August 15, 2023

Different Types of DUI Charges in GA

alcohol offenses refer to criminal charges related to the misuse of alcoholImagine a typical Friday night. Friends gather, music fills the air, and laughter rings out while on a road trip. Everything seems perfect until the next morning when the harsh reality sets in: DUI charges.

Driving under the influence (DUI) refers to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, including those prescribed by physicians, to a level that impairs the driver’s mental or motor skills. In this essay, we delve into the various types of DUI charges in Georgia.

Georgia’s DUI laws, structured to be firm and comprehensive, reflect the state’s commitment to maintaining safety on its roads. These laws are quite stringent and are specifically designed to discourage impaired driving, a major cause of accidents and fatalities. The fundamental facet of these laws is defining what constitutes impairment, primarily measured through Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

BAC Limits

In Georgia, as in most other states, the legal BAC limit for drivers aged 21 and above is 0.08%. This means that having a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered prima facie evidence of impairment. However, it’s essential to understand that you can still be arrested and convicted for DUI with a BAC lower than 0.08% if your driving is noticeably impaired.

For drivers below the age of 21, Georgia has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, reflected in the lower legal BAC limit of 0.02%. This strict limit aims to dissuade underage drinking and driving, an issue of significant concern given the higher risk of accidents among young drivers.

Commercial drivers, owing to the larger vehicles and potentially hazardous cargo they transport, have a lower legal BAC limit set at 0.04%. This more stringent limit recognizes the increased potential harm a commercial vehicle could cause in a DUI incident.

Implied Consent Law

As a cornerstone of Georgia’s DUI laws, the state operates under the ‘implied consent’ principle. When individuals obtain their driver’s license, they implicitly consent to submit to state-administered chemical tests of blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances for the purpose of determining if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Refusing to undergo these tests when lawfully requested by a law enforcement officer can have immediate consequences. Refusal leads to an automatic suspension of the driver’s license for a year, even if the individual is subsequently found not guilty of DUI. This automatic suspension can be challenged through an administrative license suspension hearing, but it must be requested within a certain timeframe.

Standard DUI Charges

Standard DUI Charges refer to the most common types of charges that individuals can face when arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in a particular jurisdiction, such as Georgia.

  • Misdemeanor DUI

The most common DUI charge in Georgia is a misdemeanor DUI. This charge applies when a driver is found to be operating a vehicle with a BAC that exceeds the legal limit. The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in Georgia can be severe, starting with a mandatory minimum of 24 hours in jail.

Additionally, the offender may be subject to a fine ranging from $300 to $1,000, community service, and mandatory attendance at a DUI risk reduction program. The offender’s license will also be suspended for up to one year, further adding to the disruptive impact of a DUI conviction.

  • First-time DUI Offense

A first-time DUI conviction in Georgia can have significant repercussions, extending beyond immediate fines and penalties. Offenders must complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program, which includes assessments and intervention components.

This program, coupled with a clinical evaluation for substance abuse, serves as a wake-up call for many first-time offenders. Furthermore, a period of probation may be imposed, further limiting the offender’s freedom and requiring them to regularly report to a probation officer.

  • Repeat DUI Offenses

Georgia law shows little leniency for repeat DUI offenders. With each successive conviction, penalties intensify, reflecting the state’s commitment to curbing impaired driving. A second DUI conviction within a five-year period results in increased fines, ranging from $600 to $1,000, a mandatory minimum of 72 hours in jail, and a license suspension of three years.

For a third conviction, the fines rise to $1,000-$5,000, and the jail term extends to a minimum of 15 days, with the offender’s license suspended for five years. Beyond the tangible penalties, the social stigma attached to repeat offenses can lead to isolation and hardships in both personal and professional life.

Aggravated DUI Charges

Aggravated DUI Charges refer to more serious offenses related to driving under the influence (DUI) that carry enhanced penalties compared to standard DUI charges. Aggravating factors can elevate the severity of the offense and lead to harsher consequences for individuals convicted of aggravated DUI.

  • DUI with a High BAC

If an individual is charged with DUI and their BAC is significantly above the legal limit — specifically 0.15% or higher in Georgia — they are subject to increased penalties.

These ‘super speeder’ DUI charges can result in an extended jail sentence of up to one year, higher fines reaching up to $1,000, and a license suspension for a year. The individual will also be required to complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program.

  • DUI with Drugs

Driving under the influence isn’t restricted to alcohol; it also applies to those operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, including legal prescriptions that impair driving abilities.

In Georgia, a DUI-drugs charge carries penalties similar to those of high BAC DUI charges, including substantial fines, potential jail time, and license suspension. These charges also necessitate the completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program.

  • DUI with a Minor

One of the most serious DUI charges in Georgia involves driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle, defined as a child under 14 years of age. This is deemed as an act of child endangerment and adds a separate charge for each minor present in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

Each charge carries penalties equivalent to a DUI offense, significantly compounding the overall penalties. This can result in extensive jail time, astronomical fines, and potentially losing custody rights, depending on the circumstances and the court’s judgment.

Felony DUI Charges

Felony DUI charges represent the most severe and consequential offenses related to driving under the influence (DUI). Unlike misdemeanor DUI charges, which are typically considered less serious, felony DUI charges involve circumstances that result in significant harm, injury, or even loss of life. The stark reality of felony DUI charges sheds light on the devastating consequences that can arise from impaired driving.

  • DUI Resulting in Injury

In Georgia, a DUI offense can quickly escalate to a felony if it results in serious injury to another person. This is commonly referred to as Serious Injury by Vehicle and is defined under Georgia law as causing bodily harm to another by depriving them of a member of their body, by rendering a member of their body useless, by seriously disfiguring their body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless.

The law does not discriminate between intentional or accidental infliction of such injuries. If you are under the influence and cause an accident resulting in these types of serious injuries, you will be charged with a felony. This underscores the severe implications of impaired driving.

The penalties for a DUI resulting in serious injury are significant and are intended to mirror the gravity of the offense. A conviction carries a prison sentence of one to fifteen years. It’s also worth noting that each individual injured in the incident can lead to separate charges, potentially amplifying the consequences.

  • DUI Resulting in Death

A DUI offense becomes unimaginably more severe if it results in the death of another person. In Georgia, such an incident leads to a charge of First-Degree Vehicular Homicide, a felony with profound implications.

The law stipulates that any person who, while under the influence, causes the death of another person without an intention to do so is guilty of this crime. This includes the death of pedestrians, passengers in the offender’s vehicle, occupants of other vehicles, or anyone who dies as a proximate result of the DUI incident. A conviction for vehicular homicide resulting from DUI carries a sentence of three to fifteen years in prison for each death caused.

It’s also worth noting that these charges can be filed in addition to other charges stemming from the incident, leading to additional penalties. For instance, if the DUI offender flees the scene of the accident, they may also be charged with hit-and-run, which carries its own separate penalties.

Reflecting on DUI Charges and Looking Ahead

DUI charges in Georgia range from standard misdemeanors to severe felonies, reflecting the seriousness of driving under the influence. Navigating the complex landscape of DUI charges requires a competent DUI attorney. Columbus GA DUI Lawyer, Clark Adams, comes with the experience and expertise necessary to handle such cases.

If you or a loved one find yourself facing DUI charges in Muscogee County GA, don’t hesitate to reach out to Clark Adams, Attorney at Law, and take the first step towards resolving your DUI charges with diligence and professionalism. Contact us now to schedule a consultation and protect your rights.