In Georgia, drivers who are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in two different ways: “DUI-less-safe,” also called “impairment DUI,” and DUI “per se.” (Read more about the difference between per se and impairment DUIs.) If you’ve previously been convicted of either type of DUI and are facing a new charge, read on to learn about the possible consequences of a conviction.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 40-6-391(a) (2017).)
A second or subsequent DUI conviction has harsher consequences than a first conviction, and Georgia law considers how far apart in time those convictions occur when determining the minimum punishment you’ll receive. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys call that stretch of time the “look back” period. The look back period runs from the arrest date of the prior DUI (for which you were convicted) to the arrest date of the most recent offense. Making matters more confusing, Georgia has two look back periods: one for criminal penalties, and another for driver’s license penalties.
For criminal penalties (see below), there’s a ten-year look back period. For example, imagine you were arrested for a DUI (and convicted) in 2006 and then arrested for DUI again in 2017. The 2017 DUI will count as a first DUI for purposes of the criminal punishment (even though it’s technically your second) because the two arrests were more than 10 years apart. Be aware, though, that this applies only to the statutory minimum fines and jail time required by law; judges can still consider the prior DUI when deciding what sentence—within the allowable range for a first DUI—you deserve.
For driver’s license penalties (see below), the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) uses a five-year look back period. So a DUI conviction will be considered a second conviction for license purposes only if you had another DUI arrest (for which you were convicted) within the previous five years.
(Ga. Code Ann. § § 40-5-63(a), 40-6-391(c) (2017).)
Generally, a second-offense DUI is a misdemeanor. The judge can sentence you to spend anywhere from three days up to 12 months in the county jail. You’ll spend part of that time on probation. While on probation, you’ll have to pay a supervision fee, and your probation officer will monitor you to make sure you’re completing all the required terms of your sentence. (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-6-391(c)(2)(B) (2017).)
Fines for a second DUI range from $600 to $1000. And that amount can almost double once the required surcharges are added. Also, you must attend the DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (“Risk Reduction Program”), a 20-hour course that costs over $350. (This course is also one of the requirements for getting your license reinstated by DDS.) (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-6-391(c)(2) (2017).)
You also have to complete 30 days of community service work and participate in a clinical evaluation for alcohol or drug dependency. If the clinical evaluator determines that you need treatment, you’ll have to complete the recommended number of counseling sessions as part of your sentence. (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-6-391(c)(2) (2017).)
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
Generally speaking, sentencing law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including the severity of the damage at issue, credits for good in-custody behavior, and jail-alternative work programs.
If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.
In addition to the penalties outlined above, a second DUI conviction will have an impact on your driver’s license. For a second non-drug-related DUI conviction (for drivers over the age of 21), the DDS will suspend your license for three years.
After you’ve served 120 days of that suspension, you might be eligible for an ignition interlock device (IID) limited permit. This type of permit allows you to drive to and from work, school, treatment, and other approved destinations, as long as you have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. (Read more about IIDs here.) To be eligible for such a permit, you’ll have to be enrolled in an accountability court like a DUI or drug court or a state-certified alcohol and drug abuse treatment program. (Ga. Code Ann. § § 40-5-63(a)(2), 40-5-64(a)(2) (2017).)
After serving 18 months of your suspension, you can request early reinstatement of your license if you’ve met certain requirements. You’ll have to provide the DDS with proof that you’ve completed a state-approved Risk Reduction Program, and you’ll have to pay a reinstatement fee of $210 (or $200 if you’re requesting reinstatement by mail). You’ll also have to provide proof that you’ve had an IID installed in your vehicle for a one-year period. (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-63(a)(2) (2017).)
What if you have a financial hardship that could prevent you from being able to meet the IID? You might be eligible for a DDS waiver. But you’ll have to wait out that one-year period without driving; a waiver doesn’t make you eligible to drive any sooner than you would have been with an IID in your car. (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-64(a)(2) (2017).)
Nor can you just wait out the full three years of your suspension and have your license automatically reinstated. Georgia law makes it clear that if you want your license back, you’ll have to meet these requirements (completion of the Risk Reduction Program and payment of the reinstatement fee) no matter how much time has passed since your conviction. (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-63(a)(2) and (c) (2017).)
(Be aware that a license suspension resulting from a conviction is different from what’s called an “administrative license suspension.” An administrative suspension can be imposed by DDS before you even go to court for your DUI.)
LICENSE PENALTIES FOR DUI-DRUGS CONVICTIONS
If your DUI conviction was drug-related—meaning, you were under the influence of drugs alone or alcohol and drugs combined—you’ll face different rules regarding license suspension.
For a second DUI-Drugs conviction in five years, DDS will issue a yearlong “hard suspension” of your license, meaning that you won’t be allowed to drive for 12 months, period. But if you enter an alternative sentencing program like a DUI or Drug Court, you might be eligible for limited permit. (Ga. Code Ann. § 40-5-75, -76 (2016).)