The
vast majority of DUI arrests are charged as misdemeanors in Georgia. There are
certain circumstances, however, that will cause the DUI charge to be elevated
from a misdemeanor to a felony. This article serves to explain the three major
ways a driver in Georgia could obtain a felony DUI charge.

Multiple Prior DUI
Convictions

A
fourth DUI arrest within a ten year period[1] that results in a
conviction is punishable as a felony. A first, second, or third DUI conviction in a ten year period will be
treated as a misdemeanor, although the third conviction will be a high and
aggravated misdemeanor.

If
convicted of a fourth offense within a ten year period, the judge has the
authority to impose a prison sentence between one and five years (all of which
may be on probation except 90 days).

Causing Serious Injury or
Death

You can
be charged with a felony if you seriously injure another person while driving
under the influence. Under O.C.G.A. 40-6-394(b), “[a]ny person who, without
malice aforethought, causes an accident
that results in bodily harm
while violating Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391 commits the crime of
serious injury by vehicle. A person convicted of violating this subsection
shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less
than one year nor more than 15 years.” Bodily harm is defined as, “an injury to
another person which deprives him or her of a member of his or her body,
renders a member of his or her body useless, seriously disfigures his or her
body or a member thereof, or causes organic brain damage which renders his or
her body or any member thereof useless.”

Similarly,
“[a]ny person who, without malice aforethought, causes the death of another person . . . [while driving under the
influence] shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three years nor
more than 15 years. O.C.G.A 40-6-393.

High Risk Operator

The law
recognizes people who are convicted of DUI should be punished more severely
because they are transporting children at the time of impaired driving. This
occurs in two ways.

A third
conviction of DUI child endangerment will result in a felony charge. This
offense is punishable by one to five years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to
$5,000.

Finally,
under O.C.G.A. 40-6-391.3, a school bus driver convicted of DUI while driving a
school bus is punishable as a felony. The school bus driver will face a one to
five year prison sentence and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000.

Contact Us

If you or
someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence, contact
the law firm of W. Scott Smith at 404.581.0999
 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI
attorney ready to aggressively fight on your behalf. You can also find out more
detailed information about Atlanta laws here.


[1]
Measured from the dates of arrest (but only since July 1, 2008). Arrests
resulting in convictions prior to this date do not apply towards the total
number of arrests for this purpose.