DUI cases move quickly. Just with regard to alcohol, you are facing two different types of charges, and two different types of license suspensions. How your case goes will depend on many factors; Did you take or refuse the State’s test? What were the results? Were you Mirandized before the officer questioned you? Was there an accident involved? Did the officer take your license from you? Does your case involve drugs? Prescriptions? An Accident?
You need assistance in time to help you try to save your license by appealing any license suspension within 30 DAYS from the date you were arrested. We have the experience and know-how to help you navigate the confusing process of a DUI case. You need help from someone who can take your case to trial if need be, and not push you to enter a plea. You need an aggressive and effective attorney.
We hope you find our website’s information useful. No website can give you all the information you need, but we hope we’re able to give you some basic knowledge so that you can protect yourself as your case moves forward. Simply looking at our website will not create an attorney-client relationship, but we’ll be glad to set a consultation time with you as soon as possible.
We work in most Metro-Atlanta Counties, including Forsyth, Dawson, Hall, Gwinnett, Fulton, Barrow, Jackson, and Athens-Clarke County.
Georgia DUI law is detailed and complicated, and no website can give you detailed answers about your specific case. This site is meant to give good information about common types of cases, and to get you started so you can understand some basics as your case moves forward. Most of the information we provide here is targeted at licensed drivers who are over 21 years old, not driving a commercial vehicle, and charged with DUI of alcohol. If you are not licensed, are under 21, were driving a commercial vehicle or boat, or are charged with DUI of illegal drugs, or DUI of Prescription Drugs, please contact us for more detailed information. We can be reached at 770-538-5160 or at email@example.com.
Two types of alcohol-related DUI
In Georgia, for driving under the influence of alcohol, you could be charged with either at “per se” DUI or a “less safe” DUI.
- DUI “Per Se:” In Georgia, if you are proven to be driving with an unlawful blood-alcohol content (BAC), then you can be convicted of DUI. This is true whether you were actually drunk, jut “buzzed,” or felt completely unimpaired. In a “per se” case, the number is the important thing. For most drivers, the magic number is a BAC of .08, though for drivers under 21, an unlawful BAC is anything .02 or higher. In these types of cases, the prosecutor will not have to prove that you were a dangerous driver, but only that the magic number was exceeded.
- DUI “Less-Safe:” Most Georgia drivers believe that they cannot be charged for DUI if their Blood Alcohol Level is below the legal limit. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. You can be charged with DUI of alcohol if the officer believes that, due to alcohol consumption, you are a less safe driver than you would have otherwise been. With these types of cases, any amount of alcohol could get you convicted if the prosecutor can convince the jury that the alcohol made you a less safe driver. These cases rely heavily on the officer’s assessment of your driving, of your performance on any Field Sobriety Tests, and any other “manifestations” of drunkenness (bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, etc…)
- If you have been charged with driving under the influence of any other substance, whether you have a valid prescription or not, the rules are different. Please contact our office for more detailed information.
Regardless of whether you’ve been charged with DUI per se or DUI Less Safe, you need an attorney with experience in evaluating the State’s case against you, who can spot problems with the way your traffic stop was conducted, who can challenge the way in which breath/blood/urine tests were carried out, who can determine whether the officer conducted Field Sobriety Evaluations correctly, and who will work every step of the way to protect your rights. Contact us if you’d like a consultation about your specific case. We can be reached at 770-538-5160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BAC and SOBRIETY TESTS
The “State Test,” or “State Chemical Test:” This is a test conducted by law enforcement of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance. This is a significant test, and is not conducted on the side of the road. The Alcosensor, the side-of-the-road breath test, is a Field Sobriety Test, which is discussed below. The State test is so important that the Officer MUST advise you that if you refuse to take the test, your license will be suspended for 1 year. See our Punishment section below for information on license suspensions. If you agree to the test and have an unlawful BAC, then your license will be suspended for at least 30 days, even before your DUI case goes to Court, and you will also be providing evidence that the State can use against you in your DUI case. If you refuse, not only will your license be suspended for 1 year, but that creates a presumption that you would have “failed” the test. Basically the prosecutor can tell the jury, “Well, he must have refused to take the test because he knew he was drunk,” and it then becomes your attorney’s job to prove that argument wrong.
Field Sobriety Evaluations: These are tests that are done on the side of the road to evaluate your level of impairment. These tests are not admissible to prove a specific BAC, but will be used to support the officer’s assertion that you were drunk. THESE TESTS ARE VOLUNTARY. You have the right to decide not to take these tests. Further, your license will not be suspended for simply refusing to do Field Sobriety Evaluations. Assume you are being videotaped. In many, if not most, DUI arrests, the officer is recording you in both audio and video. Be respectful and polite, even if you are angry and think the officer is being unreasonable. He is being videotaped as well. You would rather have the officer appear like an unreasonable jerk on the video, rather than you. Even if you refuse to take the tests, please do so respectfully and calmly. The officers are looking for “clues” that you are intoxicated. They are watching for whether you can complete the test, whether you start before they finish their instructions, whether you miss a small detail of their instructions (didn’t count out loud, started on the wrong foot, etc…). They are even watching and judging your attitude and demeanor. These officers will use absolutely any technical, detailed, minute mistake against you. Here are some examples of Field Sobriety Evaluations:
- Alcosensor: This is a small hand-held breath testing device. While it often does give a numerical BAC reading, that number is not admissible in Court. What is admissible, though, is whether the device shows you tested positive for alcohol.
- Walk and Turn: The officer will ask you to take 9 steps, heel-to-toe, then pivot around the foot that is on the ground and repeat the nine steps back toward the officer. The instructions for this test are notoriously confusing, and there are many many clues the officer is watching for.
- One-leg-stand: The officer will ask you to stand on one foot, with your other foot about 6 inches the ground, look at your raised foot and count. He is watching your balance, whether you start before he says go, and how you count (did you say 1-Mississippi, rather than 1-one thousand?)
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): The officer will ask you to follow his finger or a pen with your eyes. He is watching to see if your eyes move smoothly or follow a jerky, start-and-stop path. This is a “scientific” test, and must be done properly, with fairly precise distances and timing. Talk with you attorney about whether the officer performed this evaluation correctly.
Non-Field Sobriety Evaluations: Many officers will use tests which are not specifically designed to assess sobriety, but simply to assess how well you are functioning and if you have your wits about you. Again, these are voluntary, and are solely intended to make you appear drunk. Here are some common examples:
- Saying your ABCs: They may ask you to recite the alphabet from L to R, or to recite the alphabet backward. They are watching for whether you sing (yes, people sing when they are “finding” the right letter), and how difficult the test is for you.
- Touching your finger(s) to your nose.
- Asking you to converse with them and tell them when you think a minute has passed.
With a DUI case you run the risk of being punished twice. First, even before your DUI case has begun, your license to drive in Georgia can be suspended without a trial or hearing. If you have an unlawful BAC, or if you refuse the State Test, your license will simply be suspended. The “30-DAY RULE,” or “30-DAY LETTER,” allows you to request an appeal and hearing of the automatic suspension of your license (The rule used to be 10 days, but is now 30). The Department of Driver Services charges $150 to request these hearings. Truthfully, most of these hearings do not result in your license not being suspended, but are more often used to get the officer under oath and testifying as soon as possible, so that your attorney can catch him when he changes his story later. Often, through negotiation, an attorney may seek to have the automatic suspension withdrawn in exchange for a plea to the underlying case, if it means that the client will be able to regain their driving privileges sooner. Additionally, if you win your DUI trial, then your automatic suspension will be cancelled.
Second, and more importantly, your DUI is a criminal misdemeanor in Georgia. Punishments for most misdemeanors range up to a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. Punishments for DUI cases carry fines, jail time, license suspensions (separate from the automatic suspensions), and other requirements. See the chart below for a quick summary:
| Jail Time
||Probation||Fine||Community Service||Other|| License
|1st in 10 years|| 10 days to 12 months (all may be suspended except for
24 hours for per se cases)
| 12 months less any time
|40 hours|| DUI School
(called Risk Reduction) and Clinical Evaluation
|See DDS chart, below|
|2nd in 10 years||90 days to 12 months (all but 72 hours may be suspended)||12 months less any time
|240 hours||DUI School, clinical evaluation, and possibly publishing your picture in the paper||See DDS chart, below|
|3rd in 10 years||120 days to 12 months (all but 15 days may be suspended)|| 12 months less any time
|240 hours||DUI School, clinical evaluation, picture in the paper, and possible vehicle forfeiture||See DDS chart, below|
|4th or more in 10 years||1-5 years (all but 90 days may be suspended)||5 years, less any time served in custody|| $1,000-$5,000
|480 hours||DUI School, clinical evaluation, picture in the paper, and possible vehicle forfeiture||See DDS chart, below|
Department of Driver Services (DDS) Consequences)
|Suspension|| Limited Permit
| 1st conviction in 5 years
||12 months||Available immediately after completion of DUI School||May apply after 120 days|
| 2nd conviction in 5 years
||3 years||Available after 12 months, after completion of DUI school, and
with Ignition interlock device placed on car.
| May apply 6 months after Ignition Interlock Device
installed (18 months minimum)
| 3rd conviction in 5 years
||5 years||Available after 2 years, after completion of DUI school and
installation of Ignition Interlock Device on car.
| May apply 6 months after Ignition Interlock Device
installed (30 months minimum)