Many people think a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a charge that is the same no matter where you commit the act within the state of Georgia. This, however, is simply not the case. Instead, there are two separate and distinct sets of laws that prohibit the conduct behind DUIs. These separate sets of laws have separate procedures and separate sets of consequences. The system in which one is charged and prosecuted depends on the system in which is arrested and accused of engaging in illegal conduct.
“Jurisdiction” is a legal term that refers to who has the authority to charge a case, in this example, in criminal court. In Georgia, depending on where one is at the time of the alleged illegal conduct, one might face charges in the state system or the federal system. Most DUIs in Georgia are charged in state court. However, in some cases, the federal system has jurisdiction. In order to be charged with a DUI in federal court, one must be accused of committing the crime of DUI on federal lands. For the most part, this refers to national parks, national historic sites, national scenic trails, cultural heritage corridors, and national monuments. Georgia's federal lands include the following destinations.
- Andersonville's Camp Sumter
- Appalachian Trail
- Arabia Mountain
- Augusta Canal
- Chattahoochee River
- Chickamauga & Chattanooga
- Cumberland Island at St. Mary's
- Fort Frederica
- Fort Pulaski
- Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
- Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
- Kennesaw Mountain
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park
- Ocmulgee National Monument
- Trail of Tears
Understanding Federal DUI Laws
The federal DUI laws are very similar to Georgia's state DUI laws. Under federal law, one commits a DUI when one operates or is in physical control of a motor vehicle while:
- Under the influence of alcohol, a drug or drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, to such an extent that it renders the driver incapable of safe operation of the vehicle or
- A driver or person in physical control has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams of alcohol or more in blood or breath.
Additionally, if an authorized person requests the driver or person who is in physical control of the car provide a sample, they must submit to a test. Failure to do so is considered a DUI refusal. This can also result in DUI charges, even if the person hasn't had a drop to drink or ingested a single mood-altering drug. This is based on a theory of “implied consent.”
A Word About “Physical Control”
Everyone can understand that if one is driving after consuming drugs or a significant amount of alcohol may result in a DUI. Many people, however, are surprised to learn that simply being in physical control of the car can also result in DUI charges. Often referred to as a “Parked Car DUI,” many people learn the hard way that being in the car with the keys, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can result in criminal charges. It is especially important that folks camping in national parks or on national trails have a clear understanding about what “physical control” can mean.
Sleeping in your car, turning on the car to turn on the radio, or even just turning on the headlights to illuminate the campsite while you set up camp can all result in a parked car DUI charge if the other circumstances align.
A Word about Refusal
One cannot refuse to take a test if asked to do so by someone in a position of authority. This is true in both state and federal court. One cannot defend a DUI refusal by simply providing proof one was not intoxicated. If asked to provide a test, one is legally obligated to do so.
Federal Consequences of DUI
If someone gets a federal DUI charge, they are facing up to six months in jail, as well as a fine and probation for a period of time. Unlike in state court, federal DUI charges are heard by a magistrate, not a judge. In addition, in federal DUI cases, one is not entitled to a jury of their peers. Instead, the only option is to try the case to the magistrate. Of course, just as in state court, one's attorney may negotiate a settlement with the prosecutor, short of a trial. However, in state court, if one chooses to go to trial, this cannot be held against them at sentencing. In federal court, the same cannot be said. A federal magistrate is permitted to punish a person more severely for exercising their constitutional right to a trial under the federal sentencing guidelines.
Challenging a Federal DUI Charge
In federal DUI cases, as in state DUI cases, one has certain constitutional rights. In addition to the right to a trial, one has the right to challenge the admissibility of the evidence obtained by the government in their case. This includes, but is not limited to the following areas subject to legal challenges.
- Stops of the car
- Statements obtained
- Searches executed
- Seizures by law enforcement
- Warrants executed
- The sufficiency of the test results
- The reliability of the instruments used for testing
- Test collection procedures
- Other case-specific issues
Charged with a Federal DUI?
If you have been charged with a DUI in federal court, you need an attorney licensed to practice in federal court who understands federal DUI law. Our Atlanta DUI lawyers can help. We have more than 20 years of experience defending DUI cases on both the state and federal level. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation. We understand the stress of DUI cases. Consequently, we have someone on call 24/7 to answer your questions. Call today at 404.816.4440.