Legalese — Driver’s Services, the Courts, and DUI

Many people think that the Georgia Department of Drivers’ Services and the Municipal or Traffic Courts are related, since they both deal with traffic tickets and drivers’ licensing.  This is not true.  Neither agency has any control over the other.  Although they do share some information, that is the extent of their relationship.  The courts cannot make the DDS issue a license or permit or vice versa.

A lot of this confusion comes with the limited permitting that can go along with driving under the influence charges.  This is highly confusing – so much so that I admit to only having a limited understanding myself of how it works, despite working with it almost daily, and I cannot promise 100% that the information I am passing on here is correct, even though I am looking at an information sheet given to me by the general counsel’s office of the Department of Drivers’ Services as I write it.

If you are charged with driving under the influence, you may or may not be given an administrative license revocation form along with your ticket.  This is referred to in shorthand as a 1205 form.  If you are given a 1205 form, you have ten business days to challenge it in writing, and that challenge must be accompanied by a $150.00 filing fee.  If you don’t challenge it, your license is suspended for a period of time, no questions asked, no take backs, nothing you or the court or congress or anyone else can do about it.  Even a presidential pardon wouldn’t help you. 

If you do take care of your 1205 form the proper way and/or aren’t given one, and you end up pleading guilty to DUI or being convicted, your driver’s license will be suspended, but you may be eligible for a limited driving permit IF:

1.       You are over 21 at the time of conviction;

2.       You didn’t refuse to take the field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer test;

3.       You had a Georgia driver’s license at the time of the conviction;

4.       You had no other convictions for something that would result in a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license within the past five years as measured from the date of the incident (not the date of conviction); and

5.       There are no other active suspensions on your driving record at the time you apply for the limited driving permit.

One thing that confuses a lot of people – and, honestly a lot of courts and judges, including me – is that if your license is suspended for refusing to comply with the implied consent law (that is, your refusal to do the field sobriety tests or the breathalyzer tests, etc.) you can’t get a limited driving permit, even if the court orders it.  A lot of times, if there is a plea to the DUI, the court doesn’t really pay attention to whether or not you took the field sobriety tests.  If you are admitting to driving under the influence, and it is your first offense, that kind of detailed proof isn’t relevant to the finding of fact.  So the Court will give you a certificate of first offense allowing you a limited driving permit.  You go to the Department of Drivers Services, and the DDS refuses you a permit.  You then go back to the Court, and the Court (someone like me) has to say, “Sorry!  I can’t make DDS do anything.  Can’t help you.”  Usually this is the reason for their refusal. 

If your driving under the influence conviction is for DUI drugs and not alcohol, a limited driving permit is not available at all. 

There is a lot of disagreement between defense attorneys as to whether or not you should refuse to take field sobriety tests – it is your right to refuse.  You constitutionally don’t have to offer testimony against yourself, which is what field sobriety tests and breathalyzers can be.   You are giving the state information about the amount of alcohol on your breath and the steadiness of your gait and gaze.  As a practical matter, however, refusal can seriously affect your driving privileges (the ability to drive is a privilege, not a right) and make things a whole lot more difficult and expensive down the road.  I won’t offer advice here, just information to consider.    

This is, of course, a very broad overview.  There are many more details that just make it more confusing. The good folks at the DDS are pretty helpful if you just go to their website and ask if you have a question.  I’ve written before about the crazy helpful app they have that you can download for free onto your phone (click here for a link to that.) 

The best thing to do, of course, is not to drink and drive, and to stay safe.

This article is being offered solely for informational purposes.  It is not intended to be used for legal advice.  No lawyer can advise you about your case without hearing the particular details of your situation. 

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