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DUI Law: Georgia Driving Under the Influence (D.U.I.) Laws

By: Ex-Cop Cory Yager, Larry Kohn, and William Head, DUI law Book Co-Authors and DUI attorneys in Georgia handling criminal defense for a combined 87 years.

Yager, Head, and Kohn Rated By Super Lawyers

Under Georgia law, the implied consent law requires all drivers who are arrested for DUI to be read an advisement about a potential administrative license suspension, for any refusal to be tested. Implied consent laws exist in all states and are civil (not criminal) laws that apply to your driving privileges with the State DMV-DPS, which is called the Georgia Department of Driver Services in GA.

Many uninformed motorists are unaware that field sobriety tests at the roadway are optional, voluntary, and are not “scientific” tests. Declining to attempt these eye tests and agility exercises offered by police officers is your LEGAL RIGHT!

Declining these bogus roadside "exercises" will not penalize you in any way, in the DUI case. Not participating also may help your DUI defense attorney win the case. When a client knows and exercises her or his right to not self-incriminate, our DUI defense lawyers’ “win” rate is higher.

Those who decline submitting to a chemical test of breath, blood or urine can face an administrative license suspension of one (1) year. These “scientific” tests are collected close to the time of arrest, to determine that driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

However, under the holding of a Georgia Supreme Court case in 2019, the person’s “refusal” to take an alcohol breath test cannot be used against that person as evidence in the criminal aspect of their case, or at the trial, if one occurs.

If the arrested driver’s BAC is found to be 0.08 grams percent or more, that arrested driver will be accused of a DUI per se charge, meaning that (if the jury believes that numeric reading, after hearing all evidence) the person can be convicted of having an unlawful alcohol level while driving.

Those arrested for ANY impaired driving case in the Peach State, need to immediately engage a DUI lawyer skilled in winning these complex cases. Once their plastic license is confiscated and they receive a paper form talking about this administrative suspension, the CLOCK starts TICKING, and only 30 days are allowed to either appeal or (if eligible) install and IID (ignition interlock device).

Underage Drivers facing a DUI charge. Drivers who (at the time of the police encounter) are under 21 years of age are held to a "zero tolerance." In Georgia, that phrase is defined as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 gr. % or higher, within 3 hours of the driving ending. This very tiny numeric value is about a 1/2 beer or less and is used in GA in order to allow for the Intoxilyzer 9000’s “margin of error.”

Being Over the Legal Alcohol Limit: Georgia DUI per se

Georgia law also has a “per se” law which states that it is illegal to drive with an amount of certain controlled substances in your system, and one of those substances is alcohol. Georgia’s DUI laws specify a variety of other illicit substances, among them marijuana and other non-prescribed narcotics.

When it comes to prescription medications, if these drugs are taken in higher-than- prescribed amounts or taken but mixed with consuming alcoholic beverages or cannabis, then a DUI-drugs charge can be accused. Under one Georgia Code section applicable to a "combination" of multiple types of substances, a conviction is authorized under OCGA 40-6-391.

A person’s BAC is determined by a breathalyzer or blood test, and the law has established a legal limit of 0.08 grams % for adult drivers ages 21 and over. If you are found operating a motor vehicle with a BAC that exceeds this legal limit, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

In addition, DUI laws in GA prohibit ingesting or snorting noxious vapors such as model airplane glue, paint thinner fumes or gasoline. Such chemicals can cause a person to lose consciousness or temporarily lose control of the vehicle.

When is a DUI a Felony in the State of Georgia?

For any 4th DUI within a 10-year period, this new arrest will be a felony, if convicted. Georgia measures prior offenses based in dates of arrest, for all charges.

Vehicular Homicide GA, and Harsh State Prison Time. However, when a DUI-related crash occurs resulting in personal injury, then potential felony consequences are “in play.” Georgia laws are among the nation’s toughest, in terms of jail sentencing.

For serious bodily injury or death, even a driver with his or her lifetime 1st offense DUI can face a 15-year state prison term. If multiple victims are involved, then this potential punishment can be consecutively stacked, end-to-end, for each grievously injured person or dead person, from that collision with another vehicle or pedestrian.

How do GA DUI Penalties Increase for any Repeat Offenses?

The consequences for a first DUI conviction in Georgia can include jail time (followed by the balance of one year on probation), monetary fines, and a driver license suspension, “by operation of law.” To regain your plastic license later, you will have to first complete an alcohol education course called the 20-hour “Risk Reduction Program.”

Many of the larger population counties now have set up a special “accountability court” that is called the DUI Court program. This intensive probation court swaps potential months in jail for a participant’s agreement to be regularly tested for using substances that violate probation. The rigid rules and weekly meetings don’t fit some clients’ job duties or preferences for an alternative program.

Man With DUIBeing convicted of a first-offense DUI is not a crime that can later be expunged, as in Michigan, Mississippi, California, and several other states. In addition, no first offender diversion or “withholding of judgment” statutes exist in the Peach State.

This is why seeking a skilled Atlanta DUI lawyer (or other city location, like Athens) is needed to thoroughly challenge every aspect of the State’s DUI-DWI charges. Because Georgia has nearly 1000 different courts that can process a DUI plea or trial, having a highly experienced driving under the influence professional is imperative.

A DUI first conviction for may result in a jail sentence of as little as 24 hours. Some courts are less willing to offer that little bit of jail time.

Expect to pay fine of up to $1,000 plus statutory surcharges. Fines increase sharply for repeat offenders. Either a license suspension (1st offense) or a revocation (3rd of more within 5 years) of your GA driver’s license.

A possibly early reinstatement may be available after 120 days, but no full plastic license for 18 months on a 2nd DUI in 5 years. A third DUI in GA within five years will trigger a “habitual violator” status, and zero chance of any driving for 30 months. For a more complete list of possible penalties and inconveniences of being convicted of drunken driving, read Mr. Head’s list of 97 Consequences.

Georgia DUI Penalty Infographic

Hiring a Drunk Driving Lawyer to Fight my DUI Case in the Peach State

For a third DUI offense, the consequences are even more serious and can include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, license suspension of 5 to 10 years, and “risk reduction” safety education courses. Additionally, a third DUI conviction can result in the offender being classified as a habitual offender, which can result in a longer license revocation of five (5) years, higher fines, and longer jail sentences.

By hiring a drunk driving lawyer to fight your case, you may be able to get the charges reduced or even dismissed. A good attorney will be able to provide you with the best possible defense and a better chance of avoiding the serious consequences that come with a DUI conviction in Georgia.

Super Lawyers Yager, Head, and Kohn

For a DUI in Georgia, which Criminal Defense Lawyers are Highest Rated?

The highest rated Criminal Defense Lawyers in Georgia for a DUI are those with experience and expertise in DUI defense. They should be familiar with the state’s DUI laws and have a proven track record of success in defending their clients. It is also important to find an attorney who will offer you personalized service and work hard to ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Those who are worried about the status of your out-of-state or Georgia driver’s license, due to a DUI refusal, talking to a highly rated legal professional is critically important. This administrative suspension can end your ability to operate a motor vehicle for up to twelve (12) full months.

A new DUI ignition interlock alternative law in Georgia, OCGA 40-5-64.1, was enacted in July 2017. This statute may offer you an ignition interlock limited driving permit. It is essential that you learn more about the options available to you regarding this license suspension. Get in touch with us and we’ll be pleased to explain which option may be the best fit for you.

Can I Get a FREE Consultation Lawyer Meeting?

Yes, you can. Either by virtual meeting, phone call or an in-person meeting, the best DWI-DUI lawyers on Georgia will talk with you about your case facts. If that no-cost initial consultation is not offered by the Atlanta criminal lawyer you call, hang up!

Most importantly, look for a drunk driving attorney who is willing to aggressively fight your case and do whatever it takes to get the best possible outcome. Never pay a fee to meet with a Georgia attorney, unless you are asking a different legal professional to give you a second opinion and “case review,” after you already hired another lawyer for DUI defense.