In one web article that looked at the strictest, and most lenient, DUI laws across the nation, Georgia took the number 7 slot on the strict end. In another, Georgia tied for 9th place as one of the strictest states for DUI penalties. Either way, the state of Georgia is definitely among the top ten states as far as harsh penalties for those convicted of a DUI. Obviously, no one advocates getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while impaired, however people make mistakes. The question becomes whether one error in judgment—particularly when no one else was hurt by that judgment lapse—should alter the course of a life forever.
There is also the possibility that the person accused of driving while impaired actually was notdriving under the influence.Some believe as many as one in ten of those accused of DUI are innocent of the crime. For the person falsely accused, that number is fairly staggering. Breathalyzer tests and field sobriety tests have a litany of problems associated with them which can result in inaccuracies, and, in some cases, police bias can also play a part. Whatever the circumstances surrounding a DUI arrest, anxiety about the future, and fear of the potential penalties are likely for the person arrested. A Georgia DUI conviction can bring serious criminal penalties as well as triggering long-term consequences.
Criminal Penalties Associated with a Georgia DUI Conviction
Those convicted of a first-time DUI in the state of Georgia will face a minimum of ten days in jail; all but 24 hours in jail can be probated. However, jail time for a first DUI conviction can be as high as one year.Fines can range from $300 to $1,000, with surcharges, court costs, and other costs added on top. There is also the potential to be sentenced to mandatory alcohol abuse treatment or a driver education program, and community service may be ordered. Additionally, a driver’s license suspension may occur, as much as one year. In some cases a driver may be able to have their license reinstated after four months. Due to the implied consent laws in Georgia, refusal to consent to a chemical test may result in a one-year license suspension.
Misdemeanor or Felony?
Like all states in the United States, a .08 blood alcohol content is required to be considered legally intoxicated in Georgia. Most drunk driving offenses in Georgia are classified as misdemeanors, however extenuating circumstances can turn a DUI into a felony offense. Those circumstances include: causing extensive property damage, committing other crimes during the incident or causing personal injury or wrongful death while driving impaired. The driver may also be charged with a felony if he or she had an excessively high BAC and was transporting a minor or if this is the fourth DUI offense or has multiple DUI offenses. The penalties for a felony DUI in the state of Georgia will be much more severe than for a misdemeanor DUI.
Other Consequences of a Georgia DUI Conviction
As if the criminal penalties were not enough, those convicted of a Georgia DUI could face other far-reaching consequences as well. Employment may be terminated, or it could become difficult to secure employment in the future. Automobile insurance rates are likely to skyrocket, becoming prohibitively expensive in some cases. Some insurance companies will even drop coverage entirely on a person with a DUI conviction. There is often a social stigma attached to a DUI conviction which can cause embarrassment or shame.
Defenses to Georgia DUI Charges
A Georgia DUI attorney will work hard, spending the necessary time looking for errors in the case. The administration of a breathalyzer test will be actively questioned, including whether the equipment was properly calibrated. If there were errors in the initial traffic stop as far as whether probable cause existed for the stop, these will certainly be brought to light. Mistakes made during the arrest procedure or during field sobriety tests often leave significant room for challenge by a knowledgeable Georgia DUI attorney, and, in some instances the attorney may be able to have the case dismissed entirely.
How an Experienced DUI Attorney Can Help
First of all, it is important to know your rights and to have a strong legal advocate in your corner who will fight for those rights. That being said, you must do your part to help your attorney help you. This means taking your Miranda Rights seriously when you are stopped. Politely offer your name and address—then request an attorney. Many people feel they can make the officer “understand” if they simply explain the circumstances. If you attempt to do this, you will be talking yourself into a deeper legal hole.
Anything you say absolutely will be used against you, so don’t talk until your attorney arrives. Melanie Ellwanger has practiced DUI defense across the state of Georgia, and has the distinct advantage of being a former prosecutor. Much of the stress associated with your DUI charges can be taken off your shoulders with a goal of minimizing the consequences of those charges. For professional, knowledgeable Georgia DUI help, call Melanie Ellwanger at 404-803-3105.