Georgia DUI Laws
Georgia has strict laws for drivers caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Georgia State Patrol, local police departments and prosecutors take drunk driving very seriously, and so should you. A DUI conviction will not only result in a criminal record, the driver may face jail time, loss of their driver's license, fines, and mandatory counseling, education and community service hours.
A DUI arrest usually begins with a driver being pulled over for some traffic violation such as failing to come to a complete stop, speeding, or for driving without the headlights on. When the police approach the car, they will be on the lookout for any signs or indications that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This could include slurred speech, the smell of alcohol coming from the driver or inside the car, or visibly seeing an alcohol container in the car. If the officer suspects the driver may be intoxicated, they will gather evidence of impairment through speaking with the driver, doing field sobriety tests, and using a breathalyzer device.
Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are used by police to test a driver for impairment. Standardized field sobriety tests, or SFSTs, include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) eye test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg-stand test. The police believe these are accurate tests to identify impaired drivers. However, other experts are skeptical of their utility, and even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration knows that these tests are not 100% accurate. You also have the right to refuse to submit to these tests.
Blood Alcohol Chemical Tests
Georgia considers anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than 0.08% to be under the influence. For drivers under 21, the limit is only 0.02%, and for commercial driver's, the limit is 0.04%. A driver's BAC is tested by chemical machines, which give an approximation of how much alcohol the driver has consumed. This can be done through breath, blood or urine analysis. However, the state can still charge a driver with a BAC under the limit with a DUI based on less safe driving caused by alcohol or drugs. This is known as a less safe DUI.
Police officers who suspect a driver may be under the influence of alcohol may ask the driver to submit to a breath test during the traffic stop. This is a field breath test, sometimes called a breathalyzer. However, this test is not mandatory. Given the machines are not 100% accurate, and may give a false reading that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, you have the right to refuse this roadside test. However, if the police officer or state patrol suspects alcohol, they may just arrest the driver based on the evidence they've gathered, and require the individual to submit to a chemical test at the police station.
Refusing a Chemical Test
If a driver refuses to submit to a chemical test after being arrested, their license will be suspended for a year. This is because of the state's implied consent law, which requires you to submit to whatever chemical test the officer's want to do, blood, urine or breath, or risk losing your driving privileges.
Keep Your Georgia Driver's License - You Only Have 10 Days
The most immediate thing you need to do is try to protect your ability to drive. Many people don't know this, but you only have 10 days after your arrest to try and keep your driver's license, otherwise it will automatically be suspended. Even before you have your chance to defend yourself in court, the Department of Driver Services will suspend your Georgia driver's license just based on the arrest.
In order to stop the automatic license suspension, you need to request an administrative License Suspension (ALS) hearing. This need to be done within 10 business days of your arrest. Your Georgia DUI lawyer can file the 10 day letter for you. The ALS hearing is separate and different from the criminal trial. After requesting a hearing, you DUI defense lawyer can represent you before the administrative hearing to keep your license from getting suspended.
In addition to losing your license, there are many other restrictions and consequences that come with a DUI conviction. Even for a first-time DUI, you may face:
- Jail time, with a minimum of 24 hours in jail, up to 1 year
- 40 hours of community service
- Fines, fees and penalties up to $1,000
- An alcohol and substance abuse evaluation
- DUI school
The penalties for a DUI conviction are increased for a second or third DUI, and for a fourth DUI which is considered a felony. An underage driver or a commercial driver may face additional restrictions if they are convicted of driving under the influence.
In addition to the court imposed penalties, there are other DUI consequences to consider. With a DUI on your record, car insurance companies may increase your insurance premiums, or fail to renew your policy. These costs can add up to thousands of dollars. A DUI conviction will also give you a criminal record, which may impact your ability to work, and could bar you from some future job opportunities.
Many people facing charges for a DUI simply want to put the events behind them and move on. But before you agree to a plea deal, you need to look at all your options. You do not have to plead guilty, when you can fight the charges against you, to keep your license to drive, and keep a clean record.
There are many available defenses for someone charged with a DUI. Depending on the case, the police may have given improper instructions, failed to appropriately document the traffic stop or arrest, or there may be problems with the chemical testing. This can result in having DUI charges reduced, or dismissed entirely. An experienced DUI lawyer will investigate your case, review all the available records and develop a defense strategy to win your case.
Your Georgia DUI Lawyers
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Georgia DUI anywhere in the Metro Atlanta area, contact an experienced DUI defense team who exclusively handles DUI and drug-related charges. A DUI can mean the loss of your license, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. With more than 20 years of aggressive DUI defense, we are committed to defending your rights, so you can keep your license to drive, and keep your record clean.
As former DUI prosecutors, we understand what it takes to win a DUI case. Through scientific analysis, extensive knowledge of Georgia DUI laws, and treating each case as if it were our own, we have what it takes to get results. Call Kuttner & Associates today, so we can fight for you.