By: Ex-cop Cory Yager, legal book co-author and veteran DUI defense lawyer near me
According to police drunk driving statistics, DUI charges in GA are brought against a suspected drunk driver (or DUI drugs Georgia) an average of roughly 1500 times each month. Most DUI offenses in the Peach State are not charged as a felony, unless arising from drunk driving fatalities, or a DUI case involving an at-fault accident resulting in serious bodily injury to others.
Plus, a 4th DUI within 10 years becomes a felony DUI in GA. In calculating the ten year “lookback” period, these repeat offenders’ dates-of-arrest are used, not conviction dates.
Is there any difference between DUI and DWI? The two acronyms are talking about the same impaired driving crime. Each state in America writes its own laws, and variations on the abbreviations that align with each state’s intoxicated driving laws will vary widely.
In Georgia, operating a motor vehicle anywhere within the state (including on private property) can result in DUI-DWI charges. Georgia has a separate boating under the influence law, but punishments are very similar to DUI laws in GA.
What Is The Meaning of A DUI in Georgia?
“D.U.I.” stands for driving under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of drugs or any other impairing substance, including noxious vapors. By including an extremely broad and all-encompassing DUI definition in OCGA 40-6-391, alcohol impairment may be the leading cause of DUI.
However, Georgia laws cover impairment by any type of huffed, smoked, injected, or consumed impairing substances or chemicals. When such substances are the suspected cause, the implied consent warning will be read for a DUI blood draw.
The DUI court process. Almost every DUI arrest in Georgia leads to TWO different legal proceedings. This pattern of 2 types of legal actions exists in all states, by virtue of federal guidelines calling for DWI-DUI drivers to immediately be sanctioned under “implied consent laws,” which are civil in nature, not criminal.
One is civil (non-criminal) in nature, and takes away your right to drive, if not handled immediately after your criminal law DUI arrest. This administrative license suspension triggered by Georgia implied consent laws MUST BE HANDLED immediately (no later than 30 days following the arrest date), or the driver faces a 1-year total loss of driving privileges.
“BAC” stands for “blood alcohol content,” and you can quickly and easily check your estimated BAC level with our BAC calculator. A Georgia DUI can be classified as a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI. Felony or misdemeanor depends on the extenuating circumstances of the DUI arrest, and the criminal background of the accused citizen for prior DUIs within the past 10 years, based on dates of arrest.
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.
DUI Laws Unique to Georgia
One aspect that sets Georgia’s DUI laws apart from those of other states is the state’s “per se” law. This law states that if a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a certain level (0.08% for most drivers, 0.04% for commercial drivers, and 0.02% for drivers under 21 years of age), they are considered to be “per se” guilty of DUI. This means that regardless of the person’s level of impairment or their ability to drive safely, they can be convicted of DUI based solely on their BAC level.
Another unique aspect of Georgia’s DUI laws is the state’s “implied consent” law. This law states that all drivers in Georgia are deemed to have given their consent to a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) of their BAC if they are arrested for DUI. If a person refuses to take a chemical test, their license will automatically be suspended for one year and they may face additional penalties if they are convicted of DUI.
Georgia’s DUI laws also include a “zero tolerance” provision for drivers under 21 years of age. This means that if a person under 21 years of age is found to have any amount of alcohol in their system, they can be charged with DUI. Additionally, the state has a “habitual violator” provision, which can result in harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
Another unique aspect of Georgia’s DUI laws is the “look-back period” which is 10 years. This means that prior DUI convictions within the last ten years will be considered in determining the penalties for a current DUI conviction. For example, a second DUI conviction within ten years will result in harsher penalties than a first-time DUI conviction.
The penalties for a DUI conviction in Georgia can be severe, including fines, jail time, and a license suspension. For a first-time DUI conviction, a person can face up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a license suspension for one year. Repeat offenders can face even harsher penalties, including longer jail sentences, higher fines, and longer license suspensions.
More than 15 times since 1981, GA DUI laws have been enacted or revised by the Georgia Legislature. The most recent alteration was to re-write the Georgia implied consent law “notice,” which happened April 28, 2019, after the landmark case of Elliott v. State declared that the prior implied consent notice in GA was constitutionally defective.
Once the new laws go into effect, all judges and prosecutors in Georgia are then held to these higher punishment standards, even if the case is for DUI charges first offense. Multiple DUI laws in GA control license suspensions, points, and license reinstatement after a DUI in GA.
How Long will a DUI stay on your Record in Georgia?
If you are found guilty of a Driving Under the Influence charge in Georgia, it will remain on your record for the rest of your life. The State of GA has NEVER had an expungement law, for DUI convictions.
About half of other states (CA, MI, MS, OR, WA) have some mechanism in place that permits a true first DUI offense to have that State record “restricted.” This type of record restriction can assist in job eligibility, credit score improvement, and possibly even open up more affordable housing options.
Can your lawyers get my DUI case dismissed? No honest DUI attorney near me will make such a promise, since far too much about your case is still unknown. For example, 98% of all police in Georgia should be using body cameras or car cameras to record your driving, your behavior and your words being spoken.
By answering 9 common questions, this article will explain many important facts about DUI laws of Georgia, including the related administrative driver’s license implications. Our DUI defense attorneys provide a NO-COST initial case assessment, that will discuss your possible pre-trial and trial strategies to defend the charges filed against you in the pending case.
Nine (9) Frequently Asked Questions about DUI in Georgia
- “Is DUI a criminal offense?” is YES, in all GA DUI cases. In addition, GA laws have never allowed DUI diversion nor expungement of any conviction of DUI, misdemeanor, or felony, once convicted.
- How long does a DUI stay on your record in Georgia? To the grave. No expunction or record restriction allowed.
- What is the meaning of DUI in Georgia? Georgia has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, and being caught in this state while driving impaired can have serious repercussions. Georgia’s DUI state laws, however, generally apply only to motor vehicles and bicycles, and are not applicable to people riding animals, like horses or mules, like many other states.
- Is your license suspended immediately after a DUI?Yes, in almost all DUI arrests in GA. This non-criminal law suspension is related to what are known as “implied consent” laws. Since 2017, an ignition interlock device option for Georgia residents now exists for most 1st DUI offenders (not available for underage DUI, though).
- What can a DUI lawyer do for you?Only by fighting DUI charges do you have a chance to win, because 100% of those that plead guilty are found guilty. In addition, few criminal law cases are more complex than a DUI in GA, so go with an experienced and successful Georgia law firm.
- What if the vehicle I was in was not moving or was parked? Georgia laws on DUI state that a person must be actually driving or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle to be charged with a GA DUI. Through circumstantial evidence, recent operation of that vehicle can be proven, even when the arrested driver was asleep or passed out, or was behind the wheel and had the “means” to operate that vehicle (e.g., with the ignition key, or key fob, etc.)
- I declined the field sobriety tests yet was still arrested. Will I win this case? These facts align with some of our DUI attorneys’ highest success rates, but other factors can “lower” your chance of getting the DUI dismissed. Bad behavior such as verbally berating the officer, making threats, or physically resisting arrest can make the case far more challenging. Remaining silent is the best option.
- Can I get a CDL with a DUI? Not while the case is pending, or by waiting at least a year after the conviction date if it is a DUI first offense Georgia case.
- Can you drive for Lyft with a DUI, or Uber? Not if the company finds out (for their existing drivers). Plus, they screen all new applicants’ driving histories. These rideshare companies now use DMV-DPS electronic notifications that tell them if any of their current drivers are facing new DUI charges.
In addition, our helpful DUI penalties chart below helps by listing the possible consequences of a DUI conviction for DUI first offense or other repeat offenses. All cases require fines and surcharges, community service hours, jail time or a prison sentence, DUI probation for at least 12 months (minus days served in jail), plus will require completing DUI school to later get reinstated.
All DUI Penalties in Georgia
Being charged with DUI is NOT a conviction! While our Atlanta DUI attorneys focus on NOT allowing you to get convicted of DUI, people always ask us about the penalties if convicted.
The DUI statute (OCGA 40 6 391) mandates these categories of 1st DUI punishment and mandatory minimum DUI penalties (for each category) that cannot be waived. Penalties for your first DUI conviction include:
- Jail sentence of 24 hours or more, when the chemical test from a blood alcohol or breath alcohol was reported to be a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 grams percent or more, from alcohol consumed before the driving ended;
- DUI fines in Georgia ranges from $300 to $1000 fine, but multiple state surcharges typically will double the fine amount;
- Completion of DUI classes for drunk driving charges called “risk reduction,” that is defensive driving course (twenty-hour course taught over several days) which is our state’s DUI school;
- Community service hours for not fewer than 40 hours on a first DUI case;
- Driver license suspension for 120 days, with a limited driving permit available for 1st offenders who are age 21 and over at the time of sentencing; and
- Probation of 12 months, minus any days of jail time following the offender’s DUI arrest. Under GA laws, the 12 months on probation cannot be waived, suspended, or terminated early.
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.
Being 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.
What is a Felony DUI in Georgia?
Naturally, any DUI fatalities after a DUI accident will be accused as felonies. These felony DUI charges will carry the harshest potential DUI penalties, including significant DUI jail time, even for a first DUI conviction that caused death or grievous bodily injury to others.
Our firm’s DUI lawyers write the State of Georgia’s leading law book on GA DUI laws. The 1400-page treatise is annually updated by our three law partners through our publisher, Thomson Reuters.
Call today to speak with William C. Head or one of our other top-rated DUI lawyers in Georgia, and learn how to defend your DUI charges, even with a high BAC test result. Our number is 1-888-839-4384, and our Georgia attorneys for DUI near me are here to help you, day or night.
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.