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Georgia DUI Laws: Penalties for First Offense DUI Charges

By: William C. Head, Board-Certified DUI Defense Lawyer and Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney

What happens to first time DUI offense in Georgia? The DUI statute in Georgia, O.C.G.A. 40 6 391, has layers of complexity. In simple terms, Georgia drinking laws prohibit being behind the wheel and impaired when it is less safe for the person to drive.

A typical DUI arrest in Georgia starts by a law enforcement officer observing a moving vehicle, and noting some traffic violation (e.g., super speeder GA) or equipment defect (defective tail tight) or possibly having a notice from an ALPR (automated license plate reader) that the driver of that vehicle may have warrants or “wants” outstanding from some prior legal incident.

Call 911

Is a DUI a felony in Georgia? Not usually, since only fourth offense DUI drivers face a DUI felony in GA. These all must have been convictions in the past 10 years, using arrest dates to determine that. This page focuses mostly on a misdemeanor DUI charge.


Once contact is made, the officer uses his or her senses of smell, sight and hearing to see if “typical” manifestations of a drunk driver or drug use by the operator might be afoot. If the investigating law enforcement officer concludes that you are incapable of driving safely, he or she can arrest you for violating OCGA 40-6-391. Lawyers often call this circumstantial evidence case a “DUI less safe” case.

What is less safe DUI in GA? When an officer puts the cuffs on you, he or she is taking you to jail on the “less safe” DUI charge under 40-6-391(a)(1) for DUI alcohol or 40-6-391(a)(2) for DUI drugs. The legality of the police coming onto contact with you (e.g., at a DUI checkpoint) or basis of traffic offense can be legal issues raised by DUI attorneys near me.

Under laws in Georgia, the suspected impairment can be from being under the influence of any drug, or toxic vapor. Commonly, roadside sobriety tests are given by a law enforcement officer who investigates you, but the best DUI lawyers in Georgia know how to neutralize these non-scientific field sobriety tests that are promoted by NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Even if this is your DUI 1st offense arrest ever, do not think that DUI is no big deal. Don’t think that the judge will be lenient on you because this is your “first DUI,” since Georgia criminal laws are among the toughest driving under the influence statutes in America. So, the judge can’t do much to help a first time DUI in GA.

What Happens on a DUI Ticket for your First DUI Offense?

Before they search the Internet, many citizens charged with DUI first offense are focuses on “how much is a DUI ticket?” This discussion about what happens for your first DUI offense will be startling.

The essence of a DUI in Georgia and would happen to a person’s life and career after a first DUI conviction affects each person differently, but a general rule of thumb is that the more money you make and the higher your career achievement goals are, the more the devastation from a DUI in Georgia first offense can be.

The Georgia DUI limit varies by age of driver and by type of vehicle being operated. Plus, the DUI per se Georgia test collected must be within 3 hours of the driving ending, for any alcohol BAC levels.

All drivers under age 21 are held to a 0.02 grams percent BAC limit, operators of a commercial motor vehicle are relegated to a 0.04 grams percent legal alcohol limit GA, and all adult drivers GA drinking limit of 0.08 grams percent. Knowing your Georgia alcohol limit and moderating consumption accordingly can possibly prevent being over the legal limit.

New 10-Year Look Back Increased the Percentage of Repeat Offense DUIs In Georgia

Looking at current DUI laws and the related punishments for DUI, penalties and legal pitfalls may not be clear to a non-lawyer. On July 1, 2008 the Georgia Legislature significantly changed our state’s DUI consequences under GA DUI law. This was done by extending the look back period (for mandatory, minimum DUI punishment under of criminal laws) to ten years.

By expanding this “look back” period to 10 years from the previous 5-year look back, a substantial number of repeat offenders face difficult punishment for DUI second offense or other repeat offense accusations. A first offense will permit drivers age 21 and over to get an immediate limited permit, with generous provisions for important things like transporting your children. Such transportation flexibility is not available on Georgia 2nd DUI in 5 years.

William Head, DUI Lawyer in Atlanta Fights DUI Cases


The very harsh consequences of a third DUI offense (high and aggravated punishment) or 4th DUI felony have created a high urgency to hire only the best Atlanta DUI lawyers. Also, issues relating to maintaining driving privileges are still being measured with a five-year lookback. So, a conviction of Georgia DUI laws second offense or 3rd DUI offense in Georgia in the past 5 years triggers a 3-year suspension or 5-year revocation, respectively.

Plus, the administrative license suspension peril is very real. A seemingly insignificant issue, like advising you to take the State ignition interlock limited permit, when a better solution exists, can be disastrous for some drivers. You only have 30 days after your arrest date to act, and this can’t be solved (in many cases) by waiting until the last minute.

Then, be willing to be proactive and assist your DUI defense lawyer in your DUI in Georgia 1st offense! Remember, even on a 1st offense DUI you are fighting Georgia criminal laws and not a mere traffic infraction. Receiving a ticket for DUI is one of the serious driving offenses.

The consequences and implications go far beyond merely being guilty of a misdemeanor. In this page, the reasons to fight a Georgia law first offence DUI become apparent. The necessity to only retain an experienced DUI attorney Atlanta becomes crystal clear.

Why Choose Our DUI Lawyers Near Me For a 1st DUI?

The three Georgia lawyers at our law office are true DUI specialists. No matter which law firms near me you investigate, no other criminal defense lawyers in Atlanta will have better credentials for drunk driving defense, so why settle for a less qualified and experienced criminal lawyer near me?

Super Lawyers 2019

Ex-cop Cory Yager, AVVO superstar Larry Kohn (over 470 attorney ratings), and Georgia’s recognized leader in DUI defense, William C. “Bubba” Head, with 43 years of aggressive criminal law practice to his credit.

Mr. Head has been responsible for shaping DUI case law Georgia during his criminal law career. All three Georgia drunk driving attorneys have been named to multiple Larry Kohn lists, and all three are published law book authors on drunken driving defense.

Administrative License Suspension Often Follows a DUI Arrest in Georgia

Super Lawyers

Plus, for over forty years, DUI laws in GA have authorized officers to seize your driver license as part of a DUI arrest. This occurs as an administrative license suspension proceeding wherein the State of Georgia DDS seeks to suspend for a refusal to submit to implied consent breathalyzer testing (e.g., alcohol breath test).

If your driver license was taken and replaced by a piece of paper CALL our lawyers in Atlanta NOW, to try to avoid being suspended. 404-567-5515. The lawyer consultation is FREE.

Georgia laws call any post-arrest blood, breath or urine collection under implied consent laws a “chemical test.” Another type of administrative driver license suspension can be imposed for taking the test and being over the legal limit.

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In addition, special rules apply to any driver under 21 years of age or operating a commercial motor vehicle. For those under 21 years old, any DUI conviction causes a “hard” suspension, meaning “no limited permit.” For a CDL driver, he or she cannot operate a big rig or other commercial vehicle on a paper license., under federal regulations.

Additional Helpful Links on Related Topics to This Article

How many Points to suspend license in GA? The Georgia Department of Driver Services oversee the “demerit” point system for gauging the number of points needed to suspend your right to drive.

Do you go to jail for a DUI? DUI first offense jail time is usually no more than 24 hours, but aggravating factors like an accident, bad behavior toward a police officer, being stopped after a police chase or reckless driving can alter the difficulty of a no jail DUI plea.

How long do you go to jail for DUI GA is controlled by state statute and then usually is determined by these 5 factors:

  1. Some drivers who lived in other states may have received and order of discharge of a DWI-DUI offense in another jurisdiction. The Georgia prosecutor has access to NCIC and other state records of any arrests and case dispositions.
  2. If ever convicted of a felony, that prior criminal history can play a role in sentencing. A prior plea or guilty or nolo contendere to a DUI-DWI in any jurisdiction could change that.
  3. The Judge and Prosecutor that you have can be an obstacle to a favorable plea deal.
  4. If you are on probation or had some prior criminal case for which you did not successfully complete all probation conditions, this can create a barrier to a light sentence here.
  5. If you were uninsured or if this case involves an accident for which all costs for an innocent party have not been made whole, judges will not be inclined to assist the accused.

Total Costs of a DUI in GA

When an arrest for a DUI Georgia occurs, the person charged with the crime, misdemeanor vs felony, can anticipate spending thousands of dollars. DUI defense (for each case) can take many hours beyond the brief visits that occur at the arraignment and first court appearance.

Many cases (if needed to try to exclude evidence such as field sobriety tests or a breathalyzer) require our clients to retain an expert witness. The necessity of such trained professionals will only be apparent once a full case investigation is made.

How Much is a DUI fine?

Can I use the Georgia first offender act to restrict or expunge my record, after finishing my sentence? Our state’s OCGA DUI law lacks access to first offender Georgia benefits. Felony drug offenders can use it, and some sex offenders, but not a person convicted of drunken driving.

How Much does a DUI cost over ten years?

FREE lawyer consultation with a PARTNER, each of whom has over 1,000 DUI cases under his belt; our law office offers attorneys’ fees payment plans; and our attorneys near me provide 24-hour lawyer availability. Since 2009, Bubba Head and his law firm has been named to Best Law Firms in America.

Plus, all three Atlanta DUI attorneys are Super Lawyers for Head, Yager and Larry Kohn

Significantly, William “Bubba” Head is Board-Certified by the National College for DUI Defense

Martindale-Hubbell 5.0 “av” RatedCory Yager and William C. Head

DUI meaning: The many DUI-DWI acronyms used in other states: DWI, OUI, OWI, OVI, DWAI,


Helpful Georgia DUI infographic

Helpful blood alcohol level chart

DUI charges first offense: DUI Sentencing Grid


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Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 567-5515
in Cobb County, GA:
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in North Fulton County, GA:
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