About Me

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Tifton, Georgia, United States
Joe Kunes is a Personal Injury and Criminal DUI/DWI defense Attorney in Tifton, Georgia. He has been practicing law in Tifton and the surrounding counties since 1972. He is a graduate of Tift County Schools, the University of Georgia, 1969, B.A., and University of Georgia Law School J.D., 1972. In 40 years of practice in Tifton he has handled all areas of the law, but now restricts his practice to criminal defense and personal injury work. The majority of his criminal practice relates to the defense of drinking drivers, not only in Tifton, but all over South Georgia. His personal injury practice includes representing plaintiffs injured in automobile accidents and medical malpractice cases in Tifton and surrounding counties. He is a member of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (Vice President in 2000), American Trial Lawyers Association (sustaining member), National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD), and the Georgia Defense of DUI Drivers (D.O.D.D.).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Defending DUI blog has moved!

The Defending DUI blog has been given its own separate website, DefendingDUI.com.  The new blog location can be found at the link:


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

National Lawyer's Guild releases report on Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives


In November 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states—and the first jurisdictions in the world—to legalize the possession, use, and regulated distribution of marijuana.
Although Attorney General Eric Holder promised in March 2013 to announce a Department of Justice policy to address the state initiatives, the White House has yet to take a position. This shifting legal terrain is the subject of “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives,” a new report by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).
The NLG report analyzes the legalization process under way in the states, suggests strategies to further marijuana legalization initiatives, and highlights current obstacles to ending prohibition. Among the NLG recommendations: reframe drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, challenge the punitive international drug policy framework, support states’ rights to regulate marijuana use, and reclassify marijuana to allow for medical research. 
High Crimes” also calls attention to the role of law enforcement agencies and private prison industry interventions in the field of US drug policy. “It is crucial to examine who profits from the continued prohibition of marijuana,” said NLG Senior Researcher Traci Yoder, the report’s author. “The increasing militarization of police forces is funded through property and financial seizures during drug arrests.  Continued profit making by private corrections corporations is contingent upon ever-increasing rates of incarceration.”
As the nation waits for a response from the White House, the NLG joins other organizations and individuals in calling for the end to marijuana prohibition. “Marijuana legalization will create new jobs, generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes,” said Brian Vicente, NLG member and one of the primary authors of Colorado’s legalization amendment. “It would be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end.”
The report, “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives,” can be accessed on the NLG website at www.nlg.org.
The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

License Plate Recognition Software being used on Georgia Roads

In May of 2013, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the trial court judge's ruling in Hill v State.  Hill was convicted for possession of marijuana for a partially smoked marijuana cigarette found under his console.  Although he had not broken any traffic laws while driving, Fayette County deputies used License Plate Recognition Software that suggested that a wanted person might be driving the vehicle.  After Hill was stopped, the officer smelled an odor of burnt marijuana and discovered Hill's license had been suspended.  Even though Hill was not the owner of the vehicle, and not the wanted person the system alerted to, the Court of Appeals ruled that the stop was justified and the conviction affirmed.  Watch the video below for more information on License Plate Recognition Software (thanks to Bubba Head for pointing out the video to me).


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Massachusetts crime lab employee used drug evidence and replaced with fake substances

Chemist Sonja Farak stole and apparently used illegal drugs entrusted to her by the state to test as evidence in criminal cases, replacing the drugs with look-alike substances in an attempt to hide her actions, authorities said in court documents.

Last week, authorities followed a trail of evidence that took them from Farak’s work station at the State Police-run lab in Amherst to her car, where they recovered cocaine and heroin that had been previously submitted by law enforcement to the lab for testing, according to the newly released documents.
Farak, 35, parked her Volkswagen Golf outside Springfield District Court on Friday, where she was scheduled to testify as an expert witness in an unrelated drug case. Troopers confronted her inside that courthouse and seized her car, which they searched, discovering the drugs and other lab materials, the documents state.
Farak was arraigned in Eastern Hampshire District Court on Tuesday and charged with two counts each of withholding evidence and drug possession. Her attorney, Elaine Pourinski, pleaded not guilty on her behalf.
Pourinski told Judge John Payne that Farak does not have a criminal record and is regarded as an upstanding citizen in her neighborhood in Northampton. Two hours after the arraignment, Farak’s parents posted $5,000 cash bail.
With an unprecedented drug lab scandal already revolving around Annie Dookhan, the chemist who allegedly tampered with hundreds of evidence samples at the Hinton lab in Jamaica Plain, leading to the release of almost 200 defendants, Farak’s alleged wrong­doings further tarnish a system critically important to prosecutors.
So far there is evidence suggesting that Farak allegedly corrupted only two cases, but an investigation by State Police is ongoing. That investigation may lead authorities back to Boston and the Hinton lab, where both chemists worked in 2003 and 2004.
Though Farak spent most of her career in Amherst, she analyzed more than 11,000 drug samples from Boston cases, according to records from the ­Jamaica Plain lab. As a result, questions about the integrity of her work could have an impact in Boston.
While working at the Jamaica Plain lab, records show Farak analyzed more than 9,000 samples, frequently producing more test results per month than Dookhan, who is now facing criminal indictment for allegedly falsifying test results. After Farak was transferred to Amherst in 2004, she still analyzed drug evidence from nearly 2,000 Boston cases, according to the records.
The Hinton lab, which had been run by the state’s Department of Health, was shut down early last year by Governor ­Deval Patrick after the allegations against Dookhan surfaced. The task of analyzing drug samples was transferred to State Police labs.
Curtis Wood, undersecretary of forensic science and technology for the executive office of public safety and security, said Tuesday that the Amherst lab, which handles 3,000 cases a year, has been shut down and the chemists and case load have been sent to a Sudbury lab.
Patrick said that he, like the public, was surprised that another chemist has been charged with a crime. “My first reaction was, you’ve got to be kidding me,” he said.
He said that after learning more about the case, he believes it is completely different from the scandal involving Dookhan.
“The most important take-home I think is that no individual’s due process rights were compromised” in the Amherst lab, he said.
He also rejected Republican legislation calling for more drug lab oversight, but said he would be willing to talk with its sponsors.
In 2011, Dookhan tried to help Farak analyze a drug she had never examined before. A supervisor, Peter Piro, asked Dookhan to assist Farak in analyzing something called “lisdexamfetamine.”
Farak was concerned because when she ran the sample, she said she got a “very poor” match, Piro said, adding that she said she was “concerned that it may not be what it is supposed to be. Only thing [evidence] on the guy too.”
Farak’s attorney said Tuesday that the media attention that followed her client has been exacerbated by the Dookhan scandal.
“If we didn’t have the case from the eastern part of the state, there would not be so much scrutiny,” Pourinski said during the arraignment, as a half-dozen cameras focused on her and Farak, sitting in a holding bin with her hands cuffed.
Several of the defendant’s neighbors submitted statements to the court supporting Farak.
“As a licensed clinical social worker for 28 years, I am often in the position of vouching for an individual’s character and am happy to do so for Ms. Farak,” said Marcie D. Cooper, who lives several houses away from Farak on Laurel Park, a street within a condominium community.
Neighbors talked about how Farak always took it upon herself to clear snow from their driveways, walk their dogs while they were on vacation, and drive incapacitated neighbors to medical appointments.
But in the prosecutor’s statement of facts on the case, contained in the same file as those letters, authorities say one of Farak’s coworkers noticed something wrong with two samples last Thursday.
The coworker was attempting to find the samples to match with the certification Farak had completed. After she was unable to locate the samples, the coworker alerted a supervisor. They looked in Farak’s work station cabinet and allegedly found cocaine and a counterfeit substance.
To protect the vital “chain-of-custody” at the lab, proper procedure dictates that samples checked out to a chemist be stored in a temporary evidence locker when they are away from their stations.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Utah Trooper who made false DUI arrests is target of class action lawsuit

State troopers put their lives on the line every day. And the act of pulling someone over on a highway can be a deadly experience for any cop not following the best protocols. But police are also under great pressure to generate ticket revenue for their cities, counties and states, and their zeal to hit revenue targets can lead them to do the wrong thing.

So says a class action suit filed against the State of Utah and a specific state trooper who is accused of writing "driving under the influence" tickets when they weren't impaired.

State trooper Lisa Steed was honored inside the state police force for busting an extraordinary number of drunk drivers. But some of her convictions were subsequently over-turned, and the trooper was reprimanded and then fired for making false arrests.

Since Steed's performance and punishment were reported, dozens of people who were convicted have been signing up with lawyers for a class action suit. People convicted of DUI lost money, cars and trailers and even jobs, according to ABC 4 News/Salt Lake City.

One such plaintiff is Thomas Romero who was arrested by Steed in 2011. "I wasn't drunk ... I was not intoxicated. Nothing," Romero told ABC 4.

One of the representing attorneys, Robert Sykes, says he is looking at hundreds of drivers who may have been victimized. Sykes is ambitiously seeking that all DUI arrests by state troopers be over-turned in cases where the trooper was the only witness.

How much could plaintiffs get? Attorneys are hoping to get Romero, for example, at least $20,000 to cover everything he lost, including his truck and his motor home. If you add up all the cases these attorneys think are out there, the lawsuit could potentially cost Steed and the Utah Highway Patrol $20 million.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Audit: Georgia driver records system flawed

    Georgia is at risk of losing $30 million in federal highway funds and jeopardizing public safety because of erroneous or incomplete information in its driver records, a new state audit shows.
Among the problems is that dozens of courts either don’t report traffic, drug and stolen vehicle convictions to the Department of Driver Services or are slow in reporting them. As a result, dangerous drivers may be able to stay on the roads.
    Georgia also allows license suspensions for DUI offenses to be wiped off of driver records, if the charge does not result in a conviction. That is contrary to federal law, which considers deleting such license suspensions as “masking.” A federal law enacted this past summer requires this issue to be resolved by 2015, auditors reported this week.“At current funding levels, approximately $30 million could be at risk,” the audit says.

Among the audit’s other findings are:

• Officials from 28 courts told state auditors they had reportable convictions that had not been forwarded to DDS. Many indicated they were unaware of the reporting requirements.

• State law requires courts to report offenses within 10 days of the conviction date. About 300,000 of the million convictions processed last year did not meet this requirement. As a result, state driver records are not up to date with convictions, points and license suspensions.

• When DDS detects errors in conviction records, it returns them to the courts for corrections. Last year, state officials identified 58,650 such records that needed corrections. As of August of this year, 53,449 had not been resolved and resubmitted.

• Auditors also were concerned DDS does not have policies about which of its employees can change or delete information on driver records. “Without sufficient access and regular monitoring, the database is vulnerable to unauthorized changes, such as personnel inactivating a conviction or license suspension from the driver records,” the audit states. Other states conduct periodic reviews of employee activities to investigate potential fraud, the report said.

• Driver records also are marred by some inaccurate addresses, missing and inaccurate case numbers for convictions and missing blood alcohol levels, used to determine the length of license suspension for first-time DUI offenders under age 21. Omissions of critical driving violations from states where Georgia drivers previously lived also hamper identification of problem drivers, the report says.

• About 9,500 “super speeder” fine notices were returned as undeliverable between 2010 and 2011. Of those motorists, about 5,700 had not paid their fines as of April of this year, causing more than $1.1 million in fees to go uncollected.

     In its response, the department said it has worked the last five years to improve the validity, accuracy and completeness of driving records. For example, this summer it began requiring residents to provide proof of their mailing address, and it received a grant for a judicial liaison who worked with the courts on conviction reporting.
    The department told the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts the cost of implementing one recommendation – that critical violations in prior states be included on driver histories – would outweigh the expected benefits.
    “DDS noted that there is currently no mechanism for the 50 states to exchange a non-commercial driver’s history among the state jurisdictions, so that DDS could import a new Georgia resident’s driving record from the resident’s prior state,” the report said.
    DDS Commissioner Rob Mikell issued a statement Thursday, saying his agency “will continue our efforts to improve the integrity and security of our records management processes.”
    “We look forward to studying the additional recommendations in-depth as we strive to better serve the citizens of Georgia,” he said. 
    A spokesman for Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said his office is reviewing the audit and “will ask the appropriate legislative committee to review it as well in order to determine the necessary legislative action to address these findings when the General Assembly convenes in 2013.”
     Gov. Nathan Deal’s office referred questions to Mikell. An aide to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and an official with the Georgia Municipal Court Clerks Council did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
     An official with the state Administrative Office of the Courts said his agency was not involved in the audit and “has no authority over any individual court across the state and does not have the power to compel the reporting of caseload data by the courts.”
     Superior Courts handle more serious traffic offenses and drug crimes. Mike Holiman, executive director of the Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia, said superior courts represent a small fraction of the roughly 1,100 courts in Georgia. Superior Courts, he added, routinely report information to the Georgia Crime Information Center and state Corrections Department.
“I believe our members do report correctly,” Holiman said.

 By Lois Norder/ Atlanta Journal Constitution

Monday, December 10, 2012

GA Rep. to Introduce Legislation to Protect Against Exploitation of Headshots for Profit

Georgia Representative Roger Bruce has recently caught the attention of national media with talks on introducing legislation in 2013 to protect individuals who have headshots for police records, commonly known as “mugshots.”

These headshots are visible to the public on the sheriff’s county website and there are no guidelines on the usage of the headshots. This allows third-parties to post the headshots on a personal website and request a fee to have photograph removed.

The proposal will make it illegal to ask for money to remove the headshot from the website. It will also require the sheriff’s department to copyright all mug shots posted on their website. Including a copyright on the mug shot will remove the incentive to exploit “mugshots” for a profit. Lastly, Representative Bruce hopes this will provide victims a legal platform to rightfully have their headshots removed and sue for any damages caused by the improper use of their photo.

“When someone is arrested, your political party is not a concern. This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is a non- partisan issue, and anyone can be victimized in this situation,” said Rep. Roger Bruce. “No one deserves to be subjected to this kind of scrutiny and abuse for money when they have not been convicted of a crime. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Rep. Roger Bruce filmed a segment with ABC explaining the importance of this proposal. His segment will air on Tuesday December 11, 2012 on World News with Diane Sawyer at 6:30PM  and Nightline at 11:30PM.