What Is a Felony OWI/DUI in Georgia?

The different ways a DUI can become a felony in Georgia.

A person can be convicted of "operating while under the influence" (OWI) in Georgia for operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, while under the influence of drugs, or when "less than safe to drive" due to alcohol. Georgia OWIs start as misdemeanors but can be charged as felonies if certain aggravating factors are present.

Here are some of the circumstances that can result in felony OWI charges in Georgia.

Fourth OWI Conviction Is a Felony

A fourth OWI conviction is a felony in Georgia but only OWI convictions within the last ten years are considered. Logically, any subsequent DUI convictions within the ten-year period will also be felonies.

A fourth offense OWI carries one to five years in prison, $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, and at least five years of supervised probation. The driver's license will also be suspended for five years but a restricted license is generally available after two years.

The judge also can order the driver's vehicle to be forfeited for a fourth-offense OWI.

School Bus OWI Is a Felony

An OWI that occurs while operating a school bus, unsurprisingly, can be charged as a felony. The BAC level that can lead to an OWI for a school bus driver is only .04%, and the driver can be charged even if there are no kids on board.

A conviction carries one to five years in prison and $1,000 to $5,000 in fines. The driver's license will be revoked for at least one year but the driver's commercial driver's license (CDL) can be permanently revoked depending on the driver's prior offenses.

Minor Passengers

A motorist who gets caught driving under the influence for the third time with a minor under the age of 14 in the vehicle can be charged with a felony. A conviction for this offense carries one to five years in prison and at least $10,000 in fines.

Causing an Accident While OWI

A DUI that results in an accident will often lead to felony charges if someone was injured or killed. These charges are separate from the OWI, so a person can be convicted of an OWI and for causing injury or death and face penalties for both convictions.

Injury under the influence. An impaired driver who causes serious injury to another person can be charged with an offense called "injury by vehicle." An OWI that results in brain damage, loss of limb, or serious disfigurement carries one to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The driver's license will be suspended for three years without the option of a restricted license.

Fatality under the influence. Of course, causing a fatality while under the influence is also a felony. The offense is called "first-degree homicide by vehicle" and will result in three to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The driver's license will be suspended for three years without the option of a restricted license.

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