In Georgia, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is typically treated as a misdemeanor offense. However, as with most provisions of law, there are exceptions to this general rule. There are several circumstances when a DUI arrest can become a Felony DUI.
Multiple DUI Offenses:
A fourth DUI within 10 years is a felony. This carries a mandatory 1-5 year sentence. At least 90 days must be served in custody, and the balance may be probated. The minimum fine is $1,000 but may be as high as $5,000. A minimum of 60 days of community service is required, unless the individual is sentenced to three (3) years to serve; in this case the community service may be suspended. A clinical evaluation and DUI school are also required.
If, however, the 10-year period commenced prior to July 1, 2008, the fourth DUI conviction will be treated as a third conviction.
Multiple Child Endangerment Charges:
A third or subsequent charge for child endangerment will be treated as a felony. Child endangerment occurs when an individual is transporting a child under 14 while driving under the influence. This charge does not merge with DUI, nor do multiple child endangerment charges merge with each other. Typically an individual carrying multiple children in the car receives a separate child endangerment charge for each child he or she is transporting.
As a result, receiving a single, first lifetime DUI with three children in the car can force an individual into felony status (see Multiple DUI Offenses above).
Serious Injury by Vehicle:
Serious Injury by Vehicle occurs when an individual causes bodily harm to another by “depriving him of a member of his body, rendering a member of his body useless, seriously disfiguring his body, or causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any part of the body useless while driving under the influence or driving recklessly. This law does not require that any malicious intent to harm be proven. The minimum sentence for serious injury by vehicle is one year in custody; the maximum is 15 years in custody.
Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Feticide:
There are two degrees of vehicular homicide. Only first degree vehicular homicide is a felony offense. Vehicular homicide in the first degree occurs when an individual causes the death of another person while driving under the influence, driving recklessly, overtaking a school bus, fleeing or attempting to elude the police, or leaving the scene of an accident. It is also first degree vehicular homicide when an individual who has been declared a habitual violator (which occurs after 3 DUIs in a 5 year period) causes the death of another person by operating a vehicle while the habitual violator's license is in revocation.
The minimum sentence for conviction of first degree vehicular homicide is 3 years in custody, with a maximum of 15 years in custody. For a habitual violator, the minimum sentence is 5 years. At least one year must be served in custody; the remainder may be probated.
In conclusion, if you are facing any of these charges, you cannot do it alone. For all of these charges, if it can be proven that you were not driving under the influence, your chances of a reduced sentence increases dramatically. This is why an experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney is so important. Our Atlanta DUI Attorneys are here 24/7 to help when you need us most.