Other driving offenses are often reasons why a police officer pulls a driver over and then charges him or her with driving under the influence (DUI). For instance, maybe the driver was swerving or failed to use his blinker to change lanes. The officer pulls the driver over, at which time he smells alcohol and the eventual charge of DUI follows. Often these other driving offenses are deemed as not as significant as a DUI charge. Almost all driving offenses, however, in Georgia are crimes, and as such, are significant. If, for instance, you drive without the headlights on, you have officially committed a misdemeanor. If pulled over and cited for the same, you have officially been charged with a misdemeanor. If found guilty (e.g., you pay the fine), you have officially pleaded guilty to a crime.
Driving offenses are serious even if you think violating a traffic rule is not significant in the scheme of things. That said, it can quickly spiral into something of consequence. It is important to remind yourself that driving offenses in Georgia are not insignificant or mere infractions. Regardless of the driving offense, it is always a good idea to contact a defense attorney in Georgia if you have been cited for a driving offense, which is likely a misdemeanor, but possibly a felony.
Categories of Driving Offenses in Georgia
In most states, there are three classes of driving offenses that are defined by their penalties: (1) infractions/petty offenses; (2) misdemeanors; and (3) felonies.
Petty Offenses. Petty offenses, otherwise known as infractions, are violations of administrative regulations, ordinances, municipal codes, and, in many jurisdictions, traffic rules. Most states do not consider petty offenses as criminal offenses, and as such, convictions of petty offenses carry penalties of fines only and never incarceration; likewise, violations of petty offenses do not carry with them the right to a trial. Though most states consider many driving offenses or traffic violations as infractions, Georgia does not.
Misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are non-indictable criminal offenses. In Georgia, misdemeanors are either (1) misdemeanors; or (2) misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature. Misdemeanors (without aggravation) are punishable by:
- fines up to $1,000;
- up to 12 months in county jail;
- both fines and jail; or
- up to 12 months in a Georgia diversion center.
Georgia's Code Title 40, Chapter 6 is all things about motor vehicles and traffic rules. Most moving traffic violations in Georgia are misdemeanors, and as such, incarceration is a potential punishment. Though incarceration is rare, the possibility is real. The sentencing judge can decide what is appropriate for the given misdemeanor and corresponding situation.
Felonies. Felonies are indictable crimes that generally involve violence, and are considered more serious than misdemeanors. Punishment for felonies can be significant and can include imprisonment for more than one year as well as fines more than $1,000, community service, probation, or other penalty deemed necessary and justified by the sentencing judge.
Misdemeanor Driving Offenses
Most traffic violations in Georgia are misdemeanors, and not only are these misdemeanors subject to the same penalties as other non-driving/non-traffic related misdemeanors, they are also subject to a point system that can lead to driver's license suspension. Of course, most driving offenses do not result in incarceration, but they do result in fines and points.
The Georgia Department of Driver Services provides a schedule of points that coincide with the driving offense. To note, these points are assessed only against Georgia residents.
|Violation of usage of wireless telecommunication devise requirements||1|
|Operating a Vehicle while Text Messaging||1|
|Improper Use of Designated Travel Lane - 4th and Subsequent Offense||1|
|Child Safety Restraint - 1st Offense||1|
|Child Safety Restraint - 2nd or Subsequent Offense||2|
|Failure to Adequately Secure Load (except fresh farm produce), resulting in an Accident||2|
|Possessing an Open Container of an Alcoholic Beverage while Driving||2|
|Failure to Obey Traffic-Control Device||3|
|Improper Passing on Hill or Curve||4|
|Unlawful Passing School Bus||6|
|Speeding: 15 to 18 mph over speed limit||2|
|Speeding: 19 to 23 mph over speed limit||3|
|Speeding: 24 to 33 mph over speed limit||4|
|Speeding: 34 mph or more over speed limit||6|
|All Other Moving Violations||3|
The point system divides drivers into three age groups and connects that age group to a maximum number of points. If the maximum number of points is met or exceeded within a certain time period, the driver risks the suspension of his or her driver's license.
Point System Grouping
- Any driver under the age of 18 years and who accumulates 4 or more points within 12 consecutive months will have Georgia driver's license suspended for at least six months.
- Any driver 18 or older but under 21 and who accumulates 4 or more points will have Georgia driver's license suspended for at least six months.
- Any driver 21 or older and who accumulates 15 or more points within 24 consecutive months will have Georgia driver's license suspended for one year, but reinstatement is possible before that year ends.
Several driving offenses are not listed in the above schedule because license suspension automatically or generally follows a conviction.
Driving offenses that result in mandatory suspension:
- Driving when registration is either revoked, canceled, or suspended;
- Homicide by vehicle;
- Hit or run or leaving the scene of an accident; and
- Racing on highways and streets.
Driving offenses that generally result in suspension:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Driving without insurance; and
- Driving while suspended.
Felony Driving Offenses
Felony driving offenses involve violence in some form. The two driving offenses that result in felony charges include serious injury by vehicle and homicide by vehicle in the first degree.
Serious Injury by Vehicle. You can be found guilty of serious injury by vehicle if, without malice, you operated your vehicle and in the course of doing so, injured someone to the extent that he or she:
- lost use of a portion of the body;
- lost a member of the body;
- was seriously disfigured; or
- has brain damage that caused the loss of use of part of the body.
Incarceration for serious injury by a vehicle includes at least one year but no more than 15 years.
First Degree Homicide by Vehicle. You can be found guilty of homicide by vehicle in the first degree if, without malice, you caused the death of another person while operating your vehicle while also:
- overtaking a school bus that is stopped to allow children to board or unload;
- leaving the scene of an accident;
- driving recklessly;
- driving under the influence; or
- fleeing police.
Incarceration for first-degree homicide by a vehicle includes a minimum of three but no more than 15 years.
Contact A Georgia DUI Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with a driving offense in Georgia, you should take the matter seriously and contact an experienced attorney who understands the law and has the resources to fight the charge(s). Richard Lawson is a top-rated and most reviewed Atlanta DUI Attorney. He has been defending clients for more than two decades. Call his office today at (404) 816-4440 or contact him online and let his extensive experience in traffic/DUI defense work for you.