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Why Georgia is one of the strictest states on DUI

Many party-goers underestimate how serious a DUI charge can be. They think that they can drive as long as it is a short distance to their home or if they only had a few drinks and are perfectly capable of going behind the wheel. These assumptions prove to be their downfall and they suffer consequences that prove troublesome for their short and long-term goals.

If the DUI charge is in Georgia, then the punishments are even worse. Last year, personal finance website Wallethub said that Georgia is the second strictest state for DUI penalties. Before you or a friend think about hopping in the driver seat after the next beer, you should be aware of the ramifications that await from the different levels of DUI charges.

Underage DUI

Georgia has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. A driver under 21 charged with a DUI offense for the first time will have their license suspended for months based on how high their blood alcohol content (BAC) is or how old they are, a $210 fee and attendance for a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program. This program costs an additional $355 to attend and consists of a 20 hour course taught over several days in a group and a 130 question comprehensive screening test.

The punishments worsen if there are any subsequent offenses in the next five years. In addition to higher fees and longer license suspensions, the minor will also require medical evaluation and a possible ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles. These devices ensure that the car will not start if the driver fails to pass the breath test.

How Georgia compares to other states

For the first time you receive a DUI in Georgia when you are 21 or over, these are the penalties:

  • Up to one year of jail time with a minimum of 10 days.
  • Up to one year of license suspension
  • A fine between $300 to $1,000
  • Attendance to a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program
  • 40 hours of community service

If you combine the $210 fee for license reinstatement, the fine and program costs, you could be paying up to $1,565 from your first offense alone. This is not including any additional damage you may have inflicted while driving and the toll it can take on your insurance or paying bail to avoid imprisonment. Subsequent offenses will include higher fees, longer license suspensions, substance abuse treatments and possible Ignition Interlock Devices. If you have a fourth offense within 5 years, then it counts as a felony and results in up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

In comparison to the other states, Georgia is more lenient in regards to when you should install an Ignition Interlock Device and which subsequent DUI offense counts as a felony. Georgia became known as one of the harsher DUI penalty states because of how long some of these penalties can last. It has the highest amount of minimum jail time with 10 days, the second highest amount of how long old DUI factors into penalties with 10 years, and eclipses the other states with a potential 360 day administrative license suspension.

No matter if you are convicted with a first or fourth offense for DUI, you will be suffering the consequences for a long time in Georgia. If you face potential DUI charges, it is important to seek legal assistance to minimize any of the punishments you could receive.

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The firm of Katherine A. Gonos, Attorney at Law, is located in Valdosta, Georgia, and serves residents throughout south Georgia, including these counties: Lowndes, Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Thomas, Clinch, Cook, Lanier, Atkinson and Tift.