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Georgia drivers must be aware of the stiff criminal and administrative penalties that can be imposed for if they are found to be driving under the influence (DUI).

There were 375 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2018, 19 more than the year before, according to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. That was 25% of the total fatalities in all crashes in the state. Given these significant numbers, Georgia police and state highway patrol make DUI enforcement a top priority.

Criminal DUI

A driver in Georgia can be found guilty of the DUI criminal laws, and Georgia criminal laws are among the stiffest DUI statutes in the country, even for a first time DUI. In Georgia courts, the criminal penalties include fines, a jail sentence, and community service.

DUI “per se” is when a driver violates the DUI law because his BAC is 0.08 or greater. The mandatory minimum punishments for a first offense DUI in Georgia include a 24-hour stay in jail (if your DUI test results are over the legal BAC limit of 0.08. In addition, fines of $300 to $1,000 plus statutory surcharges (about two times the amount of the fine) will be imposed.

You will also be ordered to surrender your driver's license (which will be suspended), to perform no less than 40 hours of community service, and to successfully complete a 20-hour DUI class (known as “DUI school”). You'll also be required to obtain an alcohol and drug evaluation from a Georgia-licensed addiction specialist, and you must comply with this recommendation for treatment or therapy.

Finally, Georgia DUI laws state that you must stay on probation for the remainder of the 12-month period. This is reduced by the time you spent in jail after your DUI arrest.

All of this is the result of your first DUI in Georgia.

“Under the Influence”

A Georgia driver can also be in violation of the DUI laws if he is deemed to be “under the influence.”

The state district attorney will try to show that you were driving after having consumed alcohol or drugs, or a combination, and you were unable to operate your motor vehicle safely. A driver can be found guilty of DUI even if his blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than 0.08.

This is typically supported by several failed field sobriety tests or evidence of impaired driving that help prove the violation.

The higher the BAC, the more severe the penalties will be in Georgia. Plus, your second or third (or fourth) DUI will also mean a harsher sentence.

Georgia Administrative Penalties

If you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, in addition to the criminal consequences, you will have to contend with a separate license suspension. The Georgia Department of Driver Services will suspend your license for violation of the implied consent laws.

The DDS imposes administrative penalties that include the suspension or revocation of your driver's license

The findings and sentence of the criminal court will not have any impact on the status of your driver's license and vice versa. These are separate proceedings, and neither affects the other.

How Tosi Law Can Defend Your Case

Because every DUI case is different, we don't have a “one size fits all” approach to your DIU defense. The specifics of your arrest and the details of your test results will help us create a unique aggressive defense for your specific circumstances.

Arrest Procedures

The Georgia DUI attorneys at Tosi Law will investigate the procedures used by the police in your arrest. Improper arrest procedures can be helpful in our defense of your DUI charge and may provide support for the exclusion of incriminating evidence.

One of the most critical of these questions is whether the officer had a valid reason to stop you in the first place.

Probable Cause

A law enforcement officer is required to have probable cause to stop your vehicle. In addition, if the officer proceeds to arrest you for a DUI, she must also have probable cause for this.

With a traffic stop, the officer must have probable cause when there is reason to believe the driver or someone else in the vehicle has in some way broken the law. This could be as minor as failing to signal a turn. If there is no probable cause for the stop, we will argue that all the evidence that is then obtained during the traffic stop is inadmissible in court.

As mentioned above, the officer must also have probable cause to believe you violated Georgia DUI law. In many instances, probable cause for a DUI arrest is found in the officer's observations of your driving and behavior.

Also, the arresting officer is required to give a DUI suspect the Miranda warning before questioning him while in custody. As a result, if you are in police custody but haven't been given Miranda warnings and make an incriminating statement during questioning, that statement likely cannot be admitted in court against you.

Likewise, you must be properly advised of your implied consent rights about chemical testing. Under "implied consent" law, when applying for a driver's license, you give consent to field sobriety tests and chemical tests to determine if you are impaired.

Questioning the Police Officer's Testimony

If your DUI charge is based on actual impairment, our law firm will investigate the officer's observations, which can be a lynchpin in the prosecution's case. We will review the arresting officer's observations of your impairment. These may include the results of your field sobriety test, whether there was an odor of alcohol, evidence of poor driving or strange behavior, as well as slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.

BAC Accuracy and “One for the Road”

There are numerous factors that can play a part in BAC testing which can render the test results inaccurate. If we challenge the BAC test accuracy, it may require technical and legal expertise by a forensic chemist or another DUI expert because there are several conditions that might alter the results of the test. For example, consuming food or taking a prescription medication within a certain time before the test is administered may produce a false reading.

It takes approximately 45 minutes to three hours for alcohol to become fully absorbed into the body, so BAC testing during the absorption phase can be inaccurate. As a result, if you have “one for the road,” you may not be legally impaired while operating your vehicle, despite the BAC test that later shows you over the limit. That's because your BAC will increase from the time you were driving and the time of the test, which may be an hour after you're stopped.

It's also important to determine if the officer was adequately trained in the operation of the BAC testing equipment and the equipment was functioning properly.

Georgia law enforcement can also ask you to take a blood test or a urine test to measure any drugs or alcohol in your system. When a blood test is conducted, we will investigate to make certain that the blood sample was handled properly and that the prosecution maintained a proper chain of custody for it. Also, we can examine the blood or urine tests to see if there is any presence of prescription drugs and whether the amount of those drugs was within the therapeutic range or if there is any sign of abuse.

Other Defense Evidence

We can also challenge the arresting officer's observations in your case if we are able to find witnesses who were there when you were arrested, and their recollection of the events conflicts with those of the officer. In addition, some of the officer's observations may be explained by conditions other than intoxication. This might include fatigue or physical disabilities that cause your poor performance in field sobriety tests, and watery or bloodshot eyes can be the result of allergies, pollution, or other irritants.

Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney

A successful DUI defense will depend upon the specifics of your case. In Georgia, you need an attorney that knows the law and knows how to win.  

Call us at 888-311-8292 today for your free consultation. We're available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While personal injury cases are contingency fee-based, a DUI matter is not. Please call to discuss costs. 

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