If you have been arrested within the Atlanta city limits, your criminal case will begin in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. Due to the massive presence of both the Atlanta Police Department's DUI Task Force and the Nighthawks (Georgia State Patrol's DUI Task Force), the City of Atlanta Municipal Court handles hundreds of DUI cases each week. Because of this high volume of cases, Judge Christopher Ward, who presides over all DUI cases in the Atlanta Municipal Court, endeavors to ensure that cases resolved in a timely fashion. All Atlanta DUI cases are heard before Judge Ward in Courtroom 5A. Most arraignments are at 8:00 a.m. the next business day.
We Can Appear For You In Atlanta Municipal Court So You Can Return to Work, School, or Your Other Responsibilities:
When an Atlanta DUI Attorney appears on your behalf, it is as if you appeared yourself. It does NOT violate your bond or bail and will not result in any adverse action against you. The first appearance (arraignment) is where your Atlanta DUI Lawyer will enter a "not guilty" plea on your behalf and file for the discovery in your case. Discovery is where the prosecutor must produce the incident report, accident reports, officers notes, and the video of your arrest (if available). All of this can be done without your presence. You will eventually have to come to court, but not at the initial appearance.
The Atlanta DUI Process Explained in Detail:
One thing that is important to remember about the DUI proceedings in Atlanta Municipal Court DUI is they move very quickly. If you were arrested over the weekend – Friday, Saturday, or Sunday – your initial appearance in court will be on Monday morning. If Monday happens to be a holiday, you will be required to appear in court on Tuesday morning. The schedule will be as follows:
- Monday arrest -- Arraignment is Tuesday morning
- Tuesday arrest – Arraignment is Wednesday morning
- Wednesday arrest – Arraignment is Thursday morning
- Thursday arrest – Arraignment is Friday morning
- Friday arrest -- Arraignment is Monday morning
- Saturday arrest -- Arraignment is Monday morning
- Sunday arrest -- Arraignment is Monday morning
This is somewhat unusual, as most courts do not require you to appear in court just mere days (or, in some cases, hours) following an arrest. If the arrest was over a holiday weekend, your arraignment will be Tuesday Morning.
How Your Case Will Move Through the City of Atlanta Municipal Court:
Your first appearance, or arraignment, will be shortly after your arrest. If you do not hire an attorney prior to this initial court date (as stated above, it will be mere days or even hours after your arrest), you must attend this court date in person. If you appear at arraignment pro se, or without an attorney, you will be asked several questions:
- "Would you like to be formally arraigned, or do you wish to waive arraignment?" If you want to be formally arraigned, a prosecutor from the solicitor's office will read all of your charges aloud in open court. Alternatively, you may choose to waive arraignment, or forego a formal reading of the charges, and the judge will move on to the next question.
- "Do you intend to hire an attorney?"
- "If you cannot afford an attorney, do you wish to apply for a public defender?"
- "If you do intend to hire an attorney, by what date will you be able to do so?"
At that point, the judge will give you a date to come back for a Status hearing, which will usually be 2-3 weeks after your arraignment date. In the interim, you should hire an attorney.
If you hire an attorney prior to your arraignment date, your attorney will file an "Entry of Appearance," which essentially informs the court that you will be represented by an attorney. Once your attorney files that form with the court, you will not be required to appear in court personally until your "Final Plea" date (discussed below). Our attorneys file "Entries of Appearance" prior to any court appearances. This means that if you hire an attorney before your arraignment date, you will not be required to appear personally at arraignment (unless your attorney expressly tells you otherwise). This can be an invaluable benefit as you will not have to take time from work or arrange childcare on short notice in order to appear for arraignment.
For individuals who appeared at arraignment without a lawyer, the next court appearance is known as a Status hearing. This occurs 2-3 weeks after arraignment. The general purpose of this hearing is to determine whether you have managed to secure the services of an attorney. As with arraignment, if you have retained an attorney prior to your status hearing, you will not be required to attend in person as your attorney will attend on your behalf.
If you were represented by counsel at arraignment, Judge Ward would schedule you for a status hearing. Instead, your next court date will be your Inquiry date. Inquiry occurs roughly a month and a half after arraignment. At the inquiry hearing, Judge Ward will ask for an announcement from the solicitor assigned to the case regarding the status of the evidence. Usually, this evidence would include a police report, a video of the arrest, and, in some cases, lab results. It is very common for this evidence, known as "discovery," to be still outstanding at this point; this is no cause for concern.
As with your arraignment and status hearings (if applicable), you will not be required to attend the inquiry hearing personally if you have an attorney.
After your Inquiry court date, Judge Ward will schedule your first Final Plea date.
Sometimes, the solicitor's office has still not received all the evidence from the arresting agency when the first Final Plea date is reached. In those situations, Judge Ward will typically allow a second Final Plea date in order to give the solicitor's office more time to obtain the evidence. This also allows your attorney more time to discuss the facts of the case with the solicitor's office.
Unless instructed otherwise by your attorney, you should plan to attend your Final Plea date.
Judge Ward endeavors to conclude all cases within six months of arrest. At this six-month deadline, he will expect some resolution in your case.
Resolving Your Atlanta DUI Case:
Your case may be resolved in Atlanta Municipal Court in one of several ways:
- You may enter a plea to DUI or to a lesser charge. Judge Ward will sentence you, and your case will conclude in the Atlanta Municipal Court.
- Very, very rarely, your case may be dismissed for evidentiary reasons.
- You may request a bench trial, which is a trial in which the judge rather than a jury decides whether or not you are guilty of DUI. Few people seek bench trials in Atlanta Municipal Court.
- You may request a jury trial. Requesting a jury trial will result in your case being "bound over," or transferred, to the Fulton County State Court. This is a lengthy process that can take over a year. The pros and cons of a "bind over" should be discussed with your attorney.
Administrative License Suspension Proceedings:
If you are arrested for DUI in the City of Atlanta, you are facing not only a criminal case in the Atlanta Municipal Court (detailed above), but also the civil Administrative License Suspension proceeding.
In Georgia, you have only ten (10) business days from the date of arrest to appeal the automatic suspension of your driver's license. Most attorneys handle the appeal letter, known as the "10-day letter," on their clients' behalf. Failure to submit this letter in a timely fashion (or retain an attorney who will file it for you) will result in a suspension of your license that will last at least 30 days. However, your suspension could be up to a year if you declined to take the State-administered chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine.
Once the letter is filed, the Office of State Administrative Hearings will schedule a hearing, commonly called an ALS (Administrative License Suspension) hearing. At this hearing, your attorney has the opportunity to question the arresting officer regarding the circumstances surrounding the stop of your vehicle, your arrest, whether you were properly advised of your Implied Consent rights, and if the breath test was administered according to Georgia law. If the judge decides that any of your rights was violated during your stop and subsequent arrest, he will order that the administrative suspension of your license be reversed.
At an ALS hearing, you may also make an agreement with the arresting officer that he will rescind the administrative license suspension in exchange for your agreement to eventually plead guilty in your criminal case. As this naturally affects your rights in your criminal case, this is something that should be carefully considered with the advice of your attorney.
Hire the Atlanta DUI Attorneys From Our Office As Soon As Possible:
Being accused of DUI in Atlanta is stressful enough. You need Expert Atlanta DUI Lawyers on your side. Our office only handles DUI cases, and this makes us uniquely suited to helping you with yours. Keep in mind, you only have ten days to save your privilege to drive. Call now. Your Best Atlanta DUI Defense Begins Here!