Each year, thousands of drivers are injured or killed in alcohol-related auto accidents. Nevertheless, driving under the influence (DUI) remains a common crime in the state of Georgia—and thousands of motorists are arrested for the offense each year. Unfortunately, despite its frequency, DUI carries a number of harsh criminal penalties, and even a first-time offender can face fines, a license suspension, and/or a jail sentence if convicted of the charge.

DUI penalties vary from state to state, but there are a number of typical factors that can increase the severity of a DUI. Such factors that can attribute to a harsher penalty include: the severity of intoxication, past DWI arrests, age and criminal history, injuries and property damage are all taken into account by courts.

Potential Consequences Of A DUI Offense

Assuming it is your first offense, a drunk driving conviction may carry a $300 to $1,000 fine, a one-year license suspension, up to 40 hours of community service, and anywhere from a 10-day to one-year jail sentence. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, the judge may also order you to attend DUI School and/or complete counseling—all at your own expense, of course.

If you think the sentence for a first offense is harsh, consider this: if you are convicted of a second DUI within a five-year period, you’ll spend at least 72 hours behind bars and pay up to $1,000 in fines. Along with these penalties, your driving privileges may be revoked for two years, and you may be required to get an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle (which means you will have to pass a breathalyzer in order to start your vehicle). As a repeat offender, your name and photograph may also be published in a local newspaper—and you’ll even be required to pay the publishing costs!

Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to be convicted of a third DUI within five years, you can expect to spend anywhere from 120 days to 12 months in jail, pay up to $5,000 in fines, and lose your driver’s license for five years. In some cases, you may also be required to perform up to 240 hours of community service and/or complete an alcohol education program. Once again, you may have to get an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle and have your arrest published in the paper.

Court-Ordered Fines Are Not The Only Expenses

Of course, the cost of a DUI conviction doesn’t end with the court-imposed fines. You’ll also be responsible for any third-party expenses associated with your penalties. For example, the judge may order you to complete an alcohol education program—which means you’ll be required to pay an enrollment fee. Likewise, if your sentence includes counseling, you will also be responsible for those costs as well.

Job-Related Consequences

Most people arrested in Georgia worry about the effect a conviction for DUI would have on their job. Since driving is critical for most types of employment, this issue is a huge concern, especially in Atlanta. If arrested for DUI in Georgia, your company car may be at risk. Plus, any job with security clearance may be lost, if convicted of DUI. Make sure to check your employee handbook to see what it says about your requirement to REPORT a DUI arrest, because failure to report is a major issue.

If you get terminated, many employers will simply not hire you if they find out you have had a DUI conviction – and some employers look as far back at your lifetime driving record. They can find this information out easily just by running a comprehensive background check. Others look back only as far as your state’s driver’s license history will report your driving history.

If you need to travel to the Bahamas or another foreign country (including Canada) for work purposes or for a vacation, a DUI conviction can be a major problem. Some countries bar entry even if you have a pending DUI case (e.g., Canada.)

Felony DUI Penalties

If you were convicted of felony DUI because your impaired driving caused property damage, injuries, or death, the consequences ramp up pretty quickly. Jail time is counted in months and years, not days. Community service is weeks, not hours. DUI probation can go on for years.

Failure to Appear

If you failed to appear for your court date after being arrested and arraigned for DUI, your license has been automatically suspended. The court does not care why you did not appear in court; you have forfeited your bond, the court entered a guilty plea on your behalf, and a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest.

You could spend two days in jail, pay a fine of $500, and/or receive 12 months of probation if you fail to appear. Your license will be suspended for another six months after you were arrested.

“Bail jumping” is a failure to appear after you received the court date at your arraignment, and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the original charge. Fines may range up to $5,000 and you could also be subject to five years in prison.

Benefits of An Attorney

As you can see, the consequences of driving under the influence can be quite severe. If you were recently charged with a Georgia DUI, it is important than ever to obtain legal representation immediately after your arrest. In many cases, you may be able to challenge your arrest and get your charges reduced or dismissed in court.

As one of the most successful DUI defense attorneys in the state, William C. (Bubba) Head has the skill and experience to handle your case. For over three decades, Mr. Head has helped Georgia drivers reduce or avoid the consequences of a DUI conviction, and there’s a good chance that he can do the same for you.