Georgia’s DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in Georgia.

Georgia prohibits driving a vehicle while under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. But at what point does alcohol or drug use amount to being under the influence? And does the officer have to witness the person actually driving to make a DUI arrest?

This article outlines the basic requirements for a DUI conviction, the possible penalties an offender might face for an arrest or a conviction, and some options that might be available to avoid certain DUI penalties.

Georgia's DUI Laws

To get a DUI conviction in court, prosecutors must prove the person was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • while "under the influence" of drugs or alcohol
  • with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08%, or
  • with any amount of illegal drugs in his or her system.

In other words, a DUI conviction can be based on BAC, actual impairment, or a failed drug test.

A driver is considered under the influence if, due to ingesting drugs or alcohol, they are less safe to drive than they ordinarily would be.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in Georgia

The penalties for a DUI conviction generally vary based on the number of prior convictions the driver has in the last ten years.

Jail, Fines, and Community Service for Georgia DUI Convictions

Generally, a DUI conviction is considered a misdemeanor. The chart below outlines the ranges of jail time, fines, and community service for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in Georgia.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

10 days to 12 months

90 days to 12 months

120 days to 12 months

Fines

$300 to $1,000

$600 to $1,000

$1,000 to $5,000

Community Service

Minimum 20 hours (40 hours if BAC was .08% or more)

Minimum 30 days

Minimum 30 days

Child Endangerment Charges Related to Georgia DUI Violations

In Georgia, a DUI that involves passengers under 14 years of age is considered per se child endangerment. As a separate charge, child endangerment carries up to 12 months in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines in addition to the DUI penalties.

Georgia DUI Probation

After being released from jail, DUI offenders are placed on probation. Before being released on probation, DUI offenders must serve at least 24 hours in jail for a first offense, 72 hours in jail for a second offense, and 15 days in jail for a third offense.

Generally, the period of probation is 12 months minus whatever time the offender spent in jail.

While on probation, offenders must comply with certain requirements (such as treatment and maintaining sobriety). Failure to comply can result in additional jail time.

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Repeat Georgia DUI Offenders

As part of sentencing, all offenders must complete an alcohol and drug evaluation. This evaluation will identify any possible drug or alcohol dependencies and include a recommendation on treatment. The court reviews these recommendations and can order the offender to participate in treatment or substance abuse education.

For repeat DUI violations, the driver must complete a state-approved DUI alcohol or drug use reduction program. These programs generally include a standardized assessment of the driver's chemical dependencies as well as a 20-hour education curriculum and/or substance abuse treatment program.

License Plate Revocation and Vehicle Forfeiture for DUI Convictions

In addition to the penalties and fines against the driver, the offender's vehicle will also be affected. Motorists who are convicted of a second DUI within five years must surrender their vehicle plates and will not get them back until their driver's license is reinstated.

A third or subsequent DUI conviction can result in the offender's vehicle being forfeited to and sold by the state.

Georgia Felony DUI Penalties

While most Georgia DUIs are misdemeanors, a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction in a ten-year period can be charged as a felony. A fourth offense DUI will result in one to five years in prison, $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, and five years of supervised probation. The court will also order that any vehicle used in the commission of the DUI be forfeited and sold.

License-Related Penalties for Georgia DUI Offenses

Getting caught driving under the influence will typically lead to license-related penalties. These penalties vary depending on the number of prior DUI-related incidents within the last five years as well as the driver's cooperation with testing.

Georgia's Implied Consent Law

Georgia's "implied consent" law generally requires all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence to submit to breath, blood, or urine testing when requested to do so by an officer. Georgia law does outline that the least-intrusive test is generally preferred (breath tests for alcohol, urine tests for drugs, and blood tests only if necessary). Drivers have the "right" to refuse testing, but drivers who refuse to take a test generally face consequences for doing so.

Refusing a Chemical Test in Georgia

A driver who is arrested for a DUI but refuses to submit to a lawful request for a chemical test will be subject to license suspension. The arresting officer is supposed to immediately seize the driver's license, and the DMV will suspend driving privileges for the following periods:

  • First offense in five years. One-year suspension, but the driver can reinstate after 30 days and completion of a DUI education program.
  • Second offense in five years. Three-year suspension, but the driver can reinstate after 18 months and completion of a DUI education program.
  • Third offense in five years. Five-year suspension, but the driver can get a probationary license after two years and completion of a DUI education program.

Prosecutors can also use the fact that a driver refused testing in court while trying to prove a DUI charge.

However, a driver who is eventually acquitted of the DUI can have the refusal violation cleared and removed from his or her record.

Failing a Chemical Test in Georgia

If a driver submits to testing and produces an unlawful BAC or drug concentration, the officer will generally forward the results to the prosecutor for future use in trial. However, unlike most other states, Georgia does not immediately or administratively suspend a driver's license based solely on failed test results.

License Revocation for DUI Convictions in Georgia

An offender convicted of DUI will face driver's license suspension. The duration depends on the number of prior convictions the offender has within the last five years. The suspension periods are:

  • 12 months for a first offense
  • three years for a second offense, and
  • permanent for a third or subsequent offense.

It is also possible for the driver to apply for early reinstatement after completing certain requirements and fees.

  • First offense. A suspended driver with no prior offenses can apply for reinstatement after 120 days by paying a $200 fee and completing an approved DUI education program.
  • Second offense. A suspended driver with one prior offense in the last five years can apply for reinstatement after 18 months by paying a $200 fee and completing an approved DUI education program.
  • Third offense. A permanently revoked driver with two prior offenses can apply for a new license after three years.

DUI convictions that involved injury or death are not eligible for early reinstatement.

Getting a DUI Restricted License in Georgia

Suspended drivers are generally eligible to apply for a restricted license (also called a "hardship" license) during the suspension period. The driver must be enrolled in an approved treatment or accountability program and install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any operated vehicles.

Second offenders must wait 120 days before applying for a restricted license and may be subject to more restrictions. Third-offense and injury DUI offenders are not eligible for hardship licenses but can petition for other probationary licenses from the court.

Georgia's Underage DUI Laws

In Georgia, drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from driving with a BAC of .02% or more. Drivers who are caught violating this rule can face both criminal and administrative penalties.

Criminal Penalties for Underage DUIs in Georgia

An underage DUI is a misdemeanor and carries up to 12 months in jail and a maximum $1,000 in fines. A third offense is considered a high and aggravated misdemeanor and carries up to $5,000 in fines and a maximum of 12 months in jail.

Administrative Consequences of an Underage DUI/DUI in Georgia

If convicted of an underage DUI, the driver will face a six-month suspension for a first offense, a 12-month suspension for a second offense, and a permanent suspension for a third offense.

Just as with a DUI chemical test request, an underage driver arrested for driving under the influence will generally be asked to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test. An underage driver who unlawfully refuses will face the same one-year, 3-year, and five-year license revocation as for a standard test refusal.

Talk with a Georgia DUI Lawyer

Georgia prohibits pleading down or masking of DUI charges but does allow for diversion agreements. Generally offered for first-offense DUIs, diversions can result in the dismissal of DUI charges after the offender completes certain requirements.

If you've been arrested for driving while under the influence in Georgia, you should get in contact with a qualified DUI attorney in your area.

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