DUI in Georgia

What is a DUI in Georgia?

A DUI in Georgia refers to driving under the influence, a criminal offense involving an individual operating vehicle while intoxicated. Although some states in the United States define DUI for motor vehicles alone, the state of Georgia broadly proscribes it for individuals operating any vehicle or means of transportation, including wheelchairs, bicycles, scooters, or horses.

When a law enforcement agent pulls over a motorist suspected to be driving under the influence, the suspect is required to submit to a field sobriety test or take a blood or breath test. The driver will receive a citation if the officer finds enough evidence to charge the motorist. Following the citation, the DUI prosecutor at the district or Solicitor-General's Office will file a court case against the motorist. If the offender is convicted, the DUI will be included in their Georgia criminal record.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Georgia?

In Georgia, DUI is an acronym for "driving under the influence," while DWI means "driving while intoxicated". A DUI refers to being under the influence of alcohol and drugs (including prescription drugs in some cases), while DWI generally applies only to alcohol. Some states distinguish between DUI and DWI, and in these states, DUI is used to describe a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, this is not the case with Georgia, as there is no separate statute for DWI. The state's DUI laws cover all charges for impaired driving resulting from intoxication.

Georgia DUI Laws

Under OCGA § 40-6-391, the DUI laws in the State of Georgia legally prescribe punishments, including multiple penalties and aftereffects for committing DUI offenses. The laws proscribe actions that may count as a DUI, and it includes driving or being in physical control of a vehicle:

  • With a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. (For persons driving a commercial vehicle, it is 0.04% or more and 0.02% or higher if the individual has not attained the age of 21 years)
  • While under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances
  • With any quantity of inebriating prescription or recreational drugs present in the blood or urine

In Georgia, a motorist may get a DUI per se charge whether or not they display physical impairment. In Georgia, the three different blood alcohol content (BAC) levels are considered when charging a party under the DUI per se laws. Meanwhile, the per se laws stipulate that the court may only charge and convict a person based on the individual's BAC levels established through chemical testing. The per se intoxication level for an individual under the age of 21 years at the time of arrest is a BAC of 0.02%. If the suspect is driving a commercial vehicle, the per se intoxication level is a BAC of 0.04%. For individuals older than 21 years, the per se intoxication level is a BAC of 0.08 percent.

Georgia's Implied Consent Law makes it a crime for a driver to refuse to submit to chemical testing. A motorist that declines chemical testing of blood, urine, or breath may be arrested immediately for DUI, and the court may issue a suspension or revocation on the individual's driver's license. Refusal to take a chemical test is admissible as evidence against the offender during the trial in court.

DUI Penalties in Georgia

A DUI is a misdemeanor in Georgia, and its penalties are often severe. Individuals charged with DUI face the risk of paying fines and losing their driver's license. However, where the DUI results in an accident, the offender may be charged with a felony, primarily if such accidents result in deaths or grave injuries.

Apart from criminal charges, victims of the accidents may file civil claims against the driver and the associated insurance companies. Damages sued for may include medical expenses, loss of income, property damage, emotional and physical pain, suffering, and wrongful death.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Georgia?

Georgia does not distinguish between a DUI and a DWI. The term DUI covers the use of both alcohol and drugs. Motorists apprehended with a BAC of 0.08%, or higher will be charged with a DUI. However, the offender's driving ability is impaired; they may be charged with a DUI regardless of their BAC and their license withheld.

The state of Georgia permits DUI violators to file an administrative hearing within ten working days of seizure to protect the right to drive. If the driver's license was valid when apprehended, the motorist may be eligible for a temporary permit pending the trial. The court mails a notice of trial to the accused within three weeks of filing a request. If the defendant loses at the hearing, their eligibility is withdrawn.

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Georgia?

A first DUI conviction attracts a maximum penalty of $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison, and a minimum penalty of a waivable 24-hour jail sentence and a $300 fine. However, DUI punishments in Georgia are usually more stringent than the minimum allowed by the law. Other compulsory minimum consequences are 40 hours of community service at a not-for-profit establishment and completing a DUI course on Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction, otherwise known as DUI School. In addition, the defendant may face 12-month probation under the supervision of an officer with periodic random alcohol and drug tests. The court may also require a substance abuse assessment to determine if the DUI violator has a substance abuse problem that needs different treatment.

Persons under the age of 21 years, who refuse to take the state's test or have a blood alcohol content of less than 0.08 percent, may not serve jail time. However, the decision not to impose jail time is at the judge's discretion, and it depends on the circumstances surrounding the case. In these situations, the offenders are liable to face 20 hours of community service. If the BAC was 0.08 percent or higher, the court imposes 40 hours of community service. As punishment, most courts may order extra conditions like attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel or several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Georgia?

In Georgia, a second DUI conviction within ten years of the first one has severe penalties. Offenders can expect to pay a fine of $1000 and serve up to one year in prison. The minimum penalties ascribed second-time offenders include three days in jail, a fine of $600, DUI School attendance, 240 hours of community service, substance abuse assessment and treatment, and 12 months probation.

A second DUI conviction within five years of the first one comes with additional consequences. Usually, the offender may be required to pay a $25 fee to publish the conviction notice and the violator's photograph in a local newspaper. The driver may also have to forfeit the license plates to any owned vehicle. Furthermore, the guilty driver may face a 'hard license suspension' of 120 days and install an ignition interlock device afterward.

What Happens After a Third DUI in Georgia?

If an individual gets a third DUI charge in Georgia within ten years of the first one, they will likely be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor. DUI charges of high and aggravated misdemeanors impose the gravest DUI penalties. The maximum prison term for a third DUI is one year, and the violator pays a fine of up to $5,000. However, the least incarceration period is 15 days, with credit for time already served since the arrest. The DUI offender may pay a fine of $1,000, along with additional penalties such as 240 hours of community service, DUI School, a probation period of 12 months, and a substance abuse assessment and treatment.

The sentencing judge may reduce the fine by half if the offender undergoes a court-approved alcohol/drug treatment program.

If the offender commits a third DUI within five years of the first one, the court will likely impose a $25 fee for publication of conviction notice and offender's photograph in the local newspaper. The DUI violator may have to forfeit the vehicle to the state. Otherwise, the court may transfer the vehicle to a family member if the court is petitioned and informed of the family's financial hardship.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Georgia?

A DUI stays on an offender's driving record for ten years in Georgia. A DUI conviction on a person's driving history file may make it hard to secure a job, get admission to schools, or renew a professional license. Unfortunately, DUI expungement does not exist in Georgia. Hence, DUI records cannot be removed from an offender's criminal record. Even an executive pardon from the Governor in Georgia will not expunge DUI records because the Governor does not possess pardoning power. Pardoning power lies only with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and it is the Board's policy only to consider felonious convictions.

DUI Expungement in Georgia

In Georgia, DUI convictions on a person's criminal record cannot be removed. DUIs are severe traffic violations, and even under the Second Chance Law, the state's directive remains unwavering. An alternative to expungement is record restriction. Under OCGA § 35-3-37, Georgia permits a defendant to apply for record restriction for certain offenses, but an adult DUI conviction still does not qualify for this process. On the other hand, persons under the age of 21 that are guilty of driving under the influence may apply to seal DUI records at the juvenile court. The juvenile defendant must apply two years after serving a sentence to have a successful sealing procedure. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • No pending criminal charges
  • The offender completed a rehabilitation course
  • The DUI violator did not appear in court for any felony or misdemeanor conviction since final discharge.

Notably, sealing does not expunge a criminal record. It only restricts the DUI charge from public view, and some authorized persons may still have access to the file. Regardless, the juvenile violator may have to disclose the information contained in sealed records during security checks. Furthermore, since the process at the juvenile court varies from that of the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS), these two authorities keep files independently. Therefore, sealing a record at the court does not restrict the document at the DDS.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Georgia?

It is not likely for first-time DUI offenders in Georgia to spend time behind bars after conviction. The reason is, judges are more lenient with first-time offenders and may waive off the "1-10 days" jail-time penalty. Typically, a first-time offender should face any of the punishments below:

  • Driver's license suspension or a limited permit to drive
  • Probation for a minimum of 12 months
  • Payment of $300 in fines plus surcharges and other court costs
  • 40 hours of community service
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Compulsory DUI Risk Reduction School

What is the Average Cost of DUI in Georgia?

A DUI charge in Georgia is quite expensive. The cost may spill into an excess of $10,000 as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more may result in jail time, fine payment, and insurance rates increment. Immediately a law enforcement agent arrests an offender for a DUI offense; the police officer tows the offender's vehicle. The cost of towing and impounding increases daily. To regain access to this vehicle, the DUI violator may pay between $50 to $200. A substantial amount of money also goes into the payment of fines. Nevertheless, this is dependent on the type of infringement and the availability of records for other previous arrests. Fines may range between $300 to $5,000. DUI offenses in Georgia mainly cause a spike in insurance premiums. These service providers may double the rate and sustain it for three to five years, while offenders pay $4,500 or more to enjoy insurance benefits.

Money also goes into attorney fees, and legal services usually differ from lawyer to lawyer. While some attorneys charge as low as $1,000 for a quick plea, others may cost $2,000 to $25,000. These legal fees begin to add up as soon as the offender chooses to fight the charge, and aside attorney fees if the offense is a first-time commission, a $300 fine plus other court costs add up to the overall cost.

Upon sentencing by the court for driving under the influence, the offender must carry out an alcohol evaluation which costs between $95 to $300. Also, a conviction means that the DUI violator goes through treatment or an education program valued between $500 to $4,000, especially if the offender gets a driver's license suspension. The traffic violator pays several fees immediately after completing the state-certified risk reduction program to reinstate a suspended license. The program costs $287, and a driver's license reinstatement cost is about $210 to $410.

How Much is Bail for a DUI in Georgia?

In Georgia, the cost of bail following a DUI offense is usually around $150 to $2,500. Bail is a tool the court uses to ensure that the defendant returns for hearing and adhere to court terms and conditions to secure release and restore balance. In Georgia, bail fees vary. It also depends on the frequency of the offenses the DUI violator commits, the offender's connection to the county where the arrest took place, and the defendant's blood-alcohol level (BAC).

How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Georgia?

The requirement for a license reinstatement differs, and it is primarily according to the type of suspension and other factors relating to the conviction. For a DUI conviction, the defendant may have their license restored after completing the necessary programs. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, the reinstatement fees and payment options for a first-time offender is a minimum of $200. Concerned persons may make payments online, by mail, or in person.

Mail payments should come alongside the "official notice of suspension" and all documents, including the Drug Use Risk Reduction Certificate. Interested parties may only pay in person at a DDS customer service center. The suspension or revocation of a driver's license is a penalty from the administrative body that oversees licenses and registration in the state. While license revocation may be the outcome of a DUI proceeding, the Department of Driver Services may revoke a license for:

  • Speeding at 75 mph or more on a two-lane road or a highway
  • No automobile liability insurance
  • Points accumulation
  • Failure to appear and the inability to pay
  • Child support obligations

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Georgia?

A DUI offense poses severe threats to an individual. First, an arrest means possible jail time, heavy fines, increased insurance rates, driver's license suspension, and counseling. These consequences take a toll on a person's daily life, the ability to move around and seek employment since employers tend to carry out background checks before hiring. In addition, a DUI may also impede a person's ability to seek loans, request financial aid, and obtain government assistance.

Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Georgia?

Yes, a DUI conviction in Georgia may get an individual laid off from work. Being an "at-will employment" state, employers in Georgia may fire employees for different reasons, provided that the grounds are not discriminatory. Driving under the influence (DUI) conviction may ultimately terminate a person's career. For example, a teacher arrested for DUI may lose their certification and job even as a first-time offender. Also, healthcare workers, commercial drivers, and other parties requiring certification and licenses may lose their jobs after a DUI conviction. Fortunately, due to Georgia's fair chance law, an employer may no longer request a worker's criminal history.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Georgia?

In Georgia, DUI checkpoints are legal if these stops meet time and place requirements and police supervisors approve them. Finding these checkpoints may be difficult as there is no public information on specific locations and since the police may authorize a checkpoint in different places at a given time. The best option to find information on DUI checkpoints is to surf the web, comb news websites and local TV stations.

Usually, the checkpoints are adequately marked. Officers would also be in uniform to check for bloodshot eyes, inability to respond to questions, slurred speeches, the smell of alcohol, or bottles of liquor in open view.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

DUI and DWI share profound similarities seeing that the two have to do with unhealthy driving behaviors. In Georgia, there are no differences between these two. Although DUI is a widely used term because it refers to impaired driving caused by both drugs and alcohol, DWI only encompasses alcohol abuse while driving.