One of the most common misconceptions I have witnessed over the years is the idea that courts will impose a more lenient sentence if the individual has no prior criminal history. This is absolutely false. Regardless of whether you are a first-time offender facing a misdemeanor DUI charge—you should not take the matter lightly.
A DUI is a serious criminal charge in Georgia, and carries with it severe punishments. Many cases result in license suspensions, jail time, substantial fines and fees, restrictions on personal freedoms, and the humiliation of having your mugshot published in the newspaper and across the internet. These burdens are only the beginning.
What are the legal penalties for a First Lifetime DUI Conviction?
Like many legal questions, this is a difficult question to answer because it is dependent upon many different factors. Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 (the DUI statute), a person must be sentenced to no fewer than 10 days to serve in jail if the individual’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.08 grams or more at the time of the offense. However, the code also says that all but 24 hours of this time may be served on probation. If the individual’s blood alcohol concentration was under 0.08 grams at the time of the offense, the entire sentence may be probated.
Some (but not all) jurisdictions take into account any time served at the time of the original arrest and give credit for this time, which means that an individual who waited in jail for a period of time before bonding out may not have to return to jail to satisfy his or her sentence.
While 24 hours to serve in jail is the minimum possible jail time under Georgia law for a single first lifetime DUI (and 12 months is the maximum), there are other circumstances associated with DUI that can result in additional jail time. For example, many DUI cases involve other charges and/or traffic offenses in addition to the DUI charge. If an individual is convicted of those additional charges as well as the DUI, the judge may require additional jail time.
Because every jurisdiction handles DUI jail time differently, you should speak with a Georgia DUI Lawyer who understands both the law and the policies of the jurisdiction in which you’ve been charged.
What about Probation?
Georgia law requires a 12-month sentence for a first lifetime DUI. In most DUI cases, the majority (if not all) of this time is spent on probation rather than in jail. Typically, individuals placed on probation are paired with a probation officer who monitors the individual and ensures that they are complying with the conditions of the sentence, not obtaining new charges, etc. Depending on the jurisdiction, probation may entail monthly check-ins, either in person or by phone or mail. Probation officers may also conduct random drug or alcohol screens.
Some jurisdictions have their own probation officers, while others contract with private probation companies. Almost all of them require the payment of a monthly supervision fee, which usually is around $30-$60 per month.
Sometimes, judges will grant non-reporting status once clients complete all conditions of their sentence.
It is important to note that, as discussed above in the section pertaining to jail time, 12 months of probation (less any time spent in jail) is the penalty for a single first lifetime DUI conviction. If an individual is also convicted of other charges in addition to the DUI charge, the judge may impose additional time on probation. Every jurisdiction is different – some judges require that probation for multiple charges be served consecutively (back to back) rather than concurrently (at the same time/overlapping). You should speak to a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney if you are facing multiple charges.
Is there a fine for a first DUI?
Yes. Georgia law requires courts to impose of a fine of $300 – $1,000 for a first lifetime DUI. If payment of the fine would create an economic hardship for an individual, the court may allow payments in installments.
Courts also typically charge surcharges on top of these already steep fines. These surcharges sometimes are nearly equal to the amount of the fine.
Are there other requirements for a First Lifetime DUI Conviction?
Yes. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 requires that courts sentence an individual convicted of a first lifetime DUI to complete:
- 40 hours of community service, which must typically be done at a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization,
- Risk Reduction (also known as DUI School or DUI Risk Reduction Program), and
- Clinical Evaluation and treatment, if required.
Although it is not written into Georgia law, some jurisdictions (for example, Fulton County) require that individuals participate in a Victim Impact Panel. This is typically offered through Mothers Against Drunk Drivers or M.A.D.D.
Will I lose my license after a First Lifetime DUI?
Yes. Georgia law requires a 12-month license suspension upon conviction for DUI, with the possibility of early reinstatement after 120 days if there is not a one year Administrative License Suspension and the individual completes an approved Risk Reduction program and pays a $210 reinstatement fee.
There may be options that allow you to continue driving during this period of suspension. Many people are immediately eligible for limited permits. Limited Permits are limited to the following types of travel:
- To and from work, school, medical care or obtaining prescriptions;
- To and from substance abuse treatment;
- To and from DUI School;
- To and from a probation and community service;
- Drive unlicensed immediate family members to medical appointments or obtaining prescriptions, work, or school.
I will work with you to alleviate as much of this burden as possible, and will appear in court on your behalf to limit the amount of time you will have to miss work or school to attend court. I will fight tirelessly on your behalf so that you can get back to your regular life and put the arrest behind you.
I understand the complexities of Georgia DUI law and know how to look at the individual case circumstances to build the strongest possible defense. Contact my office today for a free consultation for the experienced support you need for your case.