Given the prevalence of alcohol consumption in our society, it is probably not all that surprising to learn that thousands of Georgia drivers are charged with driving under the influence each year. What you may not realize, however, is that many of those who have been arrested did not have a trace of alcohol in their system. How is this possible? They were charged with DUI drug impairment.

In Georgia, you may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if you are found operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or inhalants such as glue or aerosol. There are a number of potential DUI charges under Georgia law, though they all fall under two main categories: DUI Per Se and DUI Less Safe.

Per Se versus Less Safe

To be convicted of DUI Per Se, the prosecution must show that you were operating a vehicle while having any trace amount of marijuana or another controlled substance in your system. This can be shown through a chemical test, usually of your blood or urine.

In a DUI Less Safe charge, however, the prosecution must demonstrate that your ability to drive was “less safe” due to the ingestion of drugs. In other words, your ability to safely operate the vehicle was less than that of a driver who had not taken drugs. Most Georgia DUI Drugs cases are charged as DUI Less Safe.

Proving Impaired Driving

Of course, law enforcement officials are not always right. Just because a police officer thinks you may be under the influence of drugs does not mean that you actually are. In order for the state to uphold the charge and convict you of DUI, the prosecution must prove that your ability to drive was impaired to such an extent that you were a “less safe” driver because of the alcohol and/or drugs. Proving this is easy enough when it comes to alcohol—after all, we have a .08% legal blood alcohol limit—but when it comes to drugs and other substances, things get tricky.

There are no set guidelines to indicate the amount of drugs required to impair a person’s ability to drive. Not only is every person’s body different, but with the sheer number of drugs and medications available, it would be virtually impossible to define a limit for each particular substance. As a result, the state must do more than simply prove you were driving with drugs in your system—they must also prove you were driving in an unsafe manner because of the drugs in your system. If the prosecution is unable to show that your ability to drive was impaired, the charges will be dismissed.

Potential DUID Penalties

Operating a vehicle in Georgia equates agreement to blood or urine testing; refusing a chemical test may cause an automatic license suspension. You have 10 days to fight this charge.

  • First offense: a fine of up to $1,000 and 24 hours in jail, with further jail time of up to a year possible. Community service, probation, and enrollment in a risk reduction program are also likely.
  • Second offense:  A minimum of 72 hours in jail, with possible additional time of up to one year; the fine may be up to $1,000. Community service, probation, and mandatory alcohol or drug treatment, as well as a risk reduction program, are likely. Your license may be suspended for up to three years. You could get an ignition interlock device installed on your car.
  • Third offense: up to a year in jail with a mandatory 10 days, 240 hours of community service, drug/alcohol rehabilitation, and probation. Your license is revoked for five years. An ignition interlock device is likely.
  • Fourth offense in ten years after July 1, 2008 and after: a felony. Up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000. You could lose your vehicle permanently.
  • A Drug DUI in Georgia will carry an additional 180 days suspension WITHOUT a limited permit.

License Penalties for DUI Drugs Conviction

In Georgia, if you are convicted of DUI involving alcohol, you may be eligible for a limited driving permit that will allow you to drive to specific locations for specific purposes (for example, work, school, or a medical treatment facility). However, if you are convicted of a DUI Drugs charge—whether DUI Less Safe or DUI Per Se—you will not be eligible for a limited driving permit. If your DUI case involved alcohol and drugs, you will not be eligible for a limited permit.

Getting Help For Your Georgia DUID Case

Although the consequences of driving under the influence can be quite severe, an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction. At Kohn & Yager, we know just how confusing Georgia’s DUI laws are—particularly when it comes to what constitutes a Less Safe charge. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys have helped countless drivers fight their DUI and prove their arrest was unwarranted.