which has undergone significant population growth in the past decade.
Who Performs the Blood Test? How Long Does it Take to Get Results?
Blood tests are performed at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Lab. The GBI performs the toxicology work-ups to determine whether there are concentrations of alcohol or drugs in a sample. The tests are only performed on specimens that have been taken in pending cases.
Results are sometimes available in a matter of weeks, but often take months to be returned.
Alcohol and Drug Rehab Facilities -- Local and National
Some people require treatment for alcohol and / or drug addiction. Not only does treatment help a person improve the quality of their life, but from a legal standpoint it can help us negotiate a better deal with prosecutors. That is a sentence that better reflects the need for professional treatment rather than increased jail time.
We often get questions about which treatment centers and programs are good. Georgia has a number of quality treatment facilities. Here are some programs in Georgia:
- Odyssey Family Counseling Center
- Avita Community Partners
- Gran Recovery Center
- Lanier Treatment Center
- Atlanta Family Counseling Center Inc
- Laurelwood Hospital
- Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center
- Penfield Christian Homes
For those people who need or want to attend rehab in Georgia, there are many excellent programs to choose from. Here are some of the facilities that are nationally recognized for their outstanding recovery programs:
- Betty Ford Center
- Hazelden Treatment Centers
- Promises Treatment Center
- Cirque Lodge
- Hannah's House
- Origins Recovery Centers | Texas
- Passages to Recovery
Famous People Who Have Gotten Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Issues
Many talented and famous people have sought treatment for addiction. Indeed, people in every profession, from all demographics, have found that professional treatment can drastically improve their lives. Getting help for a problem has produced dramatic, positive results. Here are some well-known people who have gotten treatment for addiction issues:
- Buzz Aldrin
- Billy Joel
- Al Unser, Jr.
- Carrie Fisher
- Charlie Sheen
- Demi Moore
- Dick Van Dyke
- Elton John
- Hank Williams III
- J. Paul Getty, Jr.
- Joe Namath
- Johnny Cash
- Keith Urban
- Lindsay Lohan
- Mike Tyson
- Ray Kroc
- Robin Williams
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
- Trace Adkins
Why Do Police Pull Over Some Cars? (Remember: They Need A Reason)
As discussed above, police need a reason to initiate a traffic stop. Here are some common reasons why police will stop a vehicle:
- improper turning
- going the wrong way
- slow speed
- travelling too fast
- stopping without a cause
- following too closely
- almost striking or striking an object
It's A Fact: Alcohol Affects Women Differently Than Men
We see it often and we receive a lot of questions about it. A man and a woman enjoy drinks together at dinner, in fact they drink basically the same amount, and the woman registers a higher blood alcohol level. Several factors are at work here:
- women are usually smaller
- women have less water in their bodies
- ladies metabolize alcohol more slowly than men
- the brain and liver of a woman who drinks are exposed to more alcohol pound for pound than a male
- even drinking less than men, women can develop liver damage and other alcohol-related health problems more quickly than men
Why am I charged with two DUI's for only one incident?
There are two different laws that make drunk driving a crime in Georgia. There is DUI-per se and DUI-less safe.
The prosecutor is allowed to charge you with both offenses. However, you can only be convicted of a single offense, either the DUI-less safe or the DUI-per se. For example, if a jury in a DUI case were to return a verdict of guilty to both DUI counts, only one conviction would be legally entered against you so you would not have two DUI convictions.
Should I take a blood test or a breath test? Or should I refuse all tests?
In Georgia, you will be asked to give a blood or breath sample to the officer. We have noticed that breath samples are usually lower than blood test samples. For various reasons, the breath test (the Intoxilyzer) seems to register a lower reading than a blood test.
A refusal of a blood alcohol test can lead to a lengthy suspension of your driving privilege.
We Are Experienced and Results-Focused Forsyth County DUI Lawyers
Our experience comes from working on both sides—the prosecution and the defense. That experience, knowledge and the relationships we have tremendously helps our clients. You can put our knowledge and experience to work for you. Take the guess work out of your case by speaking directly with knowledgeable DUI attorneys.
A DUI can be embarrassing and devastating to many people. Now is not the time to have a lawyer that is going to lecture you about your choices. The fact is, you are in trouble with the law and you need a non-judgmental advocate to give you straight forward advice about your case.
As a former Senior Assistant County Attorney and an Assistant Attorney General, William H. Sherman knows how the prosecutors work and he uses that knowledge every day to win cases for clients. Attorney Valerie W. Sherman has the extremely valuable experience of serving as a Magistrate Judge and as an Assistant County Attorney. They both understand what it takes to get a great outcome.
As experienced Cumming DUI attorneys, we can help you. Our experience, knowledge and relationships are crucial to a favorable outcome.
Call Us Now
We are pleased to offer a free case evaluation to anyone accused of DUI. Contact us immediately if you have been arrested. We are always available at 678-215-4106.