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In the state of Georgia, driving under the influence is a fairly common problem. As a matter of fact, Georgia was ranked 23rd in the country in a survey comparing the rates of drunk driving, with an estimated 308 DUI arrests per 100,000 people in 2018.
With such high rates of DUI arrests, it’s not surprising that Georgia has the legal ability to impose strict penalties on even first-time offenders. Preparing yourself with knowledge and legal aid is the best thing you can do in the days after your arrest.
So, what is the penalty for first offense DUI in Georgia? How can you avoid the harshest penalties? Read on to find out.
You Have 30 Days to Act After Your First DUI Offense in Georgia
Why should you hire a DUI defense attorney as soon as you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence? You have 30 days to protect your license and you’re going to need a lawyer to do it.
Once your lawyer has listened to your side of the story, it’s time to decide between two options. The first is to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. The second is to request an administrative license hearing.
The purpose of these decisions is to prevent the full suspension of your license. Keep in mind that you may not get full driving privileges returned to you right away. However, your lawyer’s action in those first 30 days will grant you access to a limited driver’s permit, allowing you to drive to work, school, and a handful of other designated places.
If you do not take any action within 30 days, you will have your license suspended. If you do not act within 30 days and you refused to take a breath, blood, or urine test at the time of your arrest, that suspension will last an automatic 12 months.
First DUI Penalties in Georgia
There is a wide array of penalties that may come into play when you receive your first DUI offense in Georgia. These include:
- Fines starting at $300 and maxing out at $1000
- Jail time from 24 hours to 12 months
- 12 months of probation that may be supervised (requiring you to report to a probation officer) or unmonitored
- Up to 40 hours of community service
- DUI school
- Additional drug and alcohol counseling, including the potential requirement to attend AA or NA meetings
- Additional drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation programs
Some courts may also implement additional penalties to individual defendants. For example, they may require you to attend a drunk driving victim impact panel.
Naturally, DUI penalties become more severe with each offense, particularly if you receive another DUI within five years of receiving the last DUI.
It’s important to note that whether this is your first DUI offense or your third, working with a lawyer is crucial. Many of the penalties listed here are not part of the minimum sentencing. By working with legal representation, you greatly improve your chances of receiving minimum sentencing only.
What to Expect from Your Administrative License Hearing
One thing many first-time DUI offenders in Georgia don’t realize is that they will likely undergo two hearings. The first is the Administrative License Hearing, which is what your lawyer may file for in the first 30 days. It costs $150 to file for the Administrative License hearing, but the chance to revoke your license suspension is worth the cost.
This hearing is limited in what can be discussed. Topics that may come up include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Whether or not the arresting officer had reason to lawfully place you under arrest for DUI
- Whether or not your DUI involved a crash that injured or killed other people
- Whether or not the arresting officer informed you of your rights
- Whether or not you refused to take a breath, blood, or urine test at the time of your arrest
As we mentioned already, this hearing gives you an opportunity to gain a limited driving permit. In some cases, offenders who did submit to an alcohol test can regain their full driving rights within 30 days. In order to do so, you may have to attend DUI school.
What to Expect from Your Criminal Hearing
The criminal hearing for your first-time DUI offense in Georgia is a separate affair. In fact, the criminal hearing is often in a different location with a different judge than the administrative license hearing.
It is during your criminal hearing that other penalties will be decided upon. Once again, it is crucial that you have a lawyer present and ready to defend you. A good lawyer can be the difference between hefty fines and minimum fines or a year in jail and no jail time at all.
You should treat a DUI criminal hearing just like you would any other criminal hearing. Show up dressed in respectable clothing and with a clear head. Allow your lawyer to speak for you whenever possible and don’t provide additional information that wasn’t asked of you.
Request a Free Case Evaluation Today
If you’ve recently received your first DUI offense in Georgia, you don’t have time to spare. Even if no one was injured at the time of your arrest, you’re still going to face serious charges and potentially serious penalties. Make sure that you request legal representation within 30 days of your arrest to prevent long-term license suspension and more.
At Jarrett Maillet J.D., P.C., we have the expertise and knowledge of Georgia DUI laws you need after your first offense. To get started on your Savannah, Georgia DUI case, contact us today for a free case evaluation.