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  • DUI & DWI in Georgia

    Introduction

    Drinking while driving can land you with a drunk driving charge―and that’s a best case scenario. The worst case is injuring or killing your passengers, other drivers, or yourself.

    Georgia DUI Defined

    Georgia’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws make it illegal for drivers of all ages to operate motor vehicles if they have blood alcohol content (BAC) percentages of:

    • 0.08% or higher, if they’re 21 years old or older operating regular passenger vehicles.
    • 0.04% or higher, if they’re operating commercial vehicles.
    • 0.02% or higher, if they’re younger than 21 years old.

    DUI convictions stay on your driving record for the rest of your life.

    Understand Your DUI Penalties

    Specific DUI penalties depend on your age, license type, and previous DUI convictions, but usually consist of:

    Some “penalties,” such as ignition interlock devices and limited driving permits, are actually privileges granted to the driver (see below).

    DUI Penalties: Younger Than 21

    Like most states, Georgia has zero tolerance when it comes to drivers younger than 21 years old operating motor vehicles with alcohol in their systems.

    Drivers Age 15 and Younger

    First DUI Offense

    • License suspension until 17 years old.
    • $210 fee.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.

    Second DUI Offense

    • License suspension until 18 years old.
    • $310 fee.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.

    Third DUI Offense

    • License suspension until 18 years old.
    • $410 fee.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.

    Drivers Age 16 to 20

    First DUI Offense

    • License suspension for 6 months (if your BAC is under 0.08%) or 12 months (if your BAC is 0.08% or higher; this is with or without an administrative license suspension).
    • $210 fee.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.

    NOTE: If you end up with an administrative license suspension, you’re able to get a limited driving permit; however, that permit is cancelled if you’re found guilty. See below for more information on limited driving permits.

    Second DUI Offense

    Regardless of BAC, a second offense within 5 years brings:

    • License suspension for 18 months.
    • $310 fee.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.
    • Clinical evaluation and possible treatment.
    • Ignition interlock device and permit with court permission (usually after 120 days).

    Third DUI Offense

    A third offense within 5 years brings:

    • License suspension for 5 years.
    • $410 fee.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.
    • Clinical evaluation and possible treatment.
    • Ignition interlock device and habitual violator probationary license with court permission (usually after 2 years).

    DUI Penalties: 21 and Older

    First Offense

    • Suspended license for up to 1 year.
    • A $300 - $1,000 fine.
    • $210 fee for license reinstatement.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.
    • Mandatory 40 hours of community service.
    • Possible imprisonment of up to 1 year.
    • Possible limited driving permit. This depends on your BAC, implied consent, and whether you have an administrative suspended license.

    Second Offense

    A second offense within 5 years brings:

    • 18 months - 3 years of license suspension.
    • A $600 - $1,000 fine.
    • $210 fee for license reinstatement.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.
    • Clinical evaluation and possible treatment.
    • At least 30 days of community service.
    • Minimum 48 hours in jail; possible sentence of 90 days to 1 year.
    • Possible interlock ignition device.
    • Possible limited driving permit. This depends on your BAC, implied consent, and whether you have an administrative suspended license.

    Third Offense

    On your third DUI offense, the GA DMV gives you Habitual Violator (HV) status and revokes your license for 5 years and confiscates your license plate (see “Reinstating a Habitual Violator’s License” below).

    You’ll also face:

    • A $1,000 - $5,000 fine.
    • $410 fee for license reinstatement.
    • At least 15 days in jail.
    • At least 30 days of mandatory community service.
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.
    • Clinical evaluation and treatment.
    • Possible interlock ignition device and limited driving permit after 2 years.
    • Your name, address, and photo published in your local newspaper (you must pay for this).

    Controlled Substance and Marijuana Possession

    If you’re convicted of possessing, distributing, or using an illegal controlled substance or marijuana, it also affects your driving privileges―even if it took place outside of your car.

    You face:

    • License suspension for 180 days (1st offense), 1 year (2nd offense), or 5 years (3rd offense; eligible for a limited driving permit after 2 years).
    • DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program and all associated costs.
    • $210 fee for license reinstatement.
    • Possible limited driving permit.

    NOTE: These are in addition to any other court-imposed penalties, such as jail time.

    Commercial Drivers and DUI

    Generally, commercial drivers face stiffer penalties than drivers with regular passenger vehicle licenses.

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles regulations and penalties associated with commercial vehicle drivers throughout the country, including the 0.04% BAC limit. Visit the FMCSA’s Disqualification of Drivers for specific information.

    Other GA DUI Penalties

    Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program

    Regardless of your age or offense number, you’ll have to complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program (RRP).

    Georgia’s RRPs consist of two components:

    • The Assessment Component, which consists of 130 questions that determine the impact the driver’s alcohol and drug use has on his or her driving.
    • The Intervention Component, which is a course that lasts 20 hours, takes place in a group setting, and consists of several sessions.

    Your RRP costs $292. This covers the Assessment Component ($82), the Intervention Component ($190), and the workbook ($20).

    The state doesn’t accept online courses. Your judge most likely will provide you with a list of RRPs you can enroll in, but the state also provides an online list of certified DUI schools.

    You must complete the RRP before you can apply for a limited driving permit or license reinstatement. Visit the state’s DUI FAQ section for more information about GA DUI schools, including attendance policies.

    Ignition Interlock Device

    Some drivers have to install an ignition interlock device (IID), which requires a breath sample both before you start your vehicle and periodically throughout your drive. Your vehicle will not start if the IID detects alcohol on your breath.

    Generally, you’re eligible for an IID if you’ve had 2 offenses or more within 5 years. If you’re not eligible under state requirements, your judge might make an exception for financial hardship purposes.

    Ultimately, your judge will determine whether you can have an IID installed (if so, you must choose from a list of state-approved IID providers).

    SR 22: Car Insurance and Proof of Financial Responsibility

    Georgia doesn’t require DUI offenders to file an SR 22 (a type of proof of financial responsibility) in order to reinstate their driving privileges. However, a DUI conviction can severely affect a driver’s auto insurance rates.

    Check with your coverage provider about the possibility of increased rates, and then shop around and compare car insurance rates with other companies to increase your chances of getting the most affordable liability coverage possible.

    When to Hire a GA DUI Attorney

    Facing the judge, prosecutor, and arresting officer by yourself can be pretty daunting―especially for charges as serious as driving under the influence.

    Consider hiring a DUI attorney, who can help you navigate the legal system and get the best deal possible given your offense.

    As you compare DUI lawyers, keep in mind:

    • Lawyers based in Georgia are more familiar with the state-specific laws, including the state’s DUI laws.
    • You should look for attorneys who specialize in DUI cases.
    • Use open communication with your lawyer and find out about all possible plea deals and outcomes.
    • Stay away from attorneys who say beating your DUI charge will be a piece of cake. Likewise, seek a second option if the attorney says there’s nothing to do but plead guilty and hope for the best. Be realistic: You’ve tested above the legal limit, so try to find a middle ground.

    Nolo Contendre

    Some states might lessen DUI penalties for drivers who plead “nolo contendre” (or, no contest), but Georgia courts view it as an admission of guilt and dole out the same DUI penalties. Speak with your DUI attorney before offering a plea.

    Applying for a Limited Driving Permit

    Every DUI conviction brings a suspended license. However, some drivers are eligible for limited driving through a limited driving permit. This allows you to travel to and from:

    • Your place of employment, or to perform employment-related tasks.
    • Scheduled doctor appointments and to fill prescriptions.
    • College or other school courses.
    • RRP meetings or other drug and alcohol support groups, assessment courses, and treatment programs.

    You won’t formally apply for a limited driving permit; your judge will determine whether you’re eligible based on factors like your age, offense number, and how long your license must be suspended (see your penalties above).

    If your judge grants you a limited driving permit, expect to pay:

    • Limited permit: $25
    • Limited permit renewal: $5
    • Limited permit replacement: $20
    • Controlled substance permit: $25
    • Habitual Violator probationary license (HVPL): $210
    • HVPL replacement: $20

    Understand that if you violate any of the conditions of your limited permit, the judge will revoke it and tack 6 months onto your original suspension period.

    Reinstating Your GA Driver’s License

    Reinstating a regular driver’s license after a DUI conviction is fairly straightforward, especially if it’s a first offense.

    Generally, you need to:

    • Wait out the mandatory suspension period for your conviction.
    • Present a completion certificate from the DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program.
    • Pay your license reinstatement fee, which ranges from $210 to $410 (you can reduce the fee if you pay online).
      • You may also need to:

        • Pay court-imposed fines.
        • Complete a jail sentence.
        • Undergo a clinical evaluation and treatment program (separate from the Risk Reduction Program).

        For more details specific to your case, contact the DMV or the court handling your case.

        Reinstating a Habitual Violator’s License

        If you’ve reached three DUI convictions, you’re considered a Habitual Violator (HV), which carries mandatory license revocation.

        You might be eligible for a probationary license after 2 years of the revocation, depending on past situations (you generally can’t get a probationary license if you have a history of underage alcohol violations, moving violations, or drug offenses, including marijuana).

        You may become eligible for license reinstatement after:

        • 5 years have passed since the DMV began calculating your reinstatement eligibility.
        • You’ve submitted a completion certificate from a DMV- or court-ordered driver improvement clinic.
        • You’ve met the requirements for the DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program, you’ve undergone the clinical evaluation and treatment program (if required), and you’ve met any ignition interlock device requirements.
        • You’ve completed all tests required for reapplication and reinstatement of your license type.
        • You’ve paid the applicable reinstatement fee. If your revocation happened before July 1, 2009, you have a $210 fee ($200 fee if paid by mail); if on or after July 1, 2009, you have a $410 fee ($400 fee if paid by mail).
        • You’ve surrendered any permits or probationary licenses.
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