What Are the Consequences of a First-Time DUI Conviction in Georgia?

States all across the country have taken strong measures to deter motorists from operating a vehicle after drinking due to the major risks it poses to public safety. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over 0.08 while you are in control of a motor vehicle in Georgia, you can be arrested for a DUI and face serious legal consequences. Some people believe that the court will treat a first-time DUI offender leniently because it is a misdemeanor charge, but this is a misconception. While it is true that the punishment for a first-time DUI is less severe than what a repeat offender would receive, Georgia still has stringent laws regarding any type of DUI conviction.

Understanding the potential ramifications of a DUI conviction is critical. By contacting a trusted criminal defense lawyer, you can receive straightforward guidance on what to expect in your DUI case and give yourself the best possible opportunity to limit or avoid the following penalties.

Fines, Jail Time, and Probation

Georgia law requires a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 24 hours for an initial DUI conviction. However, depending on the circumstances of your DUI case, you could serve up to a year in jail.

In addition to jail time, you will be subject to a fine ranging from $300 to $1000 for your first DUI. Most individuals convicted of their first DUI will be placed on probation for up to a year. If the judge orders supervised probation, you must check in with your probation officer monthly and may be subject to random drug testing.

License Suspension

Even a first-time DUI typically results in a license suspension by the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services (DDS) for a year. Your defense attorney can schedule an Administrative License Hearing within 30 days of your arrest to appeal this suspension or request the installation of an ignition interlock system in lieu of license suspension. If your appeal fails or you do not schedule a hearing, your license will be suspended for 12 months. However, you may be able to request reinstatement after 120 days if you meet the following criteria:

  • Obtain a certificate of completion from an approved DUI school.
  • Pay a reinstatement fee of approximately $210.

It’s important to note that completing a DUI course is mandatory for license reinstatement, even if you have finished the full 12-month suspension. The course usually takes at least 20 hours and costs over $350. Out-of-state drivers must also attend a certified course to regain their Georgia driving privileges. 

Another option for individuals facing hardship due to a license suspension is petitioning for a limited driving permit. If you are approved for this permit by the DDS and pay the necessary fees, you will be allowed to drive to work, doctor’s appointments, and other specific locations. Keep in mind that early reinstatement and a limited driving permit are not available if you violate implied consent laws by refusing to be tested for drugs or alcohol.

Other Court-Ordered Penalties

Many judges will order first-time DUI offenders to complete forty (40) hours of community service. The court may also require you to take an official drug and alcohol use assessment. Judges have leeway to order offenders to engage in other programs as part of their sentence, such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or going to presentations by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The extent of your punishment will depend upon the circumstances of your arrest, the strength of your defense, and what the judge deems appropriate for your case.

What are Other Potential Ramifications of a DUI?

Criminal charges are serious but are not the only issues you may face after a DUI charge. A DUI conviction can turn your life upside down and cause numerous financial and personal difficulties. The potential impact of the charges on all areas of your life may be mitigated by enlisting the services of a trusted DUI attorney who can help you reach the best possible outcome in your case.

Financial Implications

DUIs are notoriously expensive. When you add up towing and impound costs, court and attorney fees, missed work due to hearings and jail time, reinstatement fees, and payment for classes, testing, and applications, the expenses related to a single DUI can easily exceed $10,000. If you hurt or killed anyone or damaged property while driving under the influence, you could be sued for civil damages. A DUI conviction can also cause your monthly car insurance bill to skyrocket. You may even have to find a new insurer if your current company drops your coverage after your arrest.

Life-Long Criminal Record

Georgia law does not allow the expungement of a DUI conviction. If you plead guilty or are convicted of driving under the influence, it will remain on your record permanently. Not having a clean criminal record may cause difficulties or embarrassment in many situations where a background check is performed, such as applying for jobs, obtaining a professional license, or securing rental housing. The only way to prevent a DUI from ending up on your record is to successfully defend yourself against the charges or get them dismissed.

How Can an Experienced DUI Attorney Help You?

While it is possible to fight a first-time DUI charge on your own, you are taking a substantial risk if you are not intimately familiar with state laws and court procedures. Any errors in handling your case could result in a conviction that stays on your criminal record indefinitely. With so much on the line, having the valuable skills and support of an experienced Georgia DUI defense lawyer is crucial. Contact Sessoms Law Group today at 678-853-7402 to learn how we can assist you