If you’ve been a victim of drunk driving in Georgia, you may wish to understand what the laws against drunk driving are so you can consider your legal options.
In this article, we explore the laws against drunk driving in Georgia and what personal injury compensation you may claim for.
What are the DUI laws in GA and when is a person in violation of them?
In Georgia, there are two ways in which a driver may violate driving under the influence (DUI) laws:
- A law enforcement officer determines a person is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while driving;
- A person’s chemical test (blood, or breath) result is 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or higher (0.04% or more if driving a commercial vehicle and 0.02% or more if under 21 years old).
What are the consequences of being convicted of a DUI?
If someone is arrested for a DUI in Georgia, the state will deal with both a criminal case and a license suspension separately. The Georgia criminal court will deal with criminal charges and the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) will handle license suspensions.
The Georgia criminal court can inflict the following criminal penalties on a drunk driver:
- Jail time;
- Community service.
The DDS can impose administrative penalties, including:
- Suspension or revocation of driver’s license.
In general, the higher the BAC, the more severe the penalties may be. Multiple convictions may also lead to greater sentencing.
Penalties: Do you lose your license immediately after a DUI in Georgia?
If a drunk driver is convicted, they may face penalties based on the statutory guidelines. Penalties are split into criminal penalties (served by the Georgia criminal court) and driver’s license penalties (served by the DDS). The penalties vary depending on how many prior offenses a person has been convicted of and a few other considerations as highlighted in the sections below.
A drunk driver may face the following criminal penalties if convicted of a DUI:
- First offense: 10 days up to one year jail time, a fine from $300 up to $1,000, and up to 40 hours of community service.
- Second offense: 90 days up to one year jail time, a fine from $600 up to $1,000, and a minimum of 30 days of community service.
- Third offense: 120 days up to one year jail time, a fine from $1,000 up to $5,000, and a minimum of 30 days of community service.
- Fourth offense: Elevation to a felony, one to five years in state prison, and up to a $5,000 fine.
Convicted drivers will be placed on probation for a period of 12 months, less any time served in jail. Before starting probation, they must serve at least 24 hours in jail for their first offense, 72 hours in jail for their second offense, and 15 days in jail for their third offense.
The person under trial must complete an alcohol and drug clinical evaluation and follow any recommended treatment program. If it is their second offense, they must also complete a DUI alcohol or drug use risk reduction program.
If the drunk driver was transporting a minor passenger when they were convicted then they may be charged with a separate offense of child endangerment. A child endangerment conviction will add up to 12 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines to the normal DUI penalties they will face.
If a person is convicted of a second DUI within five years, they must surrender their driver’s license plates and will not get them back until their driver’s license is reinstated. On a third or subsequent DUI conviction, the judge will order that the vehicle driven during the offense be forfeited and sold.
Driver’s License Penalties
A drunk driver may face the following driver’s license penalties if convicted of a DUI (based on the number of convictions within the last five years):
- First offense: Up to a 12-month suspension, although it may be reinstated after 120 days after completing a DUI education program and paying a $200 reinstatement fee.
- Second offense: Up to a three-year suspension, although it may be reinstated after 18 months after completing a DUI education program and paying a $200 reinstatement fee.
- Third offense: Permanent revocation, but they may apply for a probationary license after three years.
- Injury or death DUI: Three-year suspension and they are ineligible for early reinstatement and a hardship license.
Hardship license: A person may apply for a hardship license that allows restricted driving from places like work and school. They are only eligible for a hardship license if the DUI they are convicted of is not a collision DUI and they have not been convicted of a prior DUI within the last five years. Their license will be effective during the suspension period and is subject to an ignition interlock device (IID) and enrollment in treatment or accountability court. If they have a prior DUI in the last five years, then they can apply for a hardship license after completing their 120 days of license suspension.
Implied consent: If you drive in Georgia, you are considered to have given your consent to alcohol or a drug test of your breath, blood, or urine. If a driver is arrested for a DUI but refuses to submit to a lawful request for a chemical test, they will be subject to license suspension:
- The first offense in five years: One-year suspension, but it can be reinstated after 30 days and completion of a DUI education program.
- Second offense in five years: Three-year suspension, but it can be reinstated after 18 months and completion of a DUI education program.
- Third offense in five years: Five-year suspension, but a probationary license can be obtained after two years and completion of a DUI education program.
Can someone be convicted of a felony from a DUI charge?
Certain circumstances can elevate a DUI (which is normally a misdemeanor) to a felony. A DUI can be charged as a felony if:
- It’s a driver’s fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within ten years
- A driver attempts to evade an office while under the influence, or
- A driver causes serious injury or death to another person.
Felony DUIs carry more severe penalties, including prison time of at least a year.
For those who have been involved in a drunk driving accident in Georgia, you may wish to know what the law against drunk driving is so you can plan your legal strategy. Our Georgia DUI lawyers are here to advise you.