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Georgia DUI Laws

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Summary of the Georgia DUI Laws - DUI Laws of Georgia

Georgia DUI Laws are prosecuted forcefully and severe consequences are imposed that can have a significant impact on your ability to work, attend school, and especially your finances. The DUI laws in Georgia criminalize driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, whether illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter, and toxic vapors to the extent that it is less safe for the person to do so.  Every year the legislature meets and adds additions sanctions and penalties to the DUI Laws in Georgia

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(1) states that a person shall not “drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.” This offense is commonly referred to as “DUI less safe.” This does not mean that the person must have actually committed any less safe act while driving, or that the law enforcement officer making the arrest actually saw the person drive a vehicle.  An officer can use his observations during the DUI investigation to support this determination.  During the investigation, the officer will be look for clues such as the admission of drinking, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, fumbling, repeating questions or comments, the odor of alcohol on the person's breath, and providing incorrect or inconsistent answers.  Field sobriety tests are often administered and are designed to assess the driver's mental and physical impairment.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(2) prohibits driving “under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.” Any amount of a contraband substance in your system constitutes DUI drugs, however, the State must also prove that the drug rendered you incapable of driving safely. If charged with driving under the influence of a prescription drug, having a prescription for the drug is not a defense to this charge. If the levels of the prescription drug in your system were within “therapeutic” levels, it can be argued that you were not actually “under the influence” of the drug.

Georgia DUI law also prohibits “any person to drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while the person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended.” O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(5). This charge is referred to as “DUI per se” and requires the prosecutor admit an alcohol test result into evidence to prove that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.08 grams or more.

If there is a chemical test of the person's blood alcohol concentration certain presumptions can be made about the person's level of impairment during trial.  These presumptions can be rebutted, however, due to the fact that people respond to and process alcohol differently.  If the person's BAC was 0.05 grams or less, it is presumed that the person was not impaired. This inference can be rebutted, however, by evidence of erratic driving, violations of Georgia traffic laws or other clues of impairment observed by the officer.  No inference is created for BAC levels greater than 0.05 grams, but less than 0.08 grams.

DUI law in Georgia requires law enforcement officers to read an Implied Consent Notice to any person arrested for DUI before requesting a chemical test to determine the person's blood alcohol concentration. The arresting officer must read the appropriate notice depending on the person's age and license class.  There are separate notices for drivers age 21 or over, drivers under age 21, and commercial drivers.  This is due to the differences in the “per se” level of impairment proscribed by the DUI laws in Georgia.

The “per se” level of impairment for drivers aged 21 or older is 0.08 grams or more, meaning that if your BAC is at or greater than that level, no matter your level of tolerance, you are, by law, under the influence of alcohol and “too drunk to drive.”  The “per se” level of impairment is much lower for persons under the age of 21 and commercial drivers.  Any person under the age of 21 can be charged with DUI if his or her blood alcohol concentration is 0.02 grams percent or more within 3 hours of driving, whether or not you were actually impaired or a less safe driver. Commercial drivers can be convicted of DUI per se with a 0.04 BAC.

The Georgia DUI Laws have a 10-year look-back period for prior convictions for the purposes of determining mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.  A first or second DUI conviction is a misdemeanor.  A third DUI conviction within a 10 year period is a high and aggravated misdemeanor. A fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within 10 years is a felony offense but only convictions obtained on or after July 1, 2008, will be considered.

First DUI Penalties in Georgia

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is 12 months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine plus court surcharges.  The minimum penalty for a first DUI conviction within a 10 year period is 24 hours in jail, which may still be waived as time served, and a $300.00 fine.  Other mandatory requirements are 40 hours community service, a DUI Risk Reduction course (commonly known as “DUI School”), and 12 months probation less any time served in jail, which may be supervised or potentially non-reporting and may allow for random drug and alcohol screening.  An Alcohol and Drug Evaluation may be required, but can be waived by the judge at his or her discretion.

Drivers Under the Age of 21 Charged with DUI throughout Georgia

The same sentencing requirements apply to drivers under the age of 21 at the time of conviction, with the following exceptions. If your BAC was lower than 0.08 grams or you refused to take the State test, the judge can sentence you to as few as 20 hours community service and no jail time is required, but the judge may order jail time at his or her discretion given the circumstances of your case.

For license suspension purposes, the look-back period to determine the number of prior convictions is only 5 years. The license suspension for a first DUI conviction in Georgia is 12 months, but if you complete DUI school and pay a reinstatement fee you will be eligible for early reinstatement after 120 days.  If you are 21 years old or older, you can apply for a limited use driving permit for the duration of the license suspension that will allow you to drive to work, school, substance abuse counseling, DUI school, for medical care and treatment purposes, to pharmacies to drop off or pick up prescriptions, court appearances, probation appointments, and community service.  If an immediate family member is unlicensed, you can drive them to work, school, medical care, and to pharmacies to drop off and pick up prescriptions.

For drivers under the age of 21, if your blood alcohol concentration was less than 0.08 grams or you refused to submit to the State-administered breath test, the license suspension period is 6 months.  If your BAC was 0.08 grams or more, the license suspension period is 12 months.  No limited-use driving permit or early reinstatement is available to any driver under the age of 21.

For convictions of DUI drugs, the license suspension is a “hard” license suspension, meaning no limited use permit is available for the entire period of suspension.  If you were also charged with any other drug-related offenses, those charges may also carry license suspensions that will run consecutive to any active license suspension already on your record.

Second DUI Penalties in Georgia

The maximum penalty for a second DUI conviction in Georgia within 10 years is 12 months incarceration and a $1,000.00 fine plus court surcharges.  The minimum penalty is 72 hours in jail, with credit for any time served after arrest, and a $600.00 fine.  Other mandatory requirements are 30 days (240 hours) community service, DUI school, 12 months probation less any time served in jail, and a clinical evaluation and any recommended substance abuse treatment.

If this is your second DUI conviction within 5 years, however, there are additional penalties.  There is a $25.00 fee to publish a notice of your conviction and your photograph in your county newspaper. You will also be required to surrender the license plates to any vehicle registered in your name.

For a second DUI conviction in Georgia within 5 years, the maximum license suspension is 3 years.  The first 120 days is a “hard” suspension, and thereafter you can apply for a restricted permit that will allow you to drive for limited purposes conditioned upon the installation of an ignition interlock device for a minimum period of 8 months. In order to apply for an ignition interlock device limited permit you will have to present a certificate of eligibility from a drug court program or proof of enrollment in substance abuse treatment. A clinical evaluation must be completed prior to enrolling in a treatment program.  The certificate of eligibility from a drug court program is only issued at the discretion of the judge during sentencing.  The judge can decide to not issue the certificate for any reason. The ignition interlock device limited driving permit will allow you to drive only to work, school, regularly scheduled meetings for alcohol or substance abuse, monthly monitoring visits with the permit holder's ignition interlock device service provider.

After the period expires requiring an ignition interlock device, you can apply for a limited permit without the ignition interlock device restriction. After 8 months with an ignition interlock device installed, the ignition interlock device requirement can be lifted and you can apply for a limited driving permit without this restriction for the remaining 6 months of the suspension.  After 18 months, you will be eligible for early reinstatement of your full driving privileges if you provide proof that an ignition interlock device was maintained for period of 8 months or order from a court exempting you from this requirement, proof of completion of a substance abuse treatment program (if required by the clinical evaluation), and a reinstatement fee.

Third DUI Penalties in Georgia

The maximum penalty for a third DUI conviction in Georgia within 10 years is 12 months in jail and a $5,000.00 fine plus court surcharges. The minimum penalty is 15 days in jail, with credit for any time served after arrest, and a $1,000.00 fine.  Because a third DUI conviction is a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor, the amount of earned time allowance will be limited for jail sentences. The judge can suspend half of the fine if you undergo an alcohol or drug treatment program approved by the court.  Other mandatory requirements are 30 days (240 hours) community service, DUI school, 12 months probation less any time served in jail, a clinical evaluation and any recommended substance abuse treatment.

If this is a third DUI conviction within 5 years, you will also be subject to a $25.00 fee to publish a notice of your conviction and your photograph in your county newspaper. You will be required to surrender the license plates to any vehicle registered in your name. Further, you will be declared a habitual violator.  Any person declared a habitual violator must forfeit their vehicle to the state, though you can petition the judge to transfer the title to another family member if the forfeiture would cause your family financial hardship.

Habitual Violator Penalties in Georgia

You may also face habitual violator status if you have been convicted of certain other offenses within the last 5 years.  These other offenses are:

  • Homicide by Vehicle
  • Serious Injury by Vehicle
  • Fleeing of Attempting to Elude
  • Racing
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run)
  • Fraudulent or Fictitious Use of or Application for a Driver's License

If you are declared a habitual violator your driver's license will be revoked for five years.  After two years, you may apply for a probationary driver's license for the remaining three years if you meet certain conditions and you would suffer extreme hardship if the probationary license were not issued. Certain restrictions can be placed on your use of the probationary license such as specific places you can travel to and from, routes you are allowed to travel, times of travel, and the specific vehicles you are allowed to operate. Any person whose driver's license was revoked due to a conviction for DUI after an accident in which any person lost his life will not be eligible for a probationary license during the revocation period.

If you are convicted of operating a vehicle while your license is revoked due to your status as a habitual violator before you have been issued a probationary license or the expiration of the five year revocation period, you will be guilty of a felony punishable by one to five years incarceration and a minimum fine of $750.00.  Any person declared a habitual violator that is convicted of operating a vehicle while his or her license after the five year revocation period but before being issued a driver's license is guilty of a misdemeanor.

If you were declared a habitual violator after being convicted of violating the DUI laws in Georgia three or more times within 5 years and are then convicted of operating a vehicle during the five year revocation period and before you have been issued a probationary license you will be guilty of the felony of habitual impaired driving which is punishable by incarceration for one to five years and a minimum fine of $1,000.00.

If you are convicted of violating the conditions of your probationary license, your license will be revoked and you will not be eligible to apply for a regular driver's license until the expiration of the original five year revocation period or for two years, whichever is greater. In addition, you will not be able to apply for another probationary license for a period of five years.

4th DUI Penalties in Georgia

If you are convicted of violating the conditions of your probationary license, your license will be revoked and you will not be eligible to apply for a regular driver's license until the expiration of the original five year revocation period or for two years, whichever is greater. In addition, you will not be able to apply for another probationary license for a period of five years.

The maximum penalty for a fourth DUI conviction in Georgia within 10 years is 5 years in jail and a $5,000.00 fine plus court surcharges. The minimum penalty is a one year jail sentence of which all but 90 days can be probated, with credit for any time served after arrest, and a $1,000.00 fine.  The judge can suspend half of the fine if you undergo an alcohol or drug treatment program approved by the court.  Other mandatory requirements are 60 days (480 hours) community service, DUI school, 5 years probation less any time served in jail, a clinical evaluation and any recommended substance abuse treatment. All community service can be suspended if you are sentenced to serve 3 years in jail or more.

Georgia DUI Laws For CDL Holders:

Commercial drivers convicted of a first DUI offense will face a one year disqualification of their commercial driving privileges.  Any subsequent DUI conviction requires a lifetime CDL disqualification. In defending a DUI case for a commercial driver, it is important to consider the other offenses charged as well as the circumstances of the arrest.  Any conviction for a “major traffic violation” will result in a one year CDL disqualification.  In addition to DUI, refusing to submit to a state administered chemical test requested by a law enforcement officer is considered a major traffic violation.  Other more minor offenses associated with DUI arrests may be considered “serious traffic violations” for the purposes of a CDL disqualification. Speeding, reckless driving, and improper lane change are all serious traffic violations.  For a second conviction of a serious traffic violation within 3 years there will be a 60 day disqualification.

There is help - We can fight and win your Georgia DUI Case:

When you are arrested, it's common to panic and become paralyzed.  This can cause you further problems along the way.  You only have 10 days for your Georgia DUI Lawyer to appeal the license suspension against you.  You need to act immediately to protect your rights and your freedom.  You need to act to protect your privilege to drive in Georgia.  We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Contact a top-rated Georgia DUI Lawyer today.  We are here 24 hours a day and all holidays because you should not have to wait until Monday to get help.

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    Richard Lawson

    Richard Lawson has devoted his entire career to DUI Defense. He ex...

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Recent Case Results

  • This case was in Helen Municipal Court.  The client was charged with a DUI and four counts of DUI Child Endangerment.  In Georgia, for every child under the age of 14 in a vehicle it is considered a separate DUI offense.  The client would have been declared an habitual violator from one arrest an... Read On

  • Client was charged with a suspended license because he did not reinstate his privilege to drive after the expiration of his restricted license.  Per my advice, the client properly reinstated his license the day after he was charged.  Case Dismissed in Cobb County State Court.  Read On

  • Client was a resident of New York who was arrested while he was visiting Georgia for pleasure. He was charged with DUI, Reckless Driving, and Speeding 37 MPH over the speed limit. We were able to get the client an unbelievable outcome in Hampton, Georgia. His DUI dismissed, his speeding ticket wa... Read On

Recommendations

  • Mr. Lawson surpassed my expectations

    Not only is his previous experience as a DUI prosecutor, educational background and experience in the courtroom a plus, but his promptness in returning my telephone calls and answering my questions helped me through the most difficult time of my life. He restored my faith that anything was possib... Read On

  • Kimberly Berry is a hard working, honest, future saving, SUPERIOR Attorney!

    Our teenager went off to College (August 2012) with a "You don't have to worry about me, I will not get into trouble, I know what I'm doing" attitude. Two MIP's within the first three months and a citation four months later, proved that attitude wrong. After we had a "come to Jesus" discussion wi... Read On

  • One of the Best!

    IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED A DUI CALL MR. LAWSON!!! I am a former military service member and currently a Federal Employee with a security clearance. I was pulled over in Georgia, arrested refused the breath analyzer, and was charged with DUI. I found Mr. Lawson’s website, which had many outstanding re... Read On

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When you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, finding the right Lawyer is Job #1. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson we will investigate your case and find the best possible legal defense to your DUI in Georgia. You are in good hands with Richard Lawson and his associates. We will work tirelessly to help you while compassionately holding your hand throughout the entire DUI Defense Process.

Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys

At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!