Traffic laws differ from state to state. All states distinguish between serious driving offenses (like hit and run, DUI-DWI, reckless driving and attempting to elude an officer) and minor traffic violations, such as exceeding the speed limit. In some states, speeding tickets and similar non-accident traffic tickets are INFRACTIONS, that carry no criminal punishments or the possibility of jail time. Other states like Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida make these lesser offenses crimes.
Because some people who drive through Georgia or move from other states to the Peach State, where a traffic violation MAY be an “infraction,” some drivers who get charged with a red-light violation, stop sign ticket, or a super speeder GA citation misjudge the potential severity of Georgia laws. Under Georgia laws, every “moving violation” is a criminal charge and (usually) a misdemeanor but is NOT an infraction for which a fine is paid and nothing more.
Every DUI in Georgia is a criminal offense – either misdemeanor or felony. Even for first-time DUI offenders, no Georgia statute permits the person charged to utilize diversion, a deferral, conditional discharge or expunction of a DUI in GA. Right now, THOUSANDS are sitting in a jail cell or prison for crimes relating to a Georgia DUI..
For these reasons, our DUI law firm near me in Georgia approaches every pending drunk driving case as an opportunity to achieve a DUI dismissal or a reduction of charges to a non-DUI disposition (e.g., DUI reduced to reckless driving). So, if asked “is a DUI considered a criminal offense in GA,” tell them “YES.”
The best answer to the question “Is a DUI a criminal offense” is usually yes. The exceptions to the general rule of misdemeanor DUI being accused come from these situations:
Georgia DUI: How Many Driver’s License Points?
The state’s driver’s license point system, for problem drivers, exists in virtually all states. Almost everyone knows that “points” on their driving record can accumulate and suspend them, at some level of repeat traffic crimes. Additionally, getting too many “points” will cause car insurance cancellation. Ironically, because a driving under the influence automatically suspends that driver, NO points follow a DUI in GA conviction.
For commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, underage drivers, and repeat offenders of Georgia traffic laws, points on your license, possible driver’s license suspension and much higher insurance rates may be your least important issues. Certain traffic crimes in Georgia (like DUI and high-speed traffic citations) can TAKE AWAY your CDL operator’s license who has a CMV.
Yes, but a couple of states (NJ, WI) “mask” their OWI-DWI laws by calling it a civil offense, but still hand out jail time and suspend your driver’s license. Plus, for a refusal to submit to an implied consent test (after being arrested) about a dozen states will jail you for that conduct and take away your driving privileges.
Below are images of Bubba Head, Cory Yager (an ex-cop) and award-winning DUI attorney Larry Kohn. Between all three Georgia DUI lawyers shown below, more than 30 separate legal industry recognitions, accolades or awards have been annually given.
Potential clients often ask, “Is a DUI a criminal offense?” Due to the life-changing experience of being cuffed, and taken to jail, people are convinced that a DUI is a felony.
Possibly, but not often. To be a felony, the driver would have to kill or seriously injure another person. That person can be a passenger, a pedestrian, or any person in another vehicle. Using a 10-year “look back” period, 1st offense, 2nd DUI, or third offense DUI will be misdemeanors. Read more below.
All Georgia DUI attorneys know that police assigned to vehicular homicide Georgia cases are well-trained. When a death or serious bodily injury in a traffic offense occurs, the law enforcement officer should not merely issue a traffic ticket to the driver suspected of being impaired. If an implied consent refusal has taken place, securing a judicial search warrant for blood is routine and expected.
When it comes to driving under the influence, two states have non-criminal DUI-DWI-OWI laws and call their DUI charge either “quasi-criminal” offenses or civil offenses. However, the impact on your criminal record and long-term consequences all turn out to be the same as states that make drunk driving or drugged driving conviction a criminal offense. Georgia makes EVERY DUI a criminal offense.
Police officers handling a fatality, or a serious bodily injury case are trained to ask “investigatory” questions like these:
All law enforcement officer questions are designed to INCRIMINATE you. The answers that you give will provide enough evidence to support an arrest for DUI. This arrest does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as is mandated at trial for a criminal offense. Once you talk, your likelihood of going to jail increases for a DUI fatality or serious injury by a vehicle accident, for DUI-alcohol or DUI-drugs.
If the detained driver refuses to be tested by a breath alcohol test, he or she will likely be subjected to a forcible DUI blood test, pursuant to a search warrant. Georgia DUI laws have authorized a DUI officer to seek a warrant since 2006.
How to Answer and Handle Yourself if Suspected of a GA DUI
The previous sections have educated you about the rare, but possible, scenarios for felony DUI indictment. This section talks about how to NOT self-incriminate.
A driver involved in an accident causing serious physical injury to another, or any death, should remain silent and NOT TALK. The driver should only give his or her NAME and ADDRESS.
Until an arrest is made, anything the person says is not “protected” under the Constitution. In the quest to uphold DUI death convictions, most state appellate courts have found a way to uphold a felony DUI conviction involving serious injury or death.
Remember that Miranda rights are generally not required until you are arrested and cuffed when it comes to police questioning at an accident scene. Remaining silent is the best universal advice from a DUI defense lawyer. If police collect your blood using a warrant, this search warrant may NOT be legal if it was not based on probable cause to suspect driving while intoxicated.
Not in most drunk driving cases, as is covered above. Absent a car accident with injuries or death to another person (in your vehicle, another vehicle, or as a pedestrian), the answer to “is your first DUI a felony?” is NO. Drunk driving still a criminal offense that requires expert legal representation from a DUI lawyer in Atlanta to achieve the best possible outcome.
Being charged with DUI is NOT a conviction! While our Atlanta DUI attorneys focus on NOT allowing you to get convicted of DUI, people always ask us about the penalties if convicted. The DUI statute mandates these categories of 1st DUI punishment and mandatory minimums (for each category):
Below is a more complete chart of DUI penalties.
Hire a GA Expert DUI Attorney for Misdemeanor DUI or Felony DUI
Drunk driving defense book author William C. “Bubba” Head is an Atlanta DUI lawyer. The UGA grad is a 43-year veteran criminal defense attorney Atlanta and NCDD Board-Certified impaired driving defense expert. His criminal justice law partners, Larry Kohn and Cory Yager, operate a DUI law firm with multiple office locations in Atlanta, Georgia.
So, our law office can assist you (or a loved one) on a first offense DUI, a 2nd DUI in GA, or any other repeat DUI offense. Plus, no other DUI lawyer in Atlanta has handled more vehicular homicide Georgia cases, or serious bodily injury GA cases. Our attorneys in Atlanta can answer all your questions from the meaning of DUI to the many consequences of being convicted.
So, when you, a close friend, or family member needs the most aggressive, experienced and determined DUI lawyers, contact Larry Kohn, DUI lawyer Atlanta, Cory Yager, and veteran criminal defense advocate William “Bubba” Head.
Mr. Kohn and Mr. Yager were each invited to write chapters for national drunk driving defense books published for other DWI lawyers who are learning how to beat of a DUI. Their chapters were published in 2016.
By: Atlanta DUI Attorney William C. Head, Board-Certified in DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense
Because some people are from other states where a traffic violation MAY be an “infraction,” some drivers who get charged with a red-light violation, stop sign ticket, or a super speeder GA citation misjudge the potential severity of Georgia laws. Every “moving violation” is a misdemeanor, NOT an infraction. For commercial drivers, underage drivers, and repeat offenders of Georgia traffic laws, driver’s license suspension and much higher insurance rates may be your least important issues.
Every DUI in Georgia is a criminal offense, misdemeanor or felony. Even for first-time DUI offenders, no Georgia statute permits the person charged to utilize diversion, a deferral, conditional discharge or expunction of a DUI in GA. For these reasons, our DUI law firm in Georgia approaches every pending drunk driving case as an opportunity to achieve a DUI dismissal or a reduction of charges to a non-DUI disposition (e.g., DUI reduced to reckless driving).