Judge halts action on DUI cases

CONYERS -- Rockdale County Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation recently issued temporary restraining orders in pending drunk driving cases in which attorneys dispute whether the Georgia Department of Driver Services should suspend a driver's license before the driver appears in court.

Nation issued 15 temporary restraining orders Wednesday after a hearing with a couple of Atlanta attorneys, including DUI defense attorney Robert Chestney.

DUI cases are heard before a State Court judge and an administrative law judge at DDS, based in Conyers. DDS has the authority to suspend a driver's license before the DUI case goes before State Court.

The attorneys argued that arresting officers did not follow proper procedures when processing paperwork and their clients' licenses should not be administratively suspended. According to the arguments, the arresting officers did not sign the paperwork in the presence of a notary, as required by law, but the notary signed the documents anyway.

When the administrative judge at DDS did not allow the attorneys to present the evidence concerning the errors, the attorneys approached Nation.

Nation held a hearing Tuesday and the restraining orders were issued Wednesday, Chestney said.

"It's designed to just maintain the status quo while the case moves on further," Chestney said of the restraining orders.

Chestney said that the judge will later schedule a conference with the attorneys to look at the evidence and determine if the situation is a class action.

"We're hoping to correct improper behavior," Chestney said. "The police officers are not following proper procedures. DDS is not issuing a proper form and, therefore, people's licenses are being suspended."

Chestney said none of the DUI cases involved Rockdale County residents.

The issue is being taken up in Rockdale County because the Department of Driver Services is located in Conyers.

Chestney said the temporary restraining order deals only with the issue of administrative suspension.

"This doesn't affect the underlying DUI case at all," Chestney said. "They are still going to have to answer to these DUIs in the courts where these cases are pending."