Your first DUI in Georgia means your life is about to change. The severity of the impact on your life will depend upon whether you make the right choice when hiring a DUI lawyer. The State of Georgia makes it a crime if you are driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% and above for drivers over age 21, and if it is your first DUI in Georgia, the minimum penalties and punishment are much harsher than most any other traffic ticket you may have experienced in Georgia. For drivers under 21 years of age, the BAC limit is 0.02, and for commercial drivers, the BAC limit is 0.04.
If it is your first DUI in Georgia, even if you have never been arrested in your life, the law provides for minimum fines, minimum jail time, penalties and punishment. Best advice: hire an experienced DUI attorney. Why? Because the difference between going to Court for a first DUI arrest with and without an experienced DUI attorney cannot be overstated. No matter how soft or easy your friends tell you it is, rest assured you will be shocked when you learn how your life is about to change. The ramifications include fines and penalties to potential jail time to community service to license suspension to clinical alcohol evaluations to potential limited driving permits, the situation can go bad really quickly if you do not have a qualified DUI attorney representing you from the very start. There is no simple fix. The law is complicated, and one wrong move and your driver’s license is lost for 12 months.
Misdemeanor or Felony
A first DUI in Georgia will be considered a misdemeanor offense under the laws of Georgia. This misdemeanor offense in Georgia is punishable with up to 1 year of imprisonment. Generally, a DUI arrest in Georgia will be a misdemeanor until the 4th DUI conviction within a ten (10) year period. However, a 2nd DUI in Georgia will be considered a felony offense if you have caused property damage or in some cases, serious bodily injury and death.
If arrested for a first DUI in Georgia (or your first after at least 5 years of your last DUI license suspension), the Georgia Department of Driver Services will immediately seek a 1-year suspension of your driver’s license with serious limitations on a limited driving permit. The driver is not eligible for license reinstatement for at least 90 days, and even then not until the driver shows proof of completion of attendance at a certified DUI Risk Reduction school and payment of reinstatement fees. The driver does have the right to request an administrative hearing to fight the suspension of a drivers license but it must be done within thirty (30) days of arrest. We file for the appeal routinely if contacted within the 30-day deadline, and we can make a difference here as well. Alternatively, for some drivers, we may recommend taking advantage of a new law, effective July 1, 2017, to apply for a limited permit and install an ignition interlock device to avoid license suspension. The driver must attend a DUI Risk Reduction program and pay a significant reinstatement fee before the license will be reactivated. And if you think because you are an out of state driver this does not apply, think again. Georgia Department of Driver Services will suspend your privilege to drive in Georgia AND notify your home state, also known as the Licensing State.
A first DUI in Georgia involves severe penalties of many shapes and sizes. Jail time is generally required but if you hire an experienced DUI attorney the jail time can be avoided or reduced to 24 hours and you normally receive credit for time already served on the night of the arrest. If convicted, the law provides for a maximum of 1 year in jail. The minimum fine starts at $400 and can reach as high as $1000. The minimum punishment also includes 40 hours of community service. And, you may be required to participate in a mandatory clinical evaluation for alcohol dependency, and in some cases, the completion of an alcohol or drug treatment program for substance abuse at the expense of the offender. Normally, you will be placed on probation for 12 months which generally means you cannot violate any laws for 12 months or else you risk being brought back to Court for additional sentencing (a.k.a. your probation is revoked). An ignition interlock device is mandatory for the 2nd DUI but not the first DUI in Georgia.
The Look-Back Period
The look back period in Georgia for repeat DUI offenders is 10 years on the criminal side, 5 years on the administrative side. So, if you have a 2nd DUI offense but outside the range of the applicable look back period, you will be sentenced as if it was your first DUI in Georgia. But there again, if you think that means the first DUI in Georgia does not matter, think again. Prosecutors do not like repeat offenders, even if outside the technical look back period. A good DUI lawyer, however, can advise on how to minimize the impact.
DUI Law in Georgia allows the prosecutor and judge to use tremendous discretion in sentencing. A good DUI lawyer uses his knowledge of the law, the facts of the specific case, and a good working knowledge of what is reasonable, and a good working relationship with the prosecutor to reach an agreeable deal, a.k.a. negotiated plea for your case before spending all your money on a trial. This aspect of legal representation and the quality of your DUI lawyer will be most important at this stage.
A first DUI in Georgia is a truly serious offense. In this situation, searching for a well-experienced and knowledgeable DUI attorney would be the only good choice you can make. Remember, you don’t hire an auto mechanic to work on your computer. Call Ted Morgan Law today if you or a friend needs quality representation for a DUI in Georgia.