By: William C. Head, Drunk Driving Book author and DUI Attorney Atlanta
Each state defines WHEN DUI misdemeanor or felony charges will apply. Georgia law defines those situations, but many variables in each case can determine how the Prosecutor will accuse (charge) the person arrested for a DUI Georgia with potential felony DUI punishment.
How the DUI case will be presented for indictment is primarily in the hands of the prosecuting attorney, and this discretionary function is a variable that is difficult or impossible for even the best DUI attorneys to control.
For example, even with a low BAC (blood alcohol content) reading (e.g., 0.056 BAC level), if any evidence of reckless driving exists (which is common), the District Attorney will charge you under OCGA 40-6-391 (DUI in GA) as well as OCGA 40-6-390 (the reckless driving GA statute).
Then, the DA will ask the jury to convict of one or both of the alternate DUI felony counts for vehicular homicide by DUI and vehicular homicide by reckless driving.
In general terms, these are the six common methods of accusing a person when a DUI is a felony:
1. Serious injury caused by a car accident, by contact with a pedestrian or occupied vehicle, while DUI
2. Homicide by vehicle, of a pedestrian or any other person (in your vehicle or in another vehicle), while DUI
3. Too many DUI offenses within ten years, since a fourth DUI in 10 years is a DUI felony in GA, as calculated by dates of arrest. Multiple DUI penalties for felony drunk driving exist, including mandatory jail time. If no death or serious injury, a DUI felony can trigger one to five years in state prison.
4. Child endangerment in GA triggers a NEW DUI for each child under age 14 in the vehicle. If the driver had two prior DUI convictions, and had a child in the car when arrested for a new drunk driving case, these two new DUI cases can make a 4th Multiple children under age 14 in a vehicle of a DUI GA driver is a disaster for a DUI attorney representing the accused driver, since every child adds a new DUI accusation, and Georgia DUI law prohibits “merger” or grouping multiple “counts” into just one or two DUIs in GA.
5. Georgia habitual violator laws prohibit such HV status individuals from even sitting behind the wheel of a parked vehicle. If found behind the when, an habitual violator in GA will be charged with a new felony.
6. Under federal interstate compact laws, by having even a 2nd DUI in GA that would make this a second offense DUI in the person’s LIFETIME will impose the same travel and relocation restrictions as a convicted felon. So, if the repeat offense DUI driver is convicted of DUI, and has a probation sentence exceeding one year, that person’s ability to leave the state where he or she is sentenced is controlled by the Interstate Compact law. (interstatecompact.org)
Clients always ask, “how much jail time for a felony DUI?” Naturally, the prospect of serving jail time in State prison is the biggest issue for anyone facing felony drunk driving. Such disruption of a person’s normal life can alter the remainder of the person’s life.
Other mandatory DUI penalties for felony DUI are outlined by state law, depending on whether this is serious injury by vehicle GA was a first offense DUI, a 2nd DUI in GA, or 3rd DUI. For ANY homicide by vehicle GA case, losing the right to drive for 5 years poses its own challenges. Georgia DUI laws for felony vehicular homicide are significantly tougher than South Carolina or Alabama.
If you are facing a DUI felony, the common factors of such a charge is that you ARE entitled to a jury trial, and you ARE facing more than 12 months in state prison, as a general rule.
In most states, when a person arrested for drunk driving is facing an accident-related felony DUI, his or her DUI lawyer may try to have the trial judge instruct jurors of a “lesser included offense,” so that the jury has the option to convict of a simple traffic offense (e.g., following too closely) which creates a misdemeanor sentence and not a felony sentence.
By way of example, assume that the BAC level of your DUI blood test was low, like a 0.058, the jury could opt to not convict of the DUI vehicular homicide in the first degree, under Georgia laws, and instead, convict of second degree vehicular homicide, for a non-serious traffic offense, like following too close. This is one of many DUI defense strategies your DUI attorney may use to protect you from having a DUI felony.
Hire the Best DUI Lawyer When Arrested for DUI in Georgia
Much like being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease, no one scrimps on legal fees when a DUI is a felony. Call our three Super Lawyers for a FREE lawyer consultation. 404-567-5515.
We are 24 hour attorneys and have helped hundreds of people in Georgia, on similar cases. We can provide accurate, and encouraging information, in most cases.
On any CIVIL liability, we also can direct you to an Atlanta attorney who specializes in accidents to help shield you from a judgment that exceeds your auto insurance.