Georgia has some of the most stringent DUI laws in the nation, even for first time offenders. In addition, DUI carries more required penalties and conditions than any other law on the books in Georgia. For instance, if you are charged with a theft case, there are no required conditions even if you plead guilty. However, on a 1st time DUI case, you face extraordinary fines and fees, mandatory probation, alcohol and drug classes, random testing for the period of probation, restrictions on driving- or a complete loss of your license, and other special conditions.
Before fighting a DUI, it is important to know the basics of your situation, including what a DUI less safe charge is, how a DUI per se charge is proven, and what to do about saving your driver’s license.
Defeating a DUI Case in 2016
In my eight years of practice, the strategies used to defend DUI clients are vastly different from the good ol’ days. In the 1980’s and 90’s, DUI defense lawyers were able to enter pleas of nolo contendere in first time DUI cases. In those days, a “nolo plea” meant that a defendant could avoid both jail time and the stigma of a DUI conviction on their record.
Unfortunately, the days of pleading nolo and calling it quits are long gone. Now, nolo pleas are rarely accepted by DUI judges and defendants who plead guilty to a (first time) DUI will face a litany of conditions. Therefore, the strategy I use when representing my clients involves looking for weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case with the goal of either fighting for a not guilty verdict, or negotiating a deal with the prosecutor for a guilty plea to a reduced charge.
DUI prosecutors in north Georgia are skilled and tough on DUI, so it is crucial to have a DUI-specific defense attorney who knows the court, the judge, and how to fight a case through trial, if necessary. Avoid the general practice lawyers who handle one or two DUI cases a year when the divorce business is slow.
DUI Punishment for 1st Offenders
If convicted of a first DUI in Georgia, you are facing:
- 1. Serving at least 24 hours of actual incarceration in the city or county jail
- 2. Performing 40 hours of community service
- 3. Serving 12 months on probation, usually reporting at least once a month to a probation officer
- 4. Being subjected to random drug and alcohol screens for the probation period
- 5. Abstaining from the use of alcohol and drugs for the probation period
- 6. Attending a 20 hour, in-class Georgia Risk Reduction Program (DUI School)
- 7. Paying fines averaging $1500-$2,000, plus probation and other costs
- 8. One year license suspension
Enhanced Penalties For DUI
These are absolute minimum guidelines under Georgia DUI law. However, in practice, there are often times more conditions pushed for by the State in DUI prosecutions. Getting a substance abuse evaluation is almost always advocated for by the prosecutor, as well as any substance abuse treatment that is recommended by your evaluator. Attendance at a MADD victim impact panel is also becoming more commonplace, as are mandatory A/A meetings. With the political pressures facing Georgia Judges, prosecutors, and politicians to put an end to drunk driving, these punishments are almost certain to become more and more burdensome in the future. Bills have already been introduced, and are winding their way through Georgia’s Congress, that would require all first time Georgia DUI offenders to get an ignition interlock device placed on their vehicle.
As you can see, even on a first DUI, the punishment enacted by the Georgia legislature is severe. After all is said and done, a first DUI could easily cost $2500+ in fines, fees, and court ordered conditions. The benefit of having a clean record and facing only a first DUI arrest is that the prosecutor will not have any past history of DUI driving to fall back on. In Georgia, if you have been previously convicted of a DUI, the law is usually very lenient in allowing the prosecuting attorney to bring evidence of your prior DUIs into trial. The downside is obvious; the jury gets to hear this character/propensity evidence, and many people would tend to think that “you’ve done it once, so you must have done it again”.
If you’re fighting a first DUI, it becomes all the more important to have a skilled and experienced defense attorney fighting your case. In Georgia, a DUI conviction is forever. It will not ‘age off’, or be eligible for expungement after a certain time period. Government, jobs, schools, and others will forever be able to see that you have been convicted of a DUI, and the consequences are almost always severe.
Call Us Directly to Find Out How We Would Fight Your DUI.
Call me on my direct line, or submit a case inquiry today and I will discuss your options with you for fighting your DUI charge. I can be reached at: (404) 590-6642. Remember, a DUI has lasting consequences, both predictable and unforeseeable. Don’t put your future in the hands of an attorney that does not know the ins and outs of Georgia DUI law.