There can be no doubt about the gravity of DUI charges as well as convictions within the state of Georgia and throughout society as a whole. The consequences of a DUI conviction can last for decades and for some, they are essentially permanent. Crippling financial fines and penalties, lengthy prison terms, revocation of driving privileges and employment loss are just a few of the effects drinking and driving charges can have on an individual's life. When it comes to defending against allegations of this type, the stakes truly could not be higher, and it is important for those facing them to fully grasp the penalties which could apply if they are found guilty. The attorneys of Morris Law stand ready to provide the insights and advice clients need in order to make informed decisions about their DUI case and secure the most positive outcome possible.
Important Facts About Georgia DUI Charges
Before discussing possible criminal penalties for those found guilty of driving while intoxicated in Georgia, it is necessary to clearly define what sorts of conduct can give rise to charges of this nature. To be convicted of driving under the influence within the state, it is necessary that an individual have been in control of or driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to an extent deemed unsafe, have a blood alcohol level of at least .08 or have illegal drugs of any kind in his or her system.
These categories are important to understand, because, under their terms, it is possible for a driver to face prosecution for DUI even if they have a blood alcohol level lower than .08, as long as the arresting officer believes that a safety risk is present. Further, it is possible for a driver to face charges if they are operating a vehicle under the influence of prescription drugs, provided they are thought to pose a danger to public safety. Given the numerous circumstances that can give rise to a DUI charge in Georgia and the onerous penalties imposed on those convicted, having an experienced criminal defense attorney can make all the difference.
Offense Categories and Associated Penalties
Though driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a mistake many have made at least once, the prospective penalties under Georgia law can be extremely serious, those who are charged with a first offense need to respond accordingly with a vigorous legal defense. This is because the sanctions imposed pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391, even for an initial instance of drunk or drugged driving, may include:
- incarceration of up to a year
- minimum fine of $300, which could go as high as $1,000
- mandatory drug or alcohol education program participation
- clinical evaluation and possible mandatory substance abuse treatment
- 40-hour community service requirement
- probationary supervision
- suspension of driving privileges for up to a year
- drivers license reinstatement fee
While some of these sanctions may initially appear to be relatively manageable, the lasting impact of any drunk driving conviction should never be underestimated. The mere existence of a criminal record that includes an offense of this nature can prompt job loss, difficulty obtaining new employment, social stigma and other consequences which can follow an individual for years, if not decades. Furthermore, with the specter of one year's imprisonment looming over the head of a first-time defendant, a strong defense really critical to minimizing the negative effects of such a charge.
Similar to a first offense, a second offense DUI in Georgia is considered to be a misdemeanor. However, second offenses bring with them a series of far more stringent sanctions than those faced by first-time defendants. Among the penalties potentially imposed on those convicted of DUI for the second time are:
- mandatory minimum of 48 hours in jail
- additional jail time ranging from 90 days to twelve months
- fine of up to $1,000
- probationary supervision ranging from one to three years
- drivers license suspension and plate surrender if second conviction is within five years of first one
- mandatory drug or alcohol counseling
- ignition interlock device
- up to 240 hours of community service
Penalties for Third and Subsequent Offenses
Charges for a third or subsequent DUI within five years will be considered a high/aggravated misdemeanor and will bring even stricter penalties to those convicted. Sanctions for repeat offenders can include:
- monetary fines of up to $5,000
- mandatory 15 days in jail, with terms of imprisonment ranging from 120 days up to five years
- license revocation of five years
- 30-60 days of community service
- mandatory public notice of conviction published at offender's expense
- mandatory clinical evaluation and possible substance abuse treatment at offender's expense
- mandatory participation in Risk Reduction Program substance abuse education program
DUI Causing Injury or Death
The sanctions imposed on DUI offenders in Georgia are serious on their own, but when the incident at issue involves an injury or death of another, their gravity can increase significantly. In such instances, what might have otherwise been a misdemeanor will be converted into a felony charge. Notably, terms of imprisonment resulting from DUI events that harm others can be quite lengthy, possibly extending up to 15 years per individual count. Onerous license revocation terms without the possibility of obtaining a limited permit may also be imposed, and the monetary fines stemming from DUI accident cases can and do prove financially debilitating to many.
Aggressive Georgia DUI Defense
The filing of a DUI charge is inevitably an intimidating experience fraught with uncertainty, but that does not mean that the accused must simply accept defeat and plead guilty. The fact is that everyone facing a charge of this nature deserves and is entitled to a zealous legal defense. The attorneys of Morris Law, P. C. are prepared to employ effective strategies designed to have charges reduced or dropped, or should that prove impossible, to mitigate sanctions to the maximum extent achievable.
Whether by challenging the propriety of the initial traffic stop, identifying scientific flaws in blood or breath analysis or exposing violations of criminal procedure and evidentiary rules, Jill and Pittman Morris are committed to attacking the prosecution's case at every turn. If you would like to schedule a no-cost consultation to learn more about how we will work to protect your rights, your freedom, and your future, contact us at (706) 250-1316.