Frequently Asked Questions About DUI in Georgia
At The Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson, we have been handling DUI cases for over 25 years. Based on our experience, we have combined some of the most common questions we receive. If you have any additional questions or need guidance on your case, please reach out to our team of Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys. By dedicating our practice to DUI defense, we are experts on DUI law and know how to achieve an excellent outcome for your case. Call us today and receive a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
What Does DUI Mean?
DUI is an abbreviation for “driving under the influence.” A person is guilty of the offense if such person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within the state and the person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any chemical or controlled substance set forth under the applicable statutes when affected to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired or when the person has a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. “Drunk Driving” is a common misnomer for the crime of driving under the influence. While all individuals who drive while drunk are DUI, you do not need to be drunk to be considered under the influence.
What is the Legal Limit in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, a person is presumed to be intoxicated if his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. However, if the driver is under 21 years of age, the legal limit is 0.02%. Commercial drivers are subject to a reduced limit as well and are presumed intoxicated if they have a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
A Georgia prosecutor can still prove you were intoxicated even if you were not over the "legal limit." Evidence such as field sobriety tests, admissions by the driver, or the presence of alcohol or drugs in the vehicle can all be used to prove you were intoxicated at the time of your arrest. This is called “DUI less safe.”
How Many Drinks Does It Take to Surpass the Legal Limit?
Unfortunately, this varies according to each person. The legal limit in Georgia is a BAC of .08. This score is determined by various factors, including age, weight, sex, and the time interval in which you consumed your drinks. There are some basic calculators and phone apps that purport to calculate your BAC; however, it is important to keep in mind that these calculations are not perfect. That is why if you are planning on driving, we recommend abstaining from alcohol completely.
Can I Receive a DUI in Georgia For Drugs?
Yes. Just like alcohol, drugs can have an intoxicating effect on a driver. This is true of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter medications. Therefore, a person can be charged with a DUI for being influenced by these types of drugs and medications, even lawfully obtained prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.
What is an Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Hearing?
When you are arrested for DUI, your driver's license may be taken away from you. As a result, one of the first things you will deal with is an ALS hearing. At this hearing, you are entitled to request that your driver's license be reinstated, or you are arguing to stop an automatic suspension of your driver's license. However, you only have 30 days after an arrest to request this type of hearing, and it must be done correctly. Failure to request the hearing in time will result in the automatic suspension of your driver's license.
What is a 30-Day Letter?
When a person is arrested for DUI in Georgia, they have 30 days to appeal the automatic suspension of their driver's license or privilege to drive in Georgia. With all 30-Day letters, you must send the State a $150 filing fee, or the letter will not be accepted.
In the event you fail to appeal your suspension, your license can be suspended from as little as 30 days to as much as one year in the case of an alleged refusal.
What Should I Do if I Am Stopped After I Have Been Drinking?
First of all, don't panic. You have not broken the law. If stopped after drinking, it is important for you to listen to the questions asked. You must show proof of a valid driver's license and valid insurance when stopped by the police. You should have these ready for the officer or know where to find them easily when driving.
Let the officer tell you why he stopped you. If the officer asks you where you have been or are going, you should understand that he or she is trying to engage you in conversation to see if you are okay to drive.
If the officer asks if you have been drinking, you should understand that he or she is patrolling for persons who may be DUI. Therefore, your answers will now be very important.
If you admit to having been drinking, understand that the officer will ask you how many drinks you have had to make a quick assessment of his opinion of your sobriety. Whether you admit to having a couple or three drinks, realize that you will most likely be asked to exit your car and perform exercises before you are allowed to continue.
Should I Participate in the Field Sobriety Testing?
In our professional opinion, you should not. If you have not been driving dangerously, it should not be an issue. In addition, Georgia law does not require you to participate in field sobriety testing.
The standard field sobriety tests consist of an eye test, a heel-toe walk, and standing on one leg. Even completely sober people can have difficulty performing these exercises perfectly. So adding in nerves and other factors such as whether it was dark outside make it easier to make mistakes and causes the officer to believe you are under the influence.
Should I Take a Breath Test (Breathalyzer) in Georgia?
Most people are unaware that the Breathalyzer and the breath tests are different. You are not required to take the Breathalyzer test that the officer wants you to take roadside. These tests have been criticized for years for inaccuracies. Our office recommends refusing the Breathalyzer and requesting the blood, breath, or urine chemical test.
Can I Refuse to Take a Breath, Blood, or Urine test in Georgia?
By accepting the privilege extended by the laws of this state of operating a motor vehicle, you are deemed to have given your consent (implied consent) to submit to an approved chemical or physical test of your breath to determine the alcoholic content of your blood, and to a urine test to detect the presence of drugs. A refusal to take these tests can result in an automatic suspension of your driver's license. Additionally, the refusal to submit to a chemical or physical breath test, or a urine test, upon the request of a law enforcement officer is admissible in any criminal proceeding against you.
What are the Minimum Penalties for a First-Time DUI in Georgia?
If you are convicted of DUI in Georgia, it will go on your permanent criminal record. In addition, you will face fines of up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in Gail. Other standard penalties include probation, community service, completion of an alcohol or drug course, and any treatment programs. However, this is only if you are convicted of DUI. Our DUI Defense Attorneys in Georgia can use numerous defenses to mitigate the consequences you will face.
Is DUI a Misdemeanor or Felony in Georgia?
In Georgia, DUI is generally a misdemeanor offense. A third DUI conviction within 10 years is treated as a high and aggravated misdemeanor. A fourth DUI within 10 years is a felony offense in Georgia, but only convictions on or after July 1, 2008, are considered for this purpose. Additionally, DUI Serious Injury By Vehicle, Habitual Violator, DUI Vehicular Homicide, and Feticide are all felony offenses.
Should I Fight My DUI Charge Even if I Blew Over the Legal Limit?
Absolutely! The machines used by law enforcement are tightly regulated and subject to strict maintenance requirements to be deemed reliable. Additionally, the testing itself must be done in a very specific manner. The failure to either properly maintain the machines, or to conduct the tests in accordance with the standard testing procedures, can result in the breath test being thrown out altogether, no matter how high your test came back.
In addition, you have rights before, during, and after arrest. If any of your rights were violated during this process, our Georgia DUI Lawyers could use this to get evidence suppressed, testimony thrown out, or a dismissal of your case.
Never make the mistake of thinking that your case is hopeless!
How Soon After My Charges Should I Hire a Defense Attorney?
The sooner, the better if you want to keep your license, you'll need to put in a request for a hearing within 30 days of your DUI arrest. So, if you want to attempt to keep your license, you'll want a Georgia DUI Lawyer on your case as soon as possible. If you don't file a hearing, then you lose your chance to fight for the ability to keep your license.
If This Is My First DUI, Will I Receive Jail Time?
If this is your first alcohol-related offense, then you will most likely avoid any additional jail time beyond what you served during the arrest process. However, this depends on the details of your case. For more information, call our Georgia DUI Attorneys now.
Do DUI Convictions Stay on My Record Forever?
Yes, they do. A DUI charge is classified as a misdemeanor or, in more serious cases, felonies, which go on your record if you are convicted. With the help of a good lawyer, however, it is sometimes possible to get a DWI charge dismissed or reduced to a lesser traffic violation, in which case you won't see a DUI conviction on your criminal record.
Will a Conviction Affect My Insurance Rate?
Yes, it will. Insurance rates can go up drastically after a DUI conviction. Obviously, driving under the influence increases your chances of getting in an accident, which your insurer realizes. Sometimes they will even cancel your policy.
What Happens If I Miss My Court Date for a DUI in Georgia?
It depends on what court you missed. Some courts will only require that your attorney file a notice of appearance notifying you that you now have counsel, after which the warrant would be lifted. Others would require a formal motion to withdraw the bench warrant. Some even would require you to be taken into custody and bond out again.
The answer is court and judge dependent. Each judge and court system have its own policies and procedures. For example, the City of Atlanta has a specific procedure and an actual “failure to appear in court” to handle all of the missed appearances in the Atlanta Municipal Court. Atlanta DUI Lawyers show up at 7:30 a.m. and ask for the file to be sent to the failure to appear court, and the accused must be present. Upon paying a small bench warrant fee, the warrant is lifted, and the case is sent back to the trial judge originally assigned to it.
After a warrant is lifted, the case will resume where it was left off. If the case is ready for a trial, then you will have to be ready for trial. If the case is at the arraignment stage, you would then go in and enter your initial plea.
What is an Ignition Interlock Device?
People who are convicted of a second or more DUI in Georgia will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car. Essentially, the interlock prevents a person from driving after consuming any amount of alcohol. If the interlock device, which is a fuel cell-based breath-testing unit, detects any alcohol, the car will not start. Also, your probation officer will be notified if the device detects any alcohol, and this may cause a probation violation.
The problem with a fuel cell-based device is that any alcohol can cause a positive read, whereas a more advanced device can differentiate ethyl alcohol from other alcohols that can be found in hand sanitizers and in the environment, such as isopropyl alcohol and acetone (found in paints).
If you are not careful, a false positive reading could result in a probation violation.
How Should I Choose a DUI Lawyer in Georgia?
Choosing the best lawyer for your DUI case is a critical part of your success. Many lawyers include DUI defense as part of their overall practice, but few lawyers have dedicated their entire practice to DUI defense. However, Georgia laws are highly technical and complex and involve a great number of rules and regulations that are not involved in other cases. For your best defense, you should find someone who specializes in DUI defense. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson, we have exclusively been handling DUI cases for over 25 years. Our team is led by founder Richard Lawson, who served as a DUI prosecutor for many years before starting his own firm. His experience gives our firm the upper hand because we know how the State thinks because Richard used to be there!
In addition, we suggest you read reviews and ask any potential lawyers how long they have been practicing DUI, how often they handle DUI cases, and what their strategy is in resolving DUI cases.
Why Should I Choose The Law Office of Richard S. Lawson?
First of all, commitment. Everyone at our office is dedicated to DUI defense and getting amazing results for our clients. Secondly, service. We realize that this is a service business and that we are here to serve your needs. That is why we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We believe that you should not have to wait until the next business day to receive an answer to your questions. We will offer you options to direct the disposition of your case as you want, given the facts that you present to us for defense.
We also are the best trained DUI defense attorneys in the State of Georgia. Our attorneys have advanced knowledge and education regarding Georgia DUI and frequently teach seminars to other attorneys and classes for law enforcement officers. We are also "trial attorneys." We like to fight, and we like to win. We put too much time and effort into our cases to simply plead a person guilty. We strive to do the best for every client. Whether your case can be resolved through negotiations or requires a trial to get the best result, we are prepared for either. Call us today for a free consultation!