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Is a DUI a Criminal Offense in Georgia?

By: Atlanta DUI Attorney William C. Head, Board-Certified in DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense

Atlanta DUI Lawyer Bubba Head

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.

In the State of Georgia, Is DUI a Crime? YES!

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. Right now, THOUSANDS are sitting in a jail cell or prison for crimes relating to a Georgia DUI..

Jail time for felony drunk driving in GA

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.”

Is a DUI a Misdemeanor?

GA DUI Misdemeanor

The best answer to the question: “is a DUI a criminal offence” is usually yes. The exceptions to the general rule of misdemeanor DUI being accused come from these situations:

  1. 4th DUI in Georgia within 10 years = felony, if convicted.
  2. Operating a vehicle with 3 children as passengers and under age 14 = felony, if convicted.
  3. Causing serious injury by vehicle while DUI = felony, if convicted.
  4. Causing a death to another while drunk or stoned is a felony, if convicted.

Georgia DUI: How Many Drivers 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.

In Other Jurisdictions, Is a DUI Considered a Crime?

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.

Atlanta DUI Lawyer Larry Kohn

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.

Atlanta DUI Lawyer Cory Yager

24 Hour DUI Law Firm

Is a First Time DUI Offense a Felony in GA?

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:

  • When was your last drink?
  • What medications do you take?
  • When did you last smoke weed?

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.

Blood Test for DUI in Georgia

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.

Is getting a DUI a felony?

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):

  • Jail time of twenty-four (24) hours or more, if the blood alcohol level after the arrest was 0.08 grams percent or higher;
  • Monetary fine of $300 to $1,000 fine, but the state surcharges will boost the “court costs” to double the fine amount;
  • DUI school – Completion of the Risk Reduction course, which is a multi-day, twenty-hour DUI defensive driving course called “Risk Reduction”;
  • Community service of at least 40 hours in a first DUI case; and
  • Twelve months of probation, deducting any hours (or days) spent in jail following your DUI arrest.

Below is a more complete charge of DUI penalties.

GA DUI Sentencing

Hire a GA Expert DUI Attorney for Misdemeanor DUI or Felony DUI

Best DUI Attorney Bubba Head

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.

Free consultation for driving under the influence in Atlanta

Learn more about other DUI penalties in general and obtain a FREE lawyer consultation near me today by dialing 404-567-5515. Our criminal attorneys near me will call back 24 hours a day.

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).

Top-rated DUI attorneys in Atlanta Bubba Head

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MAIN LAW OFFICE IN SANDY
SPRINGS, GEORGIA:
5590 Roswell Road
Suite 210
Sandy Springs, GA 30342
(404) 567-5515
DOWNTOWN ATLANTA GA
LOCATION:
235 Peachtree Street NE
Suite 400
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 567-5515
MARIETTA, GA LOCATION
in Cobb County, GA:
109 Anderson Street
Suite 103
Marietta, GA 30060
(770) 629-8620
ALPHARETTA-ROSWELL-MILTON
LOCATION
in North Fulton County, GA:
1001 Cambridge Square
Suite B
Alpharetta, GA 30009
(770) 629-9614