Whether it is your first DUI charge or third, keep reading to learn what is the punishment for DUI in Georgia.  Lets start with some good news.  In the State of Georgia, most DUI charges are misdemeanors but repeat offenders can eventually face a felony charge.

The maximum penalty for any misdemeanor offense in Georgia is 12 months in jail.  Of course, that maximum penalty is usually reserved for the most serious misdemeanor offenses and even then usually only when committed by a repeat or habitual offender.

Most misdemeanors including a DUI charge in Georgia receive punishments including some combination of fines, probation, jail time, community service, and counseling requirements. And the penalties increase for repeat offenses.

What Is The Punishment For A First DUI In Georgia?

A first DUI conviction in Georgia with an alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.08 grams (to learn more about what is else qualifies as legally drunk in Georgia click the following link) for a person age 21 or over carries the following:

  • a 12 month sentence with a mandatory minimum 24 hours in jail
  • a fine between $300 and $1000 (plus various state surcharges which can more than double the fine)
  • at least 40 hours of community service
  • completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction program (formerly known as DUI School);
  • a substance abuse evaluation conducted by a clinical professional and compliance with any treatment recommendations made by the evaluator; and
  • a mandatory drivers license suspensions.

Certain convictions qualify for issuance of a limited driving permit to allow the offender to drive to work, school, or places the offender is required by the court sentence to be such as treatment or community service.

In addition to these mandatory minimum sentence requirements, courts can impose a number of additional conditions if the judge deems them appropriate. Those conditions are often treatment-oriented. They can include:

  • mandatory weekly community recovery group therapy meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous
  • attendance at a DUI victim impact panel organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving or similar groups; or
  • writing essays, or installing an ignition interlock device (a breath testing machine) on your car

Different judges have different philosophies on appropriate punishments for a DUI. Some are content to just impose the statutory minimum conditions for a first DUI. Others have additional requirements they require on all or most DUI cases.

What Is The Punishment For A Second DUI In Georgia?

A second DUI conviction within ten years in Georgia carries a 12 month sentence with increased mandatory minimum penalties. The minimum fine doubles to $600 although the maximum remains $1,000 before surcharges. The mandatory minimum jail time increases to 72 hours, and the community service requirement increases six fold to 240 hours.

For a second or subsequent conviction within five years, the clerk of court is required to send a notice of conviction to the newspaper operating as the official legal organ for the county and the newspaper will publish a notice of conviction along with a mugshot in the legal notices section of the paper. The offender is required to pay $25 to cover the cost of publication. All of the clinical evaluation and Risk Reduction requirements still apply to a second or subsequent conviction.

For a third DUI conviction within ten years, the minimum fine increases to $1,000 and the maximum fine skyrockets to $5,000. The mandatory minimum jail time increases to 15 days, and all of the other conditions imposed on a second DUI conviction continue to apply to a third conviction.

                    Consequences To Your License Upon Third Conviction

A third DUI conviction can also begin to have extremely serious consequences for your Georgia drivers license. While every DUI conviction carries a mandatory drivers license suspension, a third DUI conviction within a five year period (measured by the dates of the arrests which ultimately resulted in a conviction) results in a revocation of your Georgia drivers license and a declaration that you are a habitual violator.

When your drivers license is revoked and you are declared a habitual violator it becomes a felony for you to even drive a motor vehicle regardless whether you are under the influence or not. Driving after having been declared a habitual violator and after having your drivers license revoked without first obtaining a limited permit or probationary license is a felony that carries up to five years in prison.

Thus, the habitual violator revocation that can accompany a third DUI conviction can be more serious than any other sentence condition for the actual DUI itself. It is very easy for unsuspecting habitual violators to think they have the ability to drive again and wind up facing felony charges because they did not jump through the correct hoops to get their probationary license or have their full license reinstated.

A fourth DUI conviction within ten years is also a felony offense that carries up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The court is required to sentence a person convicted of their fourth DUI in ten years to a minimum period of 90 days in jail and 4 years and 9 months on probation.

Unless the person receives a sentence of at least 3 years in prison, then the court is also required to impose a mandatory minimum of 480 hours of community service. The same requirements for Risk Reduction, clinical evaluations, and other treatment conditions continue to apply to a fourth DUI conviction.

Alcohol Treatment Requirements Becoming More Common

For repeat DUI convictions, courts may also consider more intensive drug or alcohol treatment requirements such as in-patient rehabilitation. Virtually any Georgia judge will believe that a person convicted of DUI multiple times within a decade has a substance abuse problem that could benefit from treatment.

The closer in time the convictions are the more likely the court will be to believe that a serious addiction or substance abuse issue is significantly contributing to the offender’s criminal behavior and consider more intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment options than the mandatory minimum requirements of Georgia’s DUI law.

           The Georgia DUI Court

One such intensive outpatient treatment option that has gained popularity over the past decade in Georgia is DUI Courts. A DUI Court is an alternative sentencing option that falls under the broad heading of accountability courts.

Unlike a traditional DUI sentence that is supervised and enforced entirely by a probation officer once the convicted person is released from jail, a DUI Court is supervised by the DUI Court judge with input from a diverse DUI Court team usually comprised of substance abuse counselors, the prosecutor, law enforcement, probation, and a defense attorney. DUI Court participants go through intensive outpatient treatment with counselors who work for and report back to the court, and the participants regularly return to court for progress reports with the judge.

The program is designed to better marry therapy and accountability to treat underlying substance abuse and mental health issues that are causing the participant to repeatedly find themselves facing DUI charges than probation and jail alone have done in the past. But DUI Court is not for everyone, and like any sentence for a charge as serious as DUI it should never be entered or agreed to without first consulting with an experienced DUI defense attorney.