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First DUI Offense Laws & Penalties in Georgia

A DUI arrest for a 1st DUI is a disruptive, frightening, and unsettling event. Because the plastic driver’s license is almost always confiscated, the right to drive becomes questionable, and finding an easy summary of the law on driving under the influence in the Peach State is quite challenging. Once the arrested person has access to a computer again, he or she begins searching for a DUI attorney and finding out about Georgia DUI laws. Most people will either ask a friend or an attorney friend about who are the best DUI lawyers near me.

While it is NOT against the law for adults to drink and drive, citizens facing a first DUI charge learn quickly that a police officer in GA will take you to jail on little more than the odor of alcohol, or the admission of having a few drinks. Similarly, any odor of marijuana wafting from your vehicle will almost always turn into a DUI-drugs case, since Georgia DUI laws are at least a decade behind more progressive states when it comes to smoking weed and driving.

The impact of a DUI offense, for some high-profile individuals, occurs soon after being arrested for DUI. Social media seems to spread the word about a celebrity DUI case very quickly, with some tweets and messages coming from law enforcement officers at the scene or jail. Because Georgia (and particularly Atlanta, GA) is the epicenter of major sporting events, concerts, historical sites, entertainment venues, and a burgeoning film industry, a first-time drunk driving offense CAN HAPPEN TO ALMOST ANYONE.

WARNING: Be aware that every arrest for a violation of GA DUI laws carries a potential administrative license suspension, due to implied consent laws in Georgia. Only 30 days AFTER arrest can one of two options be taken to save driving privileges. You may face suspension EVEN IF YOU BLEW into the breathalyzer and were over the legal limit, or refused chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine.

A DUI refusal suspension, for NOT agreeing to take a post-arrest chemical test, is the most devastating license suspension, potentially being 12 months in length, and without any driving permits for those motorists. For Georgia licensees age 21 and over, with no prior DUI convictions in the past five years, having an Intoxilyzer 9000 breath alcohol result over the limit allows for an immediate restricted driver’s license.

For a First Time DUI, do i Need a Lawyer?

With rare exceptions, the answer is 100 percent YES to this question, at least in the state of Georgia. Without the benefit of decades of experience as a DUI specialist and seeing thousands of citizens who have lived to regret not fighting a DUI-DWI case in the past, this maxim would not be universally true. Some unknown and hidden penalties and consequences of a DUI conviction in GA will only be discovered by those people who hired a cheap DUI lawyer at the most inopportune moment.

The following REAL scenarios highlight twelve (12) true-to-life “situations” that the author has been presented with from potential clients who called his office on new cases or seeking to expunge a DUI in GA. These accounts highlight the damage a DUI can cause in citizens’ personal and business life:

  • Father of the bride with a prior DUI on his record, calls for advice after his daughter became engaged to a resident of Canada, and a prior conviction was blocking him from going to our northern neighboring nation for the wedding festivities, absent filing for limited permission through the Canadian consulate.
  • An honors student at the University of Georgia denied the right to go on a study abroad trip, with over half a dozen friends.
  • A DUI-drugs conviction led to the loss of the Georgia Hope Scholarship money student had earned through his grades.
  • A married stockbroker with over 15 years of experience, terminated after a conviction for DUI in Georgia, upon becoming ineligible for Series 63 broker’s license.
  • A CPA at a major national accounting firm was let go from the business due to Sarbanes-Oxley Act issues.
  • A medical doctor with an impeccable prior record was dismissed from her hospital job after a DUI arrest and then required to undergo a 5-year random testing protocol, to be able to retain medical doctor privileges to prescribe medications.
  • A pro athlete with DUI problems offered a substandard new contract with his current team, which was then to relocating to a new state and a new team on the West Coast, due to the perceived legal issues possibly affecting his ability to participate in professional league sports.
  • A high-income Sikorsky helicopter mechanic was terminated from his job after a DUI in Cobb County, GA.
  • A nuclear engineer, formerly with the US Navy, but now working in a Georgia nuclear power plant, was terminated for his conviction of DUI in Georgia.
  • A commercial truck driver with a Georgia DUI conviction was terminated from commercial motor vehicle job and later had to file bankruptcy when he was unable to get a new job that paid only half of what he previously made as a tractor-trailer driver.
  • A person applying to be an Uber driver blocked from receiving a contract due to a prior DUI within the past seven (7) years.
  • A decorated Marine sergeant who served in Operation Desert Storm, with 12 years in the military, drummed out after a DUI arrest.

To see Mr. Head’s well-known list of other DUI consequences and penalties, go to his 97 Consequences of a DUI Conviction.

What Happens for Your First DUI Offense?

For decades, DUI laws in Georgia under OCGA 40-6-391 have prescribed statutorily required punishment that includes multiple, mandatory Georgia DUI penalties and consequences. For a DUI first offense, these immutable, unavoidable punishments [as contained in subparagraph (c)(1), sections (A) through (F) of OCGA 40-6-391] will apply to your DUI case in Georgia:

Jail time, which (with rare exceptions) calls for not less than 24 hours in jail or more, up to 12 months in custody. This jail time will be followed by mandatory probation for one year, minus any days in custody. No early termination possible.

Fines and surcharges (Legislatively imposed taxes for being convicted of impaired driving in GA) that total in excess of $950, on average, with the highest potential total cash outlay being over $2,000 on a DUI-drugs 1st offense DUI in GA.

Community service of 40 or more hours, at the Court’s discretion.

Mandatory alcohol and drug assessment (called a clinical evaluation), with a requirement to complete all conditions of therapy or treatment, within a fixed time frame, prior to probation terminating.

Criminal conviction triggers a loss of Georgia driver’s license OR the ability to drive in Georgia, for out-of-state licensees. A limited permit CAN be obtained by most (but not all) drivers facing a 1st DUI. Depending on where the person is licensed, total loss of the ability to drive in Georgia may exist for at least 120 days. Any person already suspended for an administrative license suspension in the current DUI case, due to an implied consent “refusal to be tested,” continues to be suspended until the passage of one full year (12 months) has passed. Limited driving permits are not available for such administrative suspensions.

DUI classes (which is called the Risk Reduction program in GA), in order to EVER reinstate the right to drive in Georgia. These classes apply to any driver, whether from Georgia or not, but some similar DUI school programs in sister states may be able to supply suitable proof of completion of a Georgia DDS-approved program.

Missing from this list is ANY chance of a DUI deferral, DUI diversion, expunction, “aging off,” or record restriction for a driving while impaired conviction in Georgia. You take the conviction to your GRAVE. The number of times the conviction will become “an issue” depends on everyone’s life, but the more complex and multi-faceted the convicted person’s life, the more barriers, inconveniences, and loss of entitlements he or she will encounter.

Driver’s License Consequences for DUI 1st Under Georgia DUI Laws

Simply stated, every DUI conviction takes away the motorist’s Georgia license, or an out-of-state driver’s ability to drive in Georgia. This penalty includes the person with a first DUI conviction. The suspension period is 12 months, but early reinstatement for some Georgia licensees is available. The Georgia Department of Driver Services (Georgia DDS) is legally required to suspend a GA driver’s license or send a notice of conviction to the driver’s state, where he or she faces either suspension or revocation.

Without question, being a first DUI offender is FAR better off (for getting driving privileges restored at GA DDS) than what happens to a DUI 2nd offense in GA. The conditions upon which a 1st DUI in five years will be able to utilize for driving are far less restrictive than for drivers in Georgia with a 2nd DUI in GA within five years. First DUI Penalties in Georgia

Consequences for a 1st time DUI GA are ranked among America’s toughest. For details on what happens to first time DUI offenders, go back to the section (above) where those DUI consequences are detailed.

The entire point of this article is to DISCLOSE how bad your future will be if you mistakenly let cheap DUI lawyers plead you guilty, when excellent DUI defense may be available in your driving while intoxicated case. When people learn that they have cancer, most will diligently search for the best oncologist and the best surgeon for removal of a tumor. However, with legal matters, some highly intelligent people try to self-assess their legal problem and never bother to call the best DUI lawyer in America.

Does Georgia Have a First Offender Program Or DUI Diversion?

NO, Georgia offers no licensed driver of ANY type a First Offender Program plea, whereby the DUI offender proves himself or herself over a period (e.g., one year or more) to have learned a lesson about not drinking and driving. The concept of having such a program is an acknowledgment of DUI being the only CRIME OF DEGREE in the world, and that adult drinkers can misjudge their BAC levels.

Other states (WV and MS, for example) have excellent programs for a 1st time DUI offense in either a DUI deferral as used by West Virginia or a DUI expunction program that the state of Mississippi enacted a few years ago. Georgia DUI law has NEVER had such a program in our history.

The Search for Law Firms Near Me With Experienced DUI Specialists

The starting point for fighting a DUI in GA is limiting your search for attorneys near me to the BEST qualified attorney and law offices. By only hiring the attorneys for DUI defense with multiple industry recognition for ALL or MOST of these top legal industry accolades, you should be fine:

  • Board Certified in DUI Defense by the American Bar Association
  • Martindale-Hubbell 5.0 ratings, and “av preeminent” highest possible rating for ethics and skill
  • Best Lawyers in America – See our two recipients below.
  • Super Lawyers recognition for William C. Head, Cory Yager , and Lawrence (Larry) Kohn

Call our 24-hour HOTLINE: (404) 567-5515. FREE lawyer consultation and FREE legal advice. Learn about your DUI representation.

Additional Links for Driver’s License and DWI-DUI Penalties:

  • GA DDS list of companies with State-Approved Ignition Interlock Devices
  • Read about all three of our law partners being legal book authors
Client Reviews
Great lawyer helped me out a lot. Very attentive, made me feel comfortable and at ease!! Really knows his stuff - would use him anytime. M.L.
Mr. Larry Kohn could not have been more helpful. I sent him a message for a free consultation, and unfortunately my case had to be handled in another state. But he completely walked me through everything I needed to do, and even offered to assist the lawyer I did find in Virginia should they need help with my case. Jamie V.
Mr. Kohn is just amazing. He is truthful and realistic when explaining potential outcomes of your case and doesn’t force you to hire him or anything. When I met him, he went through everything about the case and ways to fight it off first before even telling me about his services. He got my case dismissed and kept me out of a lot of potential problems with school applications and future job opportunities. I highly recommend him to anyone. Anurag G.