Georgia Driving Under the Influence (DUI/ DWI) – Laws and Penalties
Georgia law enforcement does not take DUI’s very lightly. If your blood alcohol content was over .08, even your first offense, you face a mandatory 24 hours in jail. An attorney with DUI defense experience can make a real difference in getting the best result in court and help you avoid serious pitfalls associated with loss of license, and a permanent criminal record.
It makes sense to get a free consultation with the best Georgia DUI defense lawyer you can find, even on a first offense charge.
Georgia DUI Laws
In order to be found guilty of Driving Under the Influence in Georgia you must have been
1. In control or driving a vehicle while:
2. Under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that it is “less than safe” for you to drive
3. Your blood alcohol level is at .08 or higher; OR
4. You have any illegal drugs in your system.
Does this mean that I can be charged with DUI even though my blood alcohol was .05?
Yes! In Georgia, if the officer has a reason to believe that you are under the influence and a safety risk he can arrest you for DUI.
What about prescription drugs?
Even if you are under the influence of prescription drugs, you can be arrested for DUI if the police officer thinks you are a safety risk.
First Offense DUI Charge – Penalties
If this is your first DUI in Georgia, or if it’s been longer than 5 years since your last DUI, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and your sentence could include:
- A fine of $300- $1,000.
- Jail time of 10 days to 1 year (which the judge can stay or suspend). If your blood alcohol level was over .08 you must serve at least 24 hours in jail.
- At least 40 hours of community service, or at least 20 hours if your blood alcohol was under .08.
- Completion of an alcohol or drug abuse class, also called Risk Reduction Program.
- Probation of up to one year, including time served.
- One years’ driver’s license suspension.
Keep in mind that even if you had a DUI over 5 years ago and this most recent one will be considered another “first” offense, the judge will take your history into consideration when sentencing you.
So a “first” offense under the law can result in a tougher sentence if you have an old DUI on your record. This is something you’ll want to discuss with the attorney.
Also see my page for more details on Second Offense DUI laws in Georgia.
What is the Risk Reduction Program?
The risk reduction program is a course designed to change your drinking or drug abuse habits. The course requires you to pay for an assessment component ($75), an intervention component ($185), and a materials fee ($15). The total amount of the course is $280. This is not included in your court fees or any fines you are sentenced to pay.
The assessment stage of the course can take you 30 minutes to an hour. The intervention stage will take 20 hours and will be broken up between several days. Your attendance is mandatory and you must be on time.
What will my DUI Probation include?
The terms of your probation will be determined by the judge and your probation officer. The general rules of probation will apply but you may also have special conditions like being required to attend AA or NA meetings, take random urinalysis tests, and not be around alcohol and drugs. That means you can’t go to a bar and you can’t even have a beer at home. It also includes avoiding a neighborhood barbecue where alcohol is present.
How will I get my license back?
Once the suspension time has passed, you will have to apply to get your license reinstated. You can do this by calling the Department of Driver’s Services in Atlanta, by visiting a driver’s license office that offers reinstatement, or by requesting your reinstatement in writing.
Can I get a Limited Work License During My License Suspension?
Yes, for a first offense DUI conviction, you can apply for a Limited Driving Permit from the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS/DMV).
A limited driving permit will allow to you drive to and from work, school, alcohol programs, or other limited usage as approved by the DDS.
What if I refuse the breath test?
In Georgia there is a legal presumption that every person has already consented to a breath test, meaning the officer does not have to ask your permission. This is known as implied consent, and is the default agreement you make when you are licensed to drive in the state of Georgia. However, because the officer cannot make you take a breath test, it is your option to refuse it.
*If you refuse your breath test and are later found guilty of DUI, your refusal can add an additional 1 year to the suspension of your license.