You were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Georgia, and now you are concerned for your future: What does your arrest mean for your ability to drive? What does it mean for your ability to get into (or stay in) college? Will you be able to find a job? Could you lose your job if your employer finds out about your arrest? Could you go to jail? These are all important questions; and, with the severity of Georgia’s DUI laws, the consequences of your arrest could indeed be substantial.
Q&A with the Georgia DUI Defense Lawyers at Davis, Chapman, & Wilder, LLC
Facing a DUI charge in Georgia is a serious matter. In order to protect yourself, you need to make sure you know what to expect during your case, and you need to hire an experienced defense lawyer. To help you get started, here are answers to 10 frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) about fighting a DUI charge in Georgia:
Q: Is a DUI a misdemeanor or felony in Georgia?
In general, a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor in Georgia. So is a second-time offense. A third offense is a “high and aggravated misdemeanor,” and a fourth or subsequent offense is a felony. However, this assumes that you were arrested for a “standard” DUI. If you caused an accident resulting in serious injury or death, then you could be facing a felony charge even for a first-time offense.
Q: What does Georgia’s implied consent law mean for my case?
In Georgia, all drivers are required to take a breathalyzer test (or blood or urine test) if stopped on suspicion of DUI. This requirement exists under Georgia’s “implied consent” law, which states that drivers consent to test simply by virtue of driving on the state’s public roads. If you refused the breathalyzer during your traffic stop, then you could be facing additional penalties under the implied consent law—and you could be convicted of an implied consent violation even if you are not actually guilty of driving under the influence.
Q: Was I required to submit to the field sobriety tests (FSTs)?
No. Georgia’s implied consent law does not apply to the FSTs. If you refused to walk and turn or stand on one leg, you were well within your rights to do so. However, if you submitted to the FSTs, your performance could be used against you in court, and you will need to determine what defense strategies you have available.
Q: What are the penalties for a first-time DUI in Georgia?
Most people are surprised to learn how much is at stake when they get arrested for a DUI. In Georgia, the potential penalties for a standard first-time offense include:
- Fines of $300 to $1,000
- 10 days to 12 months in jail (with the possibility for a fully or partially suspended sentence)
- A 12-month driver’s license suspension
- A minimum of 20 hours of community service (with a minimum of 40 hours in most cases)
- Completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program
- Clinical evaluation and, if recommended, substance abuse treatment
- 12 months of probation (reduced for any time spent in jail)
Q: Can I apply to have my license reinstated sooner than 12 months?
Yes, after 120 days you can apply to have your driver’s license reinstated if you have completed the DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program. There is also a reinstatement fee of $200.00 (or $210.00 if you apply in person).
Q: What are the other potential consequences of a DUI conviction?
A DUI conviction in Georgia can impact your life far beyond the restoration of your driving privileges. In addition to the criminal penalties listed above, having a DUI conviction on your record can also:
- Significantly increase the amount you pay for car insurance
- Limit (or even exclude) your eligibility to work in certain occupations
- Impair your ability to get into college or trigger disciplinary action by Judicial Affairs
- Result in disciplinary action by your professional licensing board
Q: If I get convicted, will I eventually be able to have my DUI expunged?
No, Georgia does not have an expungement law. Your DUI will be eligible for record restriction; however, unlike expungement in other states, record restriction in Georgia does not wipe your DUI off of your record.
Q: What are some potential defenses to a Georgia DUI?
While every case is truly unique, the good news is that there are several potential defenses to DUI in Georgia. Some examples of these defenses include:
- Faulty breathalyzer test results
- Misinterpretation of FST results or alternate explanation for poor performance
- An alternate explanation for driving behaviors that triggered the traffic stop
- Unlawful traffic stop or arrest
- Lack of evidence of guilt
Since a DUI is a criminal charge, the prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is any way to poke any hole in the prosecution’s case, this could be enough to save you from a life-altering conviction.
Q: What if my blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was above 0.08% but my driving wasn’t impaired?
Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or above is what is known as a DUI per se. Under Georgia law, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or above regardless of whether or not your driving abilities are impaired. As a result, arguing that you were driving safely will not protect you against a conviction. However, you may be able to successfully defend against your DUI charge by challenging the validity of your breathalyzer test result.
Q: Should I fight my DUI if I know I was driving drunk?
Yes, absolutely. Many of the defenses to DUI can be asserted regardless of whether or not you were actually driving drunk at the time of your arrest. With the consequences of a conviction, you should do everything possible to fight your DUI.
Discuss Your Case with a DUI Defense Lawyer in Augusta, GA
Where you arrested for DUI in Augusta, GA? If so, the defense lawyers at Davis, Chapman, & Wilder, LLC can help. To get started with a confidential case assessment, call us at 706-200-1578 or request an appointment online today.