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Peaches, vidalia onions, sweet tea, and Jack on ice…

It’s a well-known fact that the state of Georgia is delectable. Though for some it’s nothing more than a fine vacation destination, for others it is the site of generations of tightly-knit and sweet tea-fueled family histories. With its award-winning peaches, its homegrown vidalia onions and its standing as home to the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, it’s pretty hard not to have a good time whilst spending time in this southern expanse. And, depending on your personal vices of choice, it can be equally as hard to avoid a glass of Jack on ice (or two, or three) on a warm summer night — a beverage which just so happens to be the most popular drink in Georgia.

So what might be expected if your sweet self and Jack happen to hit the road together? What happens if you get caught? Have a seat and grab yourself a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy. You’re about to find out.

What Defines a Georgian DUI?

While a number of factors can play into what makes you, as a driver, look culpable on these sunny southern roads, there are discernable levels of intoxication which could indisputably point to your guilt. Depending on your age and employment standing, these levels are stated by law and—lucky for you—are similiar to what many other states have in place, so they’re pretty easy to remember. So take note; you are breaking the law if you have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of:

  • 0.08% or higher if you are 21 years of age or older and are operating a regular, passenger vehicle
  • 0.04% or higher if you are operating a commercial vehicle, no matter who you are
  • 0.02% or higher if you are under the age of 21 — also known as (AKA) zero tolerance

Depending on your specific situation and on your prior driving record, fines and penalties imposed have a range of possibilities. Without effective legal assistance, the outcome of an arrest will almost undoubtedly negatively affect the amount you pay annually in car insurance. And so it goes without saying that you’ll want to be aware of the potential consequences set in place by the state, especially given that Georgia is recognized by many as having some of the toughest DUI laws in the country since bolstering a provision regarding mandatory jail time for all related offenses in 2009. Simply remember that an arrest does not necessarily mean a conviction, find a good lawyer, and, given that you didn’t fuck up too badly, you’ll be in good hands.

What’s Gonna Happen To Me?!?

First things first: Try not to freak out. Keep in mind, however, that if you do happen to receive a DUI conviction, that mark will stay on your record for the rest of your life. If you are stopped and then fail a chemical test, your license will be confiscated and you will be issued a temporary permit, which is good for 180 days. If you refuse to provide a chemical sample, your license will still be revoked, since Georgia operates under an Implied Consent law, which means it is assumed that the officer has the right to ask you for a sample of your breath, urine, etc. In its place you’ll be issued a 30-day permit. Having that leeway month means that you’ll be able to challenge the suspension through a hearing. If you lose your case—or don’t end up challenging the suspension to begin with—said suspension’s length of enforcement is automatically increased to one year. The only way to get out of that is to complete an educational substance use program and pay the state a $200 fine. Subsequent penalties of similar nature, of course, will result in heftier penalties and longer suspension periods.

Two things that need to happen to be found guilty of a DUI

In order to be found guilty of a DUI charge in the state of Georgia, two things must happen.

  1. You must be “in control of” or driving a vehicle—and yes, “control” means even just sitting in the damn thing and able to make it move an inch or two, and
  2. You must be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to the extent that you can be considered legally at risk to yourself or others. AKA at or above a BAC of 0.08% or having the presence of any illegal drugs in your system. Including pot.  Sorry guys.

You’re Guilty. What’s Next?

Fast forward and imagine you’ve been convicted—let’s talk about the very real consequences you may realistically face. Keep in mind that if you’re under the age of 21, many of these penalties will be somewhat different and in some cases, lighter, you know, so as not to ruin your life. It’s recommended that you refer to the state’s DMV website for further information.

Anyway, if you happen to be an ordinary, grown-ass adult and find yourself in trouble, refer to the following list for a basic penalty breakdown.

  • First offense: If it’s decided that you’re guilty, you’d better be feeling brave; in Georgia any DUI conviction is attached to at least 24 hours of jail time. Depending on the exact severity of your incident, you could even face up to one year behind bars—no more than that if it’s the first time ever, or if it’s been more than 10 years since your last conviction. (Technically, the judge can waive this penalty if you have a really solid defense.) You’re also facing a hefty fine (which usually ranges between $300 and $1,000), a license suspension for up to a year, and a mandatory 40 hours of community service. And, just to make sure you know they’re not fucking around, every person with a conviction must complete a substance abuse evaluation, to help make sure that, you know, you’re not about to do it again.
  • Second offense: Again, this would need to take place within 10 years of a prior conviction. Here, the mandatory jail sentence is increased to 72 hours and has the potential to last 90 days. You would serve your community for no less than 30 cumulative days. Fines can range between $600 and $1,000. You would again be subject to an evaluation, and this is where the true line between having too much fun and having an actual problem is drawn: The court now has the power to decide whether you would have an I.I.D.—an ignition interlock device—attached to your car. As far as holding onto your license, it’s very important that you have a good lawyer if this is indeed your scenario: Depending on how long it’s been since your last offense, you could very well lose it for up to five years, and it could mean complete forfeiture of your tags as well.
  • Third offense: Don’t let this be you. Penalties attached to this instance include a 15-day minimum jail stay, a fine to the tune of $1,000 – $5,000, 30 days of community service, and the revocation of your license for up to 5 years, depending on how many convictions you’ve had in the past 5 years. Oh, and if you aren’t already living the perfect shitstorm, there’s more: Your name, address, and photo must be published in a local newspaper along with a “habitual offender” label, at your very own expense. This is, after all, the final step before you are considered on the felony level of drinking and driving.
  • Felony offenses: The vast majority of DUI cases handled in the state of Georgia are misdemeanors, and there’s a good reason why. The penalties—and sheer embarrassment—associated with a felony charge are not to be taken lightly. Not only will respectable employment be an issue for you moving forward, but you will be facing mountains of fines, at least one year in prison, license revocation, required drug and/or alcohol counseling, and a serious probationary period—which can even forbid you from being in the same room as alcoholic beverages being consumed by other people. Yeah. No bueno.

Never Fear; BernieSez Is Here

Hopefully, you’ve chosen to seek help before getting anywhere near a felony DUI conviction; rest assured that you’ve made a wise choice. Allowing the court system to strap you with any sort of drinking and driving charge without a fair trial can mean years or even decades of heartache. It’s important to weigh your legal options before simply giving yourself over to a public defender or worse yet, to a court without any legal representation at all. Often, when an arrest occurs there are many factors which can be analyzed in your favor in terms of whether or not your rights as a citizen have been upheld. Even if you believe you may be 100% guilty, there are negotiations to be had—and you’ll want to be sure you have the most experienced person you can find on your side to help mitigate the eventual outcome.

No matter what events transpired before you got charged with drinking and driving in the state of Georgia, BernieSez is a great place to get some advice regarding your case or enlist the help of a licensed professional. Upload information pertaining to your charges to the site, and it will be viewable by local men and women of the law. Match with your lawyer today and get started on your path towards the better side of justice.  Click or tap on the button/link below to get started.  It's easy and a free service.