New Georgia Legislation Tightens Grip on Repeat DUI Offenders; Smyrna DUI Lawyer Says Ignition Interlock Requirements Have Hidden Consequences

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A newly approved Georgia bill will increase the required time that an interlock ignition device must be installed in a repeat DUI offender's vehicle and require the device to be installed for those filing for hardship permits. Smyrna defense attorney Benjamin Von Schuch examines the ramifications of this legislation.

If there are mandated sentences that lawyer have no ability to decrease in exchange for a guilty plea, there is no reason for an accused offender to make a bargain at all.

Georgia House Bill 407 was approved by the Senate with a vote of 48 to 1 on March 26. This new legislation outlines that any driver who is convicted of DUI for a second time within a five-year period will be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on their automobile for one year. Prior to this amendment, repeat offenders were required to use the device for 8 months.

Smyrna DUI defense attorney Benjamin Von Schuch warns that this legislation will have negative consequences that may not be apparent at first glance.

"Mandatory sentencing like this removes the ability of the attorneys and judges to fit the sentencing of each case to the unique circumstances," he said.

Von Schuch went on to explain that a one-size-fits-all approach to criminal proceedings doesn't work because every case is different. He said that repeat DUI offenders can have very different circumstances surrounding their charges.

An IID is a device that functions like a breathalyzer which requires a driver to blow less than 0.08, or less than 0.02 is they're younger than 21, before the vehicle can be started.

The new law also requires that one of these devices be installed for a driver to receive a limited use driving permit. These temporary permits are granted to those that can establish a need to drive, such as financial difficulty that requires driving to a job, or medical care necessities. However, Von Schuch said that this requirement puts these individuals in a tighter spot, as the costs for installing and maintaining the IID falls to the offender.

"Those that need the hardship license are often those that cannot afford to pay the fees associated with these devices. This takes away their ability to support themselves while awaiting their day in court."

The costs for an IID includes a $75 fee of installing it, another charge of $75 for having it removed when it is no longer necessary, and if the device is the type that includes a camera there is a $2.50 charge per day for using the device. This can total up to $600 for using the device for 6 months.

The Smyrna DUI defense lawyer added that the mandatory sentencing will interfere with ability to reach plea bargains that help the criminal charge process.

"If there are mandated sentences that lawyer have no ability to decrease in exchange for a guilty plea, there is no reason for an accused offender to make a bargain at all. This hurts our court system and bogs us down with more cases that will be forced to go through the lengthy and resource-consuming process of a trial," he said.

A plea bargain can save time and money for the court system. These deals usually hinge on a lesser sentence being offered to the defendant in exchange for a guilty plea. But attorneys like Von Schuch argue that regulating mandatory sentencing like that enacted by the new legislation takes away their ability to offer plea deals.

The House Bill will now be passed back to the House for approval of changes that were added by the Senate.

Benjamin Von Schuch serves as a Smyrna criminal defense attorney. With years of experience representing individuals charged with DUI, traffic offenses, reckless driving, and other criminal charges, he is knowledgeable about the criminal proceedings surrounding DUI charges and license suspensions. He defends clients in Fulton and DeKalb counties with personal attention to their individual circumstances.

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Benjamin Von Schuch
since: 09/2011
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