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DUI Law Basics Under Georgia Law


Georgia is known for its award-winning peaches, homegrown patches of Vidalia onions, and is home to a wide array of award-winning restaurants making it extremely hard not to have a good time while visiting.

But, if you’ve had too good of a time in Georgia and are now looking at DUI charges — there is some important information you need to know.

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Georgia comes with severe consequences that can affect you for the rest of your life. While a Georgia DUI lawyer can help you fight such charges, knowing the ins and outs of Georgia DUI laws can help prevent you from worsening your situation.

If you take the time to learn some basics, you can better prepare yourself for the process, and potential penalties should you ever find yourself arrested for DUI.

Georgia’s Definition of DUI

Georgia measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) to determine whether or not you are driving intoxicated. Three levels could apply depending on the age and type of vehicle you are operating. They are:

  • 0.08% or higher for anyone twenty-one years of age or older and driving a non-commercial vehicle.
  • 0.04% or higher for anyone operating a commercial vehicle.
  • 0.02% or higher for anyone under the age of twenty-one.

An officer may also charge you with DUI if a chemical test reveals that you have any controlled substances in your system.

At first blush, these parameters are similar to those used by other states. However, Georgia is known to have the stiffest penalties for DUI in the United States. Without an experienced DUI lawyer defending you and arguing your case, you risk suffering the most severe consequences.

DUI Penalties in Georgia

The first thing you should know about Georgia law is that a stop is not an arrest, and an arrest is not a conviction. While a stop can be stressful, simply being stopped in Georgia doesn’t carry any penalties. It’s best to remain calm during the entire process and contact a DUI attorney immediately if the officer arrests you.

Punishment for DUI in Georgia can result from two different types of court hearings. The first (and potentially most immediate) is an Administrative License Hearing. The other is a criminal trial following arrest.

Administrative License Hearing

If an officer suspects you of DUI in Georgia, they will ask you to take a chemical test. If your BAC shows 0.008% or higher, they may suspend your license for one year, starting thirty days following the test. The same can happen if you refuse the test. Sometimes called a thirty-day warning, the thirty-day period gives you a window of time to appeal the decision.

If you file an appeal, you could get a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. This hearing’s primary focus is on whether or not the stop was justified and appropriately administered and if the officer informed you of your implied consent rights. Any other issues get addressed during a criminal trial by you and your defense attorney.

You can only have your license suspended by the state of Georgia if you are a Georgia resident. However, they can suspend your right to drive in the state, even if you’re from elsewhere. During your license suspension period, it is possible to get a limited license so that you can drive to work and meet other necessary responsibilities.

Criminal Trial

If your case goes to trial and you are convicted, your penalties will depend on the number of DUI convictions you’ve had in the past. Repeat offenders and felons receive the harshest penalties.

First-time offenders face the possibility of:

  • 1-year probation
  • $300 (or more) fine in addition to court fees
  • Minimum of 40 hours community service
  • Up to 10 days in jail
  • License suspension (see above)
  • Court-ordered education relating to DUI and how it impacts the community
  • Suspended license with the possibility of a limited permit

Your second DUI can lead to:

  • 1 to 3 years of probation
  • A fine of at least $600 and no more than $1000, plus court fees
  • Between 3 days and one year in jail, which can be served through probation
  • 240 hours of community service
  • Substance abuse counseling and treatment
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Loss of your license plate
  • An ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle
  • DUI education

If it is your second offense in five years, you’ll also be fined $25 and have your picture published in local newspapers.

A third DUI offense in 10 years results in a “high and aggravated misdemeanor.”

Associated penalties include:

  • 1-year probation
  • 15 days to 1 year in jail
  • A $1000 to $5000 fine, plus court fees
  • 240 hours of community service
  • Substance abuse counseling and treatment
  • DUI education
  • Drivers’ license suspension for five years
  • Loss of your license plate
  • Habitual offender status

You’ll also be fined $25 and will have your offense published in local newspapers.

Fourth or later offenses are automatic felonies. On top of license revocation, fines, and probation, they carry a one-year prison sentence.

Hire an Attorney

If an officer charges you with DUI, the best thing you can do is hire a criminal defense attorney specializing in DUI cases. Georgia’s DUI convictions have severe consequences that can follow you for your entire life.

You need a criminal lawyer who understands the best defense strategies for your situation. Not every criminal defense lawyer will have the expertise to handle DUI cases. Choosing a criminal attorney who does could lead to a more favorable result for your trial.

Choose Schwartz Law

The Schwartz Law team has been serving Cobb County with experienced, proven legal defense strategies for years. We specialize in DUI cases and drug-related offenses, traffic crimes, and general criminal defense.

We do more than provide you with a knowledgeable Atlanta DUI lawyer — we hold steadfast in defense of your rights as a citizen. Reach out to us now and get your free consultation.

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