Georgia DUI Law

GEORGIA DUI LAW OVERVIEW FROM THE GEORGIA DUI STATUTES

By Howard J. Weintraub, Esq.
© 2003. All rights reserved.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (commonly referred to as “DUI”) is a very serious offense in Georgia. A week doesn’t go by where we do not read in our newspapers about the tragic loss of a life caused by an alleged intoxicated driver who has been involved in an accident. As a consequence of these deadly accidents, there has been a tremendous public ground swell of support for legislative changes in the DUI laws from groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and Students Against Drunk Drivers (SADD).

This has resulted in our Georgia lawmakers passing legislation that has made the penalties for a DUI conviction extremely harsh, especially for those individuals who have a second or third (or more) conviction for DUI within a five-year period of time, as measured from the date of the previous arrest for DUI which resulted in a DUI conviction to the date of the arrest of the present offense. Even a first time offender, if that person’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of the offense was 0.08 grams or more, is facing a mandatory period of at least 24 hours in jail, placement on probation for 12 months, payment of a fine of up to $1,000.00, performance of at least 40 hours of community service, suspension of his/her Georgia driver’s license and attendance at DUI school.

In Georgia, there are six ways in which a person can be convicted of DUI. The most frequently used method is often termed the per se aspect of the Georgia law. Under this prosecution, Georgia law prohibits a person from driving, or being in actual physical control of any moving vehicle, while that person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more at any time within three hours after that person’s driving of the vehicle has ended, or within three hours after that person’s physical control of the vehicle has ended.

Another method used to convict drivers of DUI is for the prosecutor to show beyond a reasonable doubt that alcohol and/or other substances had caused the driver to be less safe. In this aspect of the law, Gergia prohibits a person from driving, or being in actual physical control of any moving vehicle, while that person is under the influence of alcohol to such an extent that the alcohol has made it less safe for that person to drive. Georgia law also prohibits a person from driving, or being in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, while that person is under the influence of any drug (including legally prescribed medicines or over-the-counter medicines, such as cold remedies) to such an extent that the drug has made it less safe for that person to drive. Georgia law also prohibits a person from driving, or being in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, while that person is under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol or other toxic vapor to such an extent that the substance has made it less safe for that person to drive. Also, a combined influence of any two or more of these substances is prohibited if such combination has made it less safe for a person to drive.

The sixth method of potential DUI prosecution in Georgia involves a provision of Georgia law that prohibits a person from driving, or being in actual physical control of any moving vehicle, while there is any amount of a controlled substance in that person’s blood or urine, without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood and without regard to whether such controlled substance made it less safe for that person to drive.

OVERVIEW OF THE PENALTIES FOR A DUI CONVICTION IN GEORGIA

The penalties for persons convicted in Georgia of a DUI vary depending upon the person’s criminal history regarding the number of DUI convictions that the person has:

IF THIS WILL BE YOUR FIRST LIFETIME DUI CONVICTION, THIS IS THE PUNISHMENT YOU WILL BE FACING:

I. How Much Jail Time Will You Be Looking To Get:

– Georgia law requires that, if you had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.8 grams or more at the time of the offense, the judge must sentence you to 10 days in jail. All of this sentence can be waived or suspended by the judge except for 24 hours. What this means is that you must be sentenced to at least 24 hours in jail.

The maximum amount of jail time that can be imposed upon you by the judge is 12 months.

– Georgia law provides that, if you had a blood alcohol concentration under 0.08 grams at the time of the offense, no minimum jail time of 24 hours is required. However, the maximum amount of jail time that can be imposed by the judge still is 12 months.

II. After You Finish Your Jail Time, How Much Probation Will You Be Looking To Get:

– Georgia law provides that the judge must place you on probation for a period of 12 months, crediting any jail time that you have served. Whether any portion of this period of probation will be non-reporting rather than reporting is left up to the discretion of the judge.

III. How Much Of A Monetary Fine Will You Be Required To Pay:

– Georgia law requires that the judge impose a fine of no less than $300.00 and no more than $1,000.00. In addition to the fine amount, you will be required to pay court surcharges and assessments.

IV. How Much Community Service Will You Be Required To Perform:

– Georgia law requires that all drivers who are 21 years old and over (irrespective of the level of their blood alcohol concentration) and those drivers who are under 21, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more at the time of the offense, are to perform a minimum of 40 hours of community service. The judge, however, can impose a greater amount of hours.

– Georgia law provides that those drivers who are under 21 years old with a blood alcohol concentration of under 0.08 grams at the time of the offense are to perform a minimum of 20 hours of community service. The judge, however, can impose a greater amount of hours.

V. How Long Will Your Georgia Driver’s License Be Suspended:

– Georgia law requires that if you have a Georgia driver’s license and you are convicted in Georgia of DUI, your license will be suspended for a period of 12 months commencing on the day you are convicted. The law also allows for certain offenders to be able to obtain a limited driving permit that allows the offender to go to and from his or her place of employment or to perform the normal duties of his or her occupation; allows the offender to receive scheduled medical care or to obtain prescription drugs; allows the offender to attend a college or school at which he or she is regularly enrolled as a student; allows the offender to attend meetings of support organizations such as Alcohol Anonymous; and allows the offender to attend (pursuant to court order) any driver education or improvement school or an alcohol or drug program or course approved by the court or the commissioner of motor vehicle safety.

This permit can be obtained on the day you are convicted of DUI by going to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety and paying a fee of $25.00. The permit is nonrenewable and becomes invalid upon the expiration of 120 days following the conviction for DUI.

After this passage of 120 days, Georgia law allows for early reinstatement of your driver’s license if you have completed an approved driving school risk reduction course (see below) and submit proof of this completion to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety. The cost of reinstatement of your license is $200.00 if it is done through the mail and is $210.00 if it is done in person at the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety.

Note: If you are under 21 years old and your blood alcohol concentration at the time of the offense was less than 0.08 grams, your license will be suspended for 6 months and you are not eligible for a limited driving permit during the period of suspension. If you are under 21 years old and your blood alcohol concentration at the time of the offense was 0.08 grams or more, your license will be suspended for 12 months, and you are not eligible for a limited driving permit during the period of suspension.

VI: You Will Have To Attend A DUI Alcohol Or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (“DUI School”):

– As part of your sentence, the judge will require you to attend a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program approved by the Georgia Department of Human Resources (commonly referred to as “DUI School”). This course also is required by Georgia law to be completed before you will be able to renew your driving privileges in Georgia or before you will be able to ever again obtain a Georgia driver’s license or a license from another state, should you choose to move out of Georgia.

The cost of the driving school is approximately $250.00. The availability of classes is convenient as most schools operate on a schedule of Saturday and Sunday classes of 7 hours each day and then on Monday and Tuesday evenings for 3 hours each session, for a total of 20 hours.

VII: You Probably Will Be Ordered To Undergo An Alcohol And/Or Drug Clinical Evaluation:

– Although not required by Georgia law for a first time offender, the judge probably will order you to undergo a clinical evaluation to determine if you have any alcohol and/or drug dependencies. If the evaluation indicates that treatment is warranted, you will be required to complete the appropriate substance abuse treatment program.

IF THIS WILL BE YOUR SECOND DUI CONVICTION WITHIN FIVE YEARS
FROM YOUR LAST DUI CONVICTION, AS MEASURED FROM THE DATE OF
ARREST OF YOUR LAST CONVICTION TO THE DATE OF ARREST OF YOUR
PRESENT OFFENSE, THIS IS THE PUNISHMENT YOU WILL BE FACING:

I. How Much Jail Time Will You Be Looking To Get:

– Georgia law requires that the judge must sentence you to a period of imprisonment of not less than 90 days nor more than 12 months. Although the judge can probate at least a portion of this term of imprisonment, the judge must sentence you to serve no less than 72 hours of actual incarceration. What this means is that you must be sentenced to at least 72 hours in jail. But keep in mind, that many judges will sentence you to much more than the statutorily required minimum of 3 days.

The maximum amount of jail time that can be imposed upon you by the judge is 12 months.

II. After You Finish Your Jail Time, How Much Probation Will You Be Looking To Get:

– Georgia law provides that the judge must place you on probation for a period of 12 months, crediting any jail time that you have served. Whether any portion of this period of probation will be non-reporting rather than reporting is left up to the discretion of the judge.

III. How Much Of A Monetary Fine Will You Be Required To Pay:

– Georgia law requires that the judge impose a fine of no less that $600.00 and no more than $1,000.00. In addition to the fine amount, you will be required to pay court surcharges and assessments.

IV. How Much Community Service Will You Be Required To Perform:

– Georgia law requires that you perform “not less than 30 days” of community service. Although the term “days” is not defined in the statute, most judges construe this “30 days” requirement as constituting 240 hours (interpreting a “day” to be 8 hours (x) 30 days = 240 hours) rather than 720 hours (interpreting a “day” to be 24 hours (x) 30 days = 720 hours).

V. How Long Will Your Georgia Driver’s License Be Suspended:

– Georgia law requires that, if you have a Georgia driver’s license and you are convicted in Georgia of your second DUI offense within the requisite period of 5 years from your earlier DUI conviction, your license will be suspended for a period of 3 years commencing on the day you are convicted. For the first 12 months of this period of suspension you will not be able to drive at all as the law does not allow you to apply for the limited driving permit that is available to certain first time DUI offenders. (Click here for our earlier discussion of the limited driving permit.) This is what is referred to as a period of “hard suspension”.

After this passage of 12 months, you will be able to drive, in a limited and restricted fashion, for the next six months by obtaining what is known as “an ignition interlock device limited driving permit”. After the passage of these 6 months (and thus a total of 18 months of suspension) you will be able to reapply for full reinstatement of your Georgia driver’s license, thereby bypassing the full suspension period of 3 years. (Note, if you are under 21 years old, the law does not allow for you to obtain this permit. Therefore, your license will be suspended for 18 full months).

This is how the suspension works:

The first 12 months of the 3 years of suspension is a hard suspension and you cannot drive under any circumstances. Then for months 13-18 of the 3 year period of suspension the judge will order you to place an “ignition interlock device” on your vehicle as one of the conditions of your probation. This is a device that is attached to your vehicle by a state-authorized provider center and prevents the vehicle from being started at any time without the device first determining the blood alcohol concentration of the operator of the vehicle. This determination is done by having the operator of the motor vehicle supply a deep lung breath sample into the device. If the operator’s blood alcohol concentration, as measured by the ignition interlock device, exceeds 0.02 grams, the motor vehicle will not start.

After this device has been installed on your motor vehicle, in order for you to be able to drive, you first must obtain an “ignition interlock device limited driving permit” from the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety. For you to be able to get this limited driving permit, the judge must have issued an order requiring that you use the ignition interlock device as one of the conditions of your probation. Then, you can get the permit if you submit to the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety the following documents: a certified copy of the judge’s Order; proof of your completing a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program course (proof of having gone to “DUI School”); proof of your having undergone a clinical evaluation for alcohol and/or drug dependencies; proof of your having enrolled in a substance abuse program and proof of your having installed an ignition interlock device on each motor vehicle registered in your name or on any other vehicle to be driven by you. The cost of this permit is $25.00.

The ignition interlock device will remain on your motor vehicle for 6 months, permitting you to drive to and from and during work and permitting you to drive in accordance with the other conditions allowed by the limited driving permit given to first time DUI offenders. Then after the passage of 18 months (with the installation of the ignition interlock device) you will be able to have your full, non-restricted Georgia driver’s license reinstated. The cost of reinstatement of your license is $200.00 if it is done through the mail and is $210.00 if it is done in person at the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety.

Note: The judge has the authority to exempt you from the requirement of the installation of the ignition interlock device if, based upon the court’s determination, installation of the device would subject you to “undue” financial hardship.

VI. You Will Have To Attend A DUI Alcohol Or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (“DUI School”):

– As part of your sentence, the judge will require you to attend a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program approved by the Georgia Department of Human Resources (commonly referred to as “DUI School”). This course also is required by Georgia law to be completed before you will be able to renew your driving privileges in Georgia or before you will be able to ever again obtain a Georgia driver’s license or a license from another state, should you choose to move out of Georgia.

The cost of the driving school is approximately $250.00. The availability of classes is convenient as most schools operate on a schedule of Saturday and Sunday classes of 7 hours each day and then on Monday and Tuesday evenings for 3 hours each session, for a total of 20 hours.

VII. You Will Be Ordered To Undergo An Alcohol And/Or Drug Clinical Evaluation:

– Georgia law requires that in addition to any and all other conditions of reinstatement of your Georgia driver’s license, you are required to undergo a clinical evaluation for alcohol and/or drug dependencies and, if indicated by such evaluation, you must complete a substance abuse treatment program.

VIII. All Georgia License Plates On The Vehicles You Own Will Be Surrendered To The Court:

– Georgia law requires that upon your second or subsequent DUI conviction within the requisite period of 5 years from your earlier DUI conviction, the judge must issue an order requiring that the license plates of all motor vehicles registered in your name be surrendered to the court. No new license plate or plates may be issued to you until you have been issued a limited driving permit (as we discussed above) or a probationary driver’s license or your driver’s license has been reissued or reinstated, whichever event occurs first. A separate misdemeanor crime will occur if you obtain a new license plate or plates, unless such is done in accordance with the law.

Note: You may apply to the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety for authorization to obtain a new license plate or plates bearing a special series of numbers and letters so as to be identified by law enforcement officials. The Commissioner shall authorize the issuance of such a special license plate only if the Commissioner determines that there is a member of your household, who possesses a valid driver’s license, and that a co-owner of the vehicle or a member of your family (other than you) “is completely dependent upon the motor vehicle for the necessities of life and would be subjected to undue hardship without such special license plate.” The decision by the Commissioner must not take more than five business days following your applying to the Commissioner for this special license plate. If the Commissioner denies the new license plate you can seek further relief from the Office Of State Administrative Hearings.

Note: The use of such a special license plate does not constitute probable cause authorizing the police to conduct a traffic stop of the motor vehicle displaying the plate, or a search of the vehicle or a seizure of the vehicle.

IX. Notice Of Your Conviction, Together With Your Photograph, Will Be Published In The Newspaper:

– Georgia law requires that the clerk of the court in which you are convicted shall publish in the newspaper a notice of your conviction. This will be in a newspaper in the county in which you reside or, if you are not a resident of Georgia, in the county in which you were convicted. This notice is required to contain the photograph taken of you by the police at the time of your arrest (commonly referred to as your “mug shot”); your name and address; the date, time, and place of your arrest and the disposition of the case. The judge will assess you $25.00 for the cost of the publication of this notice.

IF THIS WILL BE YOUR THIRD OR SUBSEQUENT DUI CONVICTION WITHIN FIVE YEARS FROM YOUR LAST DUI CONVICTION, AS MEASURED FROM THE DATE OF
ARREST OF YOUR LAST CONVICTION TO THE DATE OF ARREST OF YOUR
PRESENT OFFENSE, THIS IS THE PUNISHMENT YOU WILL BE FACING:

I. How Much Jail Time Will You Be Looking To Get:

– Georgia law requires that the judge must sentence you to a period of imprisonment of not less than 120 days nor more than 12 months. Although the judge can probate at least a portion of this term of imprisonment, the judge must sentence you to serve no less than 15 days of actual incarceration. What this means is that you must be sentenced to at least 15 days in jail. But keep in mind, that many judges will sentence you to much more than the statutorily required minimum of 15 days.

The maximum amount of jail time that can be imposed upon you by the judge is 12 months.

II. After You Finish Your Jail Time, How Much Probation Will You Be Looking To Get:

– Georgia law provides that the judge must place you on probation for a period of 12 months, crediting any jail time that you have served. Whether any portion of this period of probation will be non-reporting rather than reporting is left up to the discretion of the judge.

III. How Much Of A Monetary Fine Will You Be Required To Pay:

– Georgia law requires that the judge impose a fine of no less than $1,000.00 and no more than $5,000.00. In addition to the fine amount, you will be required to pay court surcharges and assessments.

IV. How Much Community Service Will You Be Required To Perform:

– Georgia law requires that you perform “not less than 30 days” of community service. Although the term “days” is not defined in the statute, most judges construe this “30 days” requirement as constituting 240 hours (interpreting a “day” to be 8 hours (x) 30 days = 240 hours) rather than 720 hours (interpreting a “day” to be 24 hours (x) 30 days = 720 hours).

V. How Long Will Your Georgia Driver’s License Be Revoked:

– Unlike a first time or second time DUI conviction, which results in a suspension of your Georgia driver’s license, Georgia law requires that upon your third conviction for DUI within the requisite period of 5 years from your last DUI conviction, your license is revoked for a period of 5 years and you are considered to be a habitual violator. After the passage of 2 years, you are eligible to receive a probationary driver’s license for a period of time not to exceed 3 years if you have fulfilled several prerequisite conditions. The fee for the issuance of this probationary license is $200.00 if it is done through the mail and is $210.00 if it is done in person at the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety.

In applying for this probationary driver’s license, you need to establish that if the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety refuses to issue such a license, this would cause “extreme hardship” to you. The term “extreme hardship” means that you cannot reasonably obtain other transportation and, therefore, you would be prohibited from going to your place of employment or otherwise performing the normal duties of your occupation; and/or you would be prohibited from receiving scheduled medical care or from obtaining prescription drugs; and/or you would be prohibited from attending college or school at which you are regularly enrolled as a student; and/or you would be prohibited from attending regularly scheduled sessions or meetings of support organizations such as Alcohol Anonymous; and/or you would be prohibited from attending (pursuant to court order) any driver education or improvement school or an alcohol or drug treatment program or course approved by the court.

The probationary driver’s license will be issued with such conditions as the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety deems necessary to ensure that the license will be used by you only to avoid the conditions of extreme hardship that you have set forth in your application. Such conditions may include the following restrictions: (1) specific places between which you may be allowed to drive; (2) routes to be followed by you; (3) times you are allowed to drive; (4) the specific vehicles which you may operate and (5) any other restrictions the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety may deem to be necessary.

For a period of six months following the issuance of the probationary driver’s license, you will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed and maintained in each motor vehicle registered in your name and you are not permitted to drive any motor vehicle that is not so equipped during this six-month period of time. (Click here for our earlier discussion of the ignition interlock device.) Following the expiration of this six-month period of time, if there is no violation of the conditions of the probationary license, you can apply for a habitual violator probationary driver’s license without the ignition interlock device condition.

Note: The judge has the authority to exempt you from the requirement of the installation of the ignition interlock device if, based upon the court’s determination, installation of the device would subject you to “undue” financial hardship.

Note: If you are under 21 years old, you must wait a full 30 months for the applicable period of suspension to expire in order to be able to get a habitual violator probationary driver’s license.

VI. You Will Have To Attend A DUI Alcohol Or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (“DUI School”):

– As part of your sentence, the judge will require you to attend a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program approved by the Georgia Department of Human Resources (commonly referred to as “DUI School”). This course also is required by Georgia law to be completed before you will be able to renew your driving privileges in Georgia or before you will be able to ever again obtain a Georgia driver’s license or a license from another state, should you choose to move out of Georgia.

The cost of the driving school is approximately $250.00. The availability of classes is convenient as most schools operate on a schedule of Saturday and Sunday classes of 7 hours each day and then on Monday and Tuesday evenings for 3 hours each session, for a total of 20 hours.

VII. You Will Be Ordered To Undergo An Alcohol And/Or Drug Clinical Evaluation:

– Georgia law requires that in addition to any and all other conditions of reinstatement of your Georgia driver’s license, you are required to undergo a clinical evaluation for alcohol and/or drug dependencies and, if indicated by such evaluation, you must complete a substance abuse treatment program.

VIII. All Georgia License Plates On The Vehicles You Own Will Be Surrendered To The Court:

– Georgia law requires that upon your second or subsequent DUI conviction within the requisite period of 5 years from your earlier DUI conviction, the judge must issue an order requiring that the license plates of all motor vehicles registered in your name be surrendered to the court. No new license plate or plates may be issued to you until you have been issued a limited driving permit (as we discussed above) or a probationary driver’s license or your driver’s license has been reissued or reinstated, whichever event occurs first. A separate misdemeanor crime will occur if you obtain a new license plate or plates, unless such is done in accordance with the law.

Note: You may apply to the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety for authorization to obtain a new license plate or plates bearing a special series of numbers and letters so as to be identified by law enforcement officials. The Commissioner shall authorize the issuance of such a special license plate only if the Commissioner determines that there is a member of your household, who possesses a valid driver’s license, and that a co-owner of the vehicle or a member of your family (other than you) “is completely dependent upon the motor vehicle for the necessities of life and would be subjected to undue hardship without such special license plate.” The decision by the Commissioner must not take more than five business days following your applying to the Commissioner for this special license plate. If the Commissioner denies the new license plate you can seek further relief from the Office Of State Administrative Hearings.

Note: The use of such a special license plate does not constitute probable cause authorizing the police to conduct a traffic stop of the motor vehicle displaying the plate, or a search of the vehicle or a seizure of the vehicle.

IX. Notice Of Your Conviction, Together With Your Photograph, Will Be Published In The Newspaper:

– Georgia law requires that the clerk of the court in which you are convicted shall publish in the newspaper a notice of your conviction. This will be in a newspaper in the county in which you reside or, if you are not a resident of Georgia, in the county in which you were convicted. This notice is required to contain the photograph taken of you by the police at the time of your arrest (commonly referred to as your “mug shot”); your name and address; the date, time, and place of your arrest and the disposition of the case. The judge will assess you $25.00 for the cost of the publication of this notice.