Georgia DUI Law: How a DUI Becomes a Felony

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.

Traffic Tickets while Traveling through Atlanta, Georgia

by Ryan Walsh

We receive calls every day from people who receive traffic tickets while driving on the highways of Georgia. Due to traffic, congestion, construction, and rural police departments, out of state residents are targeted and ticketed every day.

These local courts think they can make money off of you since you live out of state. They think you will just pay the fine and move along. Sometimes the officer will even tell you that it is a non-points violation and can just be paid online when that isn’t actually the case.

Georgia is a points state, meaning every conviction for a moving violation involves points that may be added to your out of state license. Also, the conviction may be reported on your driving history and affect insurance rates.

Traffic tickets in Georgia involve more than just a payment of a fine. It is important to understand the risk of just paying the citation on your driving history. It may cost you a lot more than just the fine amount.

Common traffic tickets we see involving out of state drivers include move-over violations, super speeder tickets, hands-free device citations, and accident cases.

I work every day in the traffic courts around Georgia and can give you the best advice on how to approach your citation. Call us today at 404-581-0999 and ask for Ryan Walsh or e-mail me anytime at ryan@peachstatelawyer.com.

Do I Need an Attorney for Traffic Court?

The answer to that question is, it depends. In Georgia, all traffic citations, whether you were arrested or not, are misdemeanors and carry a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That being said, most traffic offenses will not involve jail time or show up on a background check or criminal history.

How Can an Attorney Help?

In my experience, attorneys can help you in traffic court in Atlanta in a few ways. One, attorney cases are often handled at the beginning of the calendar, allowing you to get in and out of court quickly, and on your way to the rest of your day. Two, attorneys have relationships with the prosecutors in court and can often negotiate a better resolution than you might be able to on your own. Three, some citations in Georgia, such as No Insurance, or Driving with a Suspended License or Registration carry with them additional license suspensions or mandatory jail time. If you enter a plea of guilty to those offenses without understanding the potential punishments, you may impact your freedom or your ability to drive. Finally, an attorney may offer defenses to the charge that can get your traffic citation dismissed completely.

This advice is especially true for Smyrna Municipal Court, Cobb County State Court, the Municipal Court of Atlanta, Gwinnett County Recorders Court, and DeKalb County State Court – Traffic Division.

These are just a few of the reasons it is beneficial to talk to an attorney before going to traffic court. Our free consultation will give you valuable information to  help you decide whether you need an attorney in traffic court. Call us today at 404-581-0999.

by Ryan Walsh

Serious Injury by Vehicle

              DUI and Reckless Driving charges are considered misdemeanors in Georgia. However, if you were arrested for DUI or Reckless Driving and there was an accident with serious injuries involved, it is likely you will be arrested for the felony offense of Serious Injury by Vehicle under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-394. 

What’s the Difference?

The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that misdemeanor crimes carry a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, while felony charges could result in much lengthier punishment as society views felonies, generally, more harshly. Specifically, for the felony charge of Serious Injury by Vehicle, the minimum punishment is 1 year in prison, while the maximum is 15 years. Certain factos like the BAC or whether there was any prior convictions can elevate punishment significantly. Compare that to a Driving Under the Influence charge where the minimum punishment is just 24 hours.

What about my License?

              The Department of Driver Services also treats this crime harshly, and if you plea or are found guilty of Serious Injury by Vehicle, you are facing a driver’s license suspension for a period of three years in addition to the other requirements imposed by the Court.

              The State does not have to prove you committed an unsafe act like speeding, cutting someone off, or hitting someone’s vehicle from the back. They can proceed only on the fact you were DUI and caused an injury under the statute, even if you were not the cause of the accident.

      
        In order for the State to prove Serious Injury by Vehicle, they must prove the injuries were serious enough to fall under the statute. Courts have held broken bones, being unable to walk well for a period of time, and certainly brain damage, all to be sufficient for the state to proceed on felony charge.

Take the next step

              If you or someone you know have been arrested for Serious Injury by Vehicle, it is imperative to meet with a law firm who has a high-level skill in DUI defense as well as in Serious Injury by Vehicle cases. Your future and your freedom depend on it. Call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

by Mary Agramonte

Georgia’s New Distracted Driving Law for Georgia Drivers

by Mary Agramonte

 

As you have probably heard, Georgia’s new law on Distracted Driving will become effective on July 1, 2018. Georgia’s legislature has made the use of a cell phone will driving illegal in response to an alarming rise of traffic fatalities and serious injuries from car accidents.

The new law will prohibit Georgia drivers from the following:

  • Holding a cell phone at all
  • Texting, reading/ sending emails, using internet
  • Watching or recording videos

The following use of electronic devices will still be allowed even under the new law:

  • Speaking/texting with voice based communication
  • Using an earpiece or Bluetooth to talk on the phone
  • Using a navigation or GPS app

The punishment under this new law will be fines, fees, and points. Specifically, for a first conviction in 24 months, you will face a fine of $50.00 which will not include any surcharges and taxes. A second conviction will increase to $100.00 plus court costs and surcharges.

While the cost is fairly slight for a traffic offense, there will be other repercussions of the law. If an officer sees you on the phone, he now has the ability to pull your vehicle over which in some cases could lead to more serious charges. For example, an officer who has lawfully pulled you over for using your phone can then observe an odor of alcohol coming from your vehicle which can then lead to a DUI arrest.

Overall, this bill is being enacted to save lives as talking and texting on a cell phone while driving places other drivers and pedestrians at risk. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Georgia will now join the other 47 states that have already enacted laws prohibited texting and driving.

Atlanta Hit and Run Attorneys

by Mary Agramonte

Whenever you are in a car accident involving either property damage or personal injury, Georgia law provides that a driver is required to do the following things:

  • Give your name, address, and registration of the vehicle
  • Upon request, provide a driver’s license
  • Render reasonable aid to injured parties – such as transporting or making arrangements to transport a person to medical treatment if its apparent medical treatment is needed
  • Where person is unconscious, appears deceased, or is otherwise unable to communicate, you must make reasonable effort to ensure emergency medical service and police are contacted.

Under Georgia law, a driver involved in an accident must remain on scene until all four requirements are met. If a driver neglects one or more of the requirements, they can later be arrested and charged with the crime of Hit and Run.

Hit and Run under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270 is one of the most serious traffic crimes to face. The Department of Driver Services classifies it as a “Major” violation which is in the same category of DUI, Vehicular Homicide, and Fleeing. Hit and Run can not only land you with probation and high fines, it will suspend your license, and can result in you facing jail time.

There are defenses to Hit and Run and ways to negotiate the case to significantly less serious offenses that will not result in jail or a suspended license. With experienced Georgia Hit and Run attorneys on your side, you can fight the case and keep your freedom and driving privileges. If you or someone you know has been involved in a Hit and Run, it is important to retain Hit and Run attorneys quickly. In some cases, an accomplished Hit and Run attorney can be proactive in negotiating lesser charges even before a surrender process. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our knowledgeable Georgia Hit and Run attorneys.