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DUI: Choose Your Attorney Wisely

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DUI/DWI MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN ADVERTISED

 

I was speaking to a friend recently when he unexpectedly told me that, before we met, he was arrested and convicted of DUI/DWI several years ago. After some discussion, my friend shared with me that in his case the DUI/DWI conviction was far more costly than the estimates of $10 – $15,000 typically seen in articles and online for the “cost of a DUI/DWI.”  My interest was piqued, so he explained:

 

“I accept full responsibility for my actions.  I drove when I had been drinking more than I should and knew better. . . .  I was driving home when I came up to a roadblock. . . . I knew I was screwed.  I cooperated, took all the Field Sobriety Tests, and took the breathalyzer.  I was arrested and taken to jail.  I posted bond, paid a towing fee, hired an attorney, went to court several times, and was ultimately convicted.

 

The cost of posting bond, paying the towing fee, hiring an attorney, going to court, and paying fines, surcharges, taxes, probation fees, and other direct costs of the DUI/DWI was very expensive.  The estimates I saw before and since I was arrested, though, don’t come close to the actual cost to my family and me.

 

I lost my job.  I lost benefits for my family.  It took more than a year for me to get another job that was anywhere close to my qualifications.  My car insurance skyrocketed.  I can’t afford to get life insurance because it is so expensive.  I still am not making as much money as I would be making if I had not gotten the DUI.  So, my estimate of the cost of a DUI/DWI is much different than what I see online.”

 

Upon further questioning and after reviewing online articles and data, my friend provided me with his estimate of the cost of his DUI/DWI arrest and conviction:

 

Bond/Bail                                                                   $         2,500.00

Tow/Storage Charge for car                                               185.00

Increase in Car Insurance Premiums                               7,500.00

Attorney Fees                                                                        5,000.00

Court Imposed Fines/Surcharges/Fees                          1,730.00

DUI/Risk Reduction School                                              287.00

License Reinstatement Fees                                              210.00

Increase in Life Insurance Premiums                             10,000.00

Lost Income, Wages and Benefits             $ 330,000.00 – 370,000.00

(Caused by DUI/DWI and since my arrest)

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Actual and True Cost of DUI/DWI           $357,412.00 – 407,412.00

 

I know my friend’s story is personal and anecdotal but a DUI/DWI arrest in anyone’s situation is expensive and costly, especially if you hire the wrong attorney. If you are arrested for DUI/DWI, don’t take it lightly or assume the best. Call attorney Kim Stephens at 706-548-3933 so that we can begin to aggressively defend your case.

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Changes in DUI Law

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dui-badges-3Attorneys Kim Stephens and Michael Brown applaud the Georgia Supreme Court for its well-reasoned opinion upholding every person’s right to be free from unlawful searches of his or her body and bodily substances.  In the three weeks since the Court’s ruling in Williams v. State, attorney Kim Stephens successfully convinced prosecutors in Elbert County and Madison County, Georgia to dismiss DUI cases against his clients based on this change in Georgia law.  When choosing a DUI lawyer, it is critical that you hire a criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI and other criminal law, knows current DUI law, and keeps up with changes in DUI law that will help win your case.

 

Blood Tests Taken Pursuant to Georgia Implied Consent Law May Not Be Voluntary According to Supreme Court
Georgia’s implied consent law may not be around much longer. On March 31, 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously laid the groundwork for a future ruling that could effectively nullify the statute that imposes automatic punishment on motorists who refuse to provide a blood or breath sample upon demand. The implied consent law helps police investigate drunk driving (DUI) cases by allowing what are considered searches under the Fourth Amendment to take place without a search warrant. John Williams learned about this after a Gwinnett County police officer pulled him over for swerving on September 22, 2012.  “Georgia law requires you to submit to state administered chemical tests of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances for the purpose of determining if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the officer told Williams. “If you refuse this testing, your Georgia driver’s license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state will be suspended for a minimum period of one year.” Williams agreed to the blood draw, thinking he had no choice. The officer called the incident an ordinary DUI and admitted there were no unusual or exigent circumstances with the case. A county judge convicted Williams based on the blood evidence, saying the implied consent law rendered Fourth Amendment concerns irrelevant. The Georgia Supreme Court disagreed. “The state court’s analysis is flawed,” Justice P. Harris Hines wrote for the court. “A suspect’s right under the Fourth Amendment to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the compelled withdrawal of blood, and the extraction of blood is a search within the meaning of the Georgia Constitution.”  In Missouri v. McNeely (S.Ct., 4/17/2013), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream did not automatically create “exigent circumstances” that absolve police of their duty to obtain a search warrant before drawing a suspect’s blood. The justices required police to either get a warrant or cite a legitimate emergency justification for not doing so. There were no exigent circumstances in the Williams case, so the Georgia high court was left to rule on whether Williams voluntarily consented to having his blood drawn after being read the implied consent notice that told him that he had no choice. The justices said they needed more information. “In considering Williams’s motion to suppress, the state court failed to address whether Williams gave actual consent to the procuring and testing of his blood, which would require the determination of the voluntariness of the consent under the totality of the circumstances,” Justice Hines concluded. “Consequently, the judgments of the state court are vacated and the case is remanded to that court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

If you have been charged with DUI, call Stephens and Brown today at 706-548-3933 for a free consultation.

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Kim Stephens Discusses Jonathon Taylor on Paul Finebaum Show

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Paul Finebaum interviewed me on Thursday on his ESPN show regarding the Jonathon Taylor case. Since Jon’s arrest in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the female who made the allegations has recanted her story, stating that she lied to the police. You can listen to my complete interview with Paul Finebaum about Jon’s case and the impact of false allegations here, beginning about 11:3o minutes into the show:

 

 

      Listen to the interview
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Inspiration from To Kill a Mockingbird

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Atticus Finch—To Kill a Mockingbird

As the publication date for Harper Lee’s sequel to her Pulitzer prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, approaches, people are digging out and rereading their copies of Lee’s classic tale. Today, the Athens Barnes and Noble will read the novel aloud in its entirety throughout the day to celebrate both the recent fiftieth anniversary of the novel and the upcoming sequel. My wife, a writer herself, is one of the guest readers and will read the novel’s final chapter at the close of the bookstore’s celebration. This event has reminded me both of my love for Lee’s novel and my admiration for one of its principal characters—father and defense attorney Atticus Finch.

For those who might have missed To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus agrees to represent a black man accused of raping a white woman in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. The racism and inequality prevalent at the time means that the residents of Maycomb are both outraged and shocked that Atticus would take the case. Atticus, however, ignores popular opinion and considerable intimidation, believing in Tom Robinson’s innocence and zealously representing him, stating famously that “the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Atticus battles not only the prejudice of the day but also the justice system, which at the time prevented African Americans and women from serving on a jury.

Atticus provides a model of integrity and courage for criminal defense attorneys because he chooses to do what’s right in the face of insurmountable odds. Convincing an all-white male jury to find Tom Robinson not guilty in 1930s Alabama is an impossible task, but Atticus chooses to fight the good fight: “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.”

I am as inspired by Harper Lee’s story today as I was thirty or more years ago when I first discovered the tale, and if you’re in the Athens area today and have some time, I hope you’ll take a trip to the bookstore and maybe listen to a chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Jonathon Taylor and the Presumption of Innocence

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Jonathon Taylor’s second arrest for domestic violence made headline news over the last several days, sparking a public outcry that questioned Alabama’s decision to give Taylor a second chance and even criticized Taylor’s continued freedom. The controversy over Taylor sparks an interesting question: In light of mass media coverage of crime, particularly crime that arouses public sentiment or involves celebrities or sports figures, does the presumption of innocence still exist in America?

When approached by the media about Jonathon Taylor’s arrest in Alabama, I expressed my concerns about the new allegations and fervently hoped that a thorough investigation be conducted prior to any action being taken against Jon. The rationale behind my concerns was twenty-two years of experience in defense work during which I have seen a repeated trend of false accusations in high-profile cases involving athletes, politicians, or celebrities. Because any criminal allegations made against a well-known person are so widely publicized, they are particularly vulnerable to secondary allegations made by individuals trying to leverage the circumstances.

On the Monday after Jon was arrested in Alabama, the female who made the allegations in Tuscaloosa recanted her accusation stating that she had lied about the incident. She told the police that she was angry because Jon had been unfaithful to her, and she was hurt that their relationship was not as exclusive as she wanted it to be. She was consequently arrested for making false statements to the police.

I have heard advocates claim that people do not make false accusations of violent or sexual crime. I wish this were true, but my experience has led me to the perhaps unpopular but still verifiable opinion that it is not. I once represented an eighteen year old boy who spent thirteen months in jail (prior to his parents retaining my services) for rape. After his parents retained me, I sent my female investigator out to interview the alleged victim. The girl told my investigator after just minutes of chatting that the boy had not in fact raped her. They had dated for a while, and when he broke up with her, after repeatedly being unfaithful to her with other girls, she could not bear the thought of him being with someone else. The young man in question had a lot to learn about morality, about how a good man should treat a woman, but he was not a criminal. This is not just one exception to the rule, rather it is one of many cases of this nature that I have witnessed during my time as a lawyer. False allegations do happen, a truth that our founding fathers must have anticipated when they included the presumption of innocence in the list of rights that we as citizens of the United States of America are afforded.

I am a defense attorney, but I am also a husband and a father, and when I read a newspaper article or watch a headline report depicting, often in gruesome detail, crimes against women and children, I am seared, inflamed by the seemingly casual disregard for the sanctity of human life displayed by the perpetrators of these acts. I am the father of daughters, and my worst fear is that someone might harm my girls, steal their innocence, their irreplaceable life. I am also the father of a son, and I have identical worries for him, but because of my experiences as a defense attorney, I have this additional fear for my son: that he might be wrongly accused, falsely defamed, ruined because of a crime he did not commit.

In my time as a defense attorney, I have seen a wide spectrum of human behavior, and perhaps the lesson I have learned best, internalized, is the power of a lie. When we hear charges of domestic violence, assault, rape, molestation, murder, our anger is rightfully roused. We want immediate action, justice. The problem is that these two terms are too often incongruent. Justice is not, as the cliché would indicate, swift. Justice takes time— a thorough investigation and an objective examination of the facts.

Jonathon Taylor has been charged with domestic violence in Athens and now Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The alleged victim in Alabama has recanted her accusation and consequently been charged with a crime herself. The investigation in the Athens case is ongoing. Neither case has gone to trial. However, since Jon’s initial arrest, he has, without due process, been dismissed from the University of Georgia’s football team, suspended from the University of Georgia, dismissed from the University of Alabama’s football team and expelled from the University of Alabama. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Jon’s case, it would seem, based on these facts, that far from being presumed innocent as the constitution demands, Jon has in fact been presumed guilty from the time of his initial arrest.

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