In Georgia, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if a law enforcement officer believes that your ability to drive has been impaired because of alcohol or drug use. There are different varieties of DUI charges in Georgia; however, driving under the influence in any form is generally considered a misdemeanor criminal offense. It is important to contact a Georgia DUI defense attorney who not only knows the law, but can effectively represent you in the defense of your case.

Under Georgia law, criminal offenses are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor in Georgia is punishable with up to a 12-month period of incarceration and a $1000 fine. Georgia traffic offenses are considered misdemeanor offenses.

Felony Convictions

Generally a DUI conviction in Georgia is a misdemeanor; however, if you have been charged with a fourth or subsequent conviction within a 10-year period of time, you could be charged with a felony. If you have three convictions after July 1, 2008, then any subsequent conviction would be a felony DUI charge in Georgia.  A Felony DUI in Georgia is subject to not less than one year in jail and not more than five years in jail.

Felony DUIs are not common and are potentially serious offenses. Therefore it is important for you to speak with an experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer at Kohn & Yager. The attorneys at Kohn & Yager have the experience navigating such cases, and getting felony DUIs reduced to misdemeanor offenses.

Penalties of a DUI Conviction

The penalties for driving under the influence in Georgia typically include a fine, license suspension, community service and probation, a DUI conviction can impact other areas of your life, including your auto insurance rates and employment eligibility. For example, if convicted of a first lifetime DUI in Georgia, you could be subjected to fines ranging from $300 to $1000, a maximum 12 months imprisonment, 40 hours community service, and be ordered to complete a DUI and Risk Reduction course.

Although a DUI conviction will never simply fall off your driving record, there is no limit to the amount of time in which a prior conviction may be used to elevate a current charge. This period of time is called the “look-back period.” However, there are statutory minimums that take place within a 10-year look back period. In Georgia, we use a five-year look back period for license suspension purposes, but a 10-year look back period for mandatory sentencing terms.

Ten-Year Look-Back Period

The look-back period for DUI offenses in Georgia is 10 years. This means that if you are arrested and charged for DUI within 10 years of your first conviction, you will be charged as a second offender. The potential penalties increase upon second and third DUI convictions. Georgia has no expungement law that after a period of time a criminal offense can be removed from your record. You will always have to explain to future employers, college admission officials, and car rental companies that you got a DUI 10, 20, or even 30 years ago.

Non-Judicial Consequences

One of the main things that people don’t realize when they look at the penalty chart for DUI is that there are many non-judicial consequences of a DUI. If you put a DUI on your history for example and you’re going to try to get a job in a high security clearance situation. Something that may require you to go onto military bases, you are probably not qualify for that job because they are going to find it in the national computer showing that you had this offense.  This is going to be a block to many jobs down the road and that’s not a criminal consequence, that’s a non-judicial consequence to a DUI.

Federal Property Laws

As a Georgia driver, you already know that it is against the law to operate a vehicle anywhere in the state if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, regardless of whether you are driving on public or private property. However, when it comes to drinking and driving on federal property, location truly does matter.

If you are arrested for drunk driving on federal property, you will not only face Georgia’s stringent DUI statutes, but also federal penalties for your actions. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, additional sentencing requirements will be applied if you were arrested for DUI while driving on any type of federally owned property.

Generally speaking, any military base, national park, or government building is considered federal property. Many airports and national monuments may be federally owned as well. As a result of this ownership, such properties are patrolled by federal law enforcement agencies such as military police officials and park rangers. Therefore, if a federal agent suspects you are driving under the influence, he or she has the authority to arrest and charge you with a federal DUI offense.

Private Property and DUI Laws

Given the broad definition of private property, you can be pulled over for DUI anywhere that’s accessible to other motorists—regardless of whether it is your own driveway or a parking lot at the mall.  Unfortunately, this means that being stopped on private property is not a valid defense strategy for a drunk driving arrest in the state of Georgia. As long as a law enforcement official has grounds for suspecting that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she can conduct a DUI investigation.

Less Safe vs Per Se

A DUI Less Safe—whether alcohol, drug, or inhalant related—means that the prosecution does not need to prove that you were over the legal limit of .08% in order to convict you. In fact, there is no legal limit for drugs or inhalants when it comes to DUI in Georgia. In a DUI Less Safe case, the prosecution merely needs to show that, because of alcohol, drugs, or inhalants, your ability to drive was less safe than it would have been if you were not under the influence of that substance or substances.

A DUI Per Se, on the other hand, means that your blood alcohol content was at or above .08% at the time that you were driving or within three hours of driving, or that you had any trace of marijuana or a controlled substance in your system. You can be convicted under the DUI Per Se law if a chemical test (typically blood or urine) shows even the slightest amount of marijuana or another controlled substance.

You can be charged with DUI Less Safe for alcohol even if your BAC was less than .08%. If you are under 21, you may be charged with DUI Per Se if your BAC is greater than .02%. For commercial drivers, the legal limit is .04% while driving a commercial vehicle, although you could still be charged with DUI Less Safe if your BAC was under .04%.

Defending a Drunk Driving Charge

A drunk or drugged driving conviction can wreak havoc on your future. However, being arrested and charged with a DUI in Georgia does not mean that you will be found guilty in court. At Kohn & Yager, we understand that preparation is the key to obtaining a successful outcome in a DUI case, and we have helped countless drivers get their charges reduced or dismissed entirely simply by preparing more than the prosecution. It is crucial to the defense of your case that you hire an experienced Georgia DUI defense attorney who knows the law, and who has had experience defending DUI cases in Georgia.