Driving under the influence is a serious offense with potentially grave consequences. In Georgia, the severity of these charges can escalate from a misdemeanor to a felony under certain conditions.
Understanding these conditions can better equip individuals to navigate such difficult situations.
Repeat offenses within a ten-year period
In Georgia, a DUI becomes a felony on the fourth and subsequent convictions within a ten-year period. This means that if a person has three prior DUI convictions within the last ten years and gets arrested for another DUI, the new charge will be a felony.
Serious injury by vehicle
If an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes an accident that leads to serious injury, the courts may upgrade the DUI charge to a felony. Under Georgia law, “serious injury” includes causing another person to lose the use of a body part, experiencing significant disfigurement or suffering from a brain injury leading to a coma or other severe conditions.
Homicide by vehicle
If a death occurs as a result of a DUI-related accident, the charge becomes a felony. This charge is often known as vehicular homicide.
Driving under the influence with a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle can result in a separate charge of child endangerment. If a person receives a third child endangerment charge stemming from the same incident, it elevates the charge to a felony.
Understanding the potential consequences
Felony charges carry severe penalties. These can include imprisonment for one to five years, fines up to $5,000, mandatory alcohol or drug risk reduction programs and a five-year license suspension.
Awareness of when a DUI can become a felony in Georgia is important, as the repercussions of a felony DUI charge can have significant, lasting impacts on an individual’s life and livelihood.