In Georgia, it is against the law to "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." O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a). 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. This offense is commonly referred to as "DUI less safe." Georgia DUI Laws are designed to give Georgia Prosecutors many ways to attempt to convict someone of DUI in Georgia.
Further, it is against Georgia DUI law for 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 offense is commonly referred to as "DUI per se" and requires the State have an alcohol test result in evidence to prove that your BAC was 0.08 grams percent or more, as opposed to "DUI less safe," which only requires the State to prove that you were under the influence of alcohol to the extent that you were a less safe driver.
This can be an important distinction when the evidence only shows the mere presence of alcohol but no "manifestations of impairment" were observed. An odor of alcohol or a positive Alco-sensor result shows that you likely had consumed some amount of alcohol, but does not show that you were actually impaired. Poor performance on field sobriety evaluations, however, is evidence of impairment.
If there is a chemical test of the person's blood alcohol content (BAC), certain presumptions can be made about the person's level of impairment. 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 percent 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 of 0.06 grams percent or 0.07 grams percent. This can be a defense under DUI laws.
As stated before, the "per se" level of impairment is a BAC of 0.08 grams percent or more. This level is much lower for person under the age of 21 and commercial drivers. Persons under the age of 21 are guilty of DUI per se if their BAC is 0.02 grams percent or more. Commercial drivers can be convicted of DUI per se with a 0.04 BAC. This shows the contradictory nature of Georgia DUI law. If you are under 21 or a commercial driver you are guilty of DUI per se with a chemical test result of 0.04 BAC, yet the statute creates an inference that any driver with that BAC is not impaired. This is why it is so important for any attorney to get the results of a chemical test excluded in these types of cases.
If you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, you will face severe penalties. Frist and second convictions are considered misdemeanor offenses, while a 3rd conviction is considered a high and aggravated misdemeanor. Georgia DUI law calls for a maximum penalty for a 1st DUI conviction of 12 months' incarceration and a $1,000.00 fine plus court surcharges. The minimum penalty is 24 hours in jail, which may still be waived, 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.
The maximum license suspension for a 1st DUI conviction in Georgia is 12 months, but if you complete DUI school you will be eligible for early reinstatement after 120 days. If you are age 21 or older, you will be eligible for a limited use permit for the duration of the license suspension that will allow you to drive for work purposes, to and from school (including DUI school), and to seek medical care and treatment.
If your case involves any aggravating factors, such as an accident involving other vehicles, injury or damage to a person or property, or high breath or blood test results that may signify drug or alcohol abuse requiring treatment, you may be facing harsh penalties even if it is your first DUI conviction in your lifetime.
The maximum penalty for a 2nd 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 clinical evaluation and any recommended substance abuse treatment.
If this is your 2nd violation of Georgia DUI law 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. You will also be required to install an ignition interlock device in each of your vehicles for a minimum period of 6 months.
For a 2nd DUI conviction in Georgia within 5 years, the maximum license suspension is 3 years. You cannot get a limited use permit during the first 12 months of the suspension period. After the 12 month hard suspension, you can apply for an ignition interlock permit, provided you have completed DUI school and a clinical evaluation as well as any recommended substance abuse treatment. The ignition interlock permit allows you to drive a vehicle with a certified ignition interlock device installed for a 6 month period. After this 18 month period, you will be eligible for early reinstatement of your full driving privileges.
The maximum penalty for a 3rd 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. 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 3rd 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 also be required to surrender the license plates to any vehicle registered in your name. You will also be required to install an ignition interlock device in each of your vehicles for a minimum period of 6 months. Further, you will be declared a habitual violator. Any person declared a habitual violator must forfeit their vehicle to the state, though a Georgia DUI lawyer can petition the judge to transfer the title to another family member if the forfeiture would cause your family financial hardship.
Your license will be revoked for a 5 year period if you are a habitual violator. After 2 years, you can apply for a probationary license to use for the remaining 3 year revocation period that may have restrictions as to the places, routes, and times you are allowed to travel. If you violate the terms of your probationary license, it will be revoked and you cannot reapply for a regular driver's license until the original 5 year revocation period has ended or for 2 years – whichever is greater. If you are convicted of any offense during the revocation period, you will be guilty of a felony and punished by a minimum fine of $1,000.00 and 12 months in jail.
For drivers under the age of 21 who are convicted of violating Georgia DUI law, if your blood alcohol concentration was less that 0.08 grams percent 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 percent 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.
The maximum penalty for a 1st DUI conviction in Georgia is 12 months incarceration and a $1,000.00 fine plus court surcharges. The minimum penalty is 24 hours in jail, which may still be waived, and a $300.00 fine. If you are under age 21 and your BAC was lower than 0.08 grams percent or you refused to take the State test, no jail time is required, however the judge may order jail time at his or her discretion given the circumstances of your case. Other mandatory requirements are 20 hours community service for refusals or tests showing a BAC lower than 0.08 grams percent, 40 hours community service for test cases showing a BAC of 0.08 grams percent or more, 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.
For any subsequent DUI conviction in 5 years, the minimum license suspension period is 12 months with no limited use permit or early reinstatement for a driver under the age of 21 and other serious conditions must be met before your license can be reinstated. Other penalties may apply to a subsequent DUI conviction, as well, and you should consult a Georgia DUI specialist to advise you on the potential consequences.
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.
Georgia DUI law also prohibits driving "under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive." O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(2). 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. Having a prescription for the drug is not a defense to this charge. If the levels of the drug in your system were within "therapeutic" levels, your Georgia DUI attorney will argue that you were not actually "under the influence" of the drug.
For convictions of DUI drugs, the license suspension for a first offense in five years is 180 days. A DUI Drug or Alcohol risk reduction course must be completed in order to have you license reinstated. For a second offense in five years, the suspension is one year. These are "hard" license suspensions, meaning no limited use permit is available for the entire period of suspension. If you were charged with any other drug-related offenses, those charges may also carry license suspensions that will run consecutive to any other license suspension. For a third conviction in 5 years, the license suspension is five years and a limited driving permit is available after the first two years of the suspension.
Under Georgia DUI law, you can be charged with the offense of Serious Injury by Vehicle if you cause another person bodily harm while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-394 defines this as "cause[ing] bodily hard to another by depriving him of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless through the violation of Code Section 4-6-390 [reckless driving] or 40-6-391 [DUI]."
In any DUI serious injury by vehicle case, the State must prove that any serious injuries were caused by your act of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. "Serious Injury" can include fractured bone, severe burns, disfigurement, and dismemberment, partial or total loss of sight or hearing, or loss of consciousness. To be "serious," the injury does not need to be permanent.
Georgia's implied consent law states that any person involved in a traffic accident resulting in serious injuries or fatalities must submit to a blood test with drug screen. DUI Serious Injury By Vehicle is a felony offense in Georgia and punishable by imprisonment for no less than one year nor more than 15 years. The minimum license suspension period is 3 years with no limited use permit or early reinstatement. If you are convicted of committing certain offenses three or more times within a five year period you will be declared a habitual violator. These predicate offenses are:
- Homicide by Vehicle
- Serious Injury by Vehicle
- Fleeing of Attempting to Elude
- Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run)
- Fraudulent or Fictitious Use of or Application for a Driver's License
Any person declared a habitual violator will have his or her driver's license revoked for five years. After two years, you may apply for a probationary driver's license for up to 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 Georgia DUI law three or more times in five 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.