Do DUI Penalties Vary Depending on the Jurisdiction?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Dec 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

In Georgia, DUI Penalties Vary Depending on the Jurisdiction:

There are statutory minimum and maximum consequences for being convicted of a DUI in Georgia.  In most jurisdictions, the penalties will fall somewhere between the minimum and maximum.

Georgia courts can sentence someone to time in jail, probation, fines, community service, DUI School, substance abuse counseling, court-supervised counseling, Madd Mothers Victim Impact Panels, and restitution to any victims.   

All sentences will include some, but not all, of the components of the above-listed possibilities.  

The possibility of a Reduction to a Lesser Offense:

In some jurisdictions, prosecutors and judges are more understanding of first time DUI arrests. In those jurisdictions, when a person is not severely impaired, it is possible to get the case reduced to reckless driving. I call this the "courtesy reduction to reckless driving."

However, in most Georgia jurisdictions, prosecutors will not reduce a case to reckless driving unless there is a valid legal or factual reason.  As a result, we fully investigate all of our client's cases before making a decision as to how to move forward.  

Whether Prior Offenses are Considered and to What Extent:

There are mandatory increases in punishment for the number of DUI's a person has had within a 10-year period.  This is controlled by statute and cannot be altered.  

That being said, nothing has ever stopped a judge or prosecutor from considering DUI convictions outside of the 10-year period. 

As a result, some courts will hold prior offenses outside of the 10-year period against someone with a new arrest, and others will not.  Whether prior offenses are used against someone will make an enormous difference in potential consequences and punishment. 

Jail Time after a Plea:

There is a mandatory 24-hours in jail when someone pleads guilty to a First DUI in Georgia

Some courts strictly adhere to the mandatory minimum consequence.  However, there is a loophole.  Per the misdemeanor sentencing statute in Georgia, any portion of a working day served in jail can be considered a full day.  Thus, some courts allow this loophole to allow people convicted of a first DUI to avoid going back to jail. 

Jail Time after a Trial:

If a jury or judge convicts someone of a DUI after a trial, almost all judges will sentence a person to time in jail.  The standard sentence for a first offense conviction is approximately ten days in custody.

However, just as in a guilty plea, a judge has the legal discretion to sentence someone without sending them back to jail.  As for probation, anyone convicted of a Georgia DUI must serve at least 12 months on probation.

Special Conditions of Probation:

The other terms of a person's sentence are legally called “special conditions of probation.”  As stated above, these conditions include payment of fines, community service, DUI School, substance abuse counseling, court-supervised counseling, Madd Mothers Victim Impact Panels, and restitution to any victims.   

Every court uses some, but not necessarily all of the above-listed special conditions.  Some courts have a more rigid sentencing policy, and others will fashion a sentence suited to an individual.   


Georgia does not have a pretrial diversion or differed adjudication for DUI.  That being said, some rural courts “informally” have such programs.  They are extralegal, meaning beyond the authority of the law and not regulated by the law. 

No one can count on an extralegal treatment of his or her Georgia DUI.  If your Georgia DUI Attorney works out an informal disposition of a case, consider yourself lucky. 

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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