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What are Georgia’s drunk driving penalties?

All Georgia residents should understand the state’s laws and the potential penalties if ever convicted of drunk driving offenses.

Efforts led by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have elevated public awareness about the dangers of driving after consuming alcohol. While this is positive in many ways, it can lead some people to develop a negative stereotype about drivers arrested for these offenses. Contrary to what many in Georgia may believe, even the most responsible persons can be charged with DUIs.

Toasting a new bride and groom, a casual drink with co-workers after a long week or sharing a special bottle of wine at a dinner party and more are exactly the types of situations from which people drive home and may be stopped for drunk driving. What penalties might a person face if convicted of a DUI in Georgia?

Potential jail time

According to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety, even a first drunk driving conviction may result in a jail sentence. A driver may be forced to spend up to 12 months in jail for a first or second DUI. If a DUI conviction is a second offense within 60 months of a prior offense, at least 48 hours of jail time will be required. Third convictions have a minimum jail sentence of 15 days.

High fines

A drunk driving conviction is not cheap in Georgia. The minimum fine for a first offense is $300, for a second offense is $600 and for a third offense is $1,000. Maximum fines are $1,000 for first or second offenses and $5,000 for third offenses.

Loss of driving privileges

Drivers convicted of a first DUI may have their licenses suspended for up to a full 12 months. A second conviction may see a suspension period extended to 36 months. After a third DUI conviction, a driver's license may be fully revoked for 60 months.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services explains that with a first DUI, drivers may be able to have their licenses reinstated after 120 days. They will need to complete required treatment or other courses. A reinstatement fee may also be required. Limited driving privileges may allow people to get to court-mandated treatment or education, school or work, or to special medical appointments.

Use of an ignition interlock device

After a second or subsequent drunk driving conviction, a person may have to install and use an ignition interlock device in order to be allowed to drive for a certain length of time.

Criminal record

The National Conference of State Legislature reports that first and second DUI offenses are misdemeanors in Georgia. Third offenses are high or aggravated misdemeanors. Fourth or subsequent convictions are felonies.

Legal help is important

Clearly the consequences of even a first DUI conviction can be serious and long-lasting. People who have been arrested and charged with drunk driving should always contact an attorney for help with a defense.