Being declared a habitual violator can have very long-term and harmful effects on drivers in Georgia. Habitual violator is a status that occurs when convicted of certain traffic offenses, and it results in an immediate five year license suspension. It is also an offense that goes onto a person’s criminal history and can even lead to felony charges and prison time.
Convictions arising from a single incident or separate incidents to any three of the following violations within a 5-year period, as measured from date of arrest will cause the driver to be declared an Habitual Violator in accordance with O.C.G.A. §40-5-58:
- Homicide by Vehicle (1st Degree) as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-393 (a) or (b)
- Homicide by Vehicle (2nd Degree) as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-393 (c)
- Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used
- Hit & Run – Leaving the scene of an accident as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-270
- Racing on Highways or Streets as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-186
- Using a Motor Vehicle in Fleeing or Attempting to Elude an Officer as defined by
- Operating a Motor Vehicle with a Revoked, Canceled, or Suspended Registration as
defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-15
- DUI and DUI Child Endangerment
- Feticide by Vehicle (1st Degree) as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-393.1 (a) (1)
- Serious Injury by Vehicle as defined by O.C.G.A. §40-6-394
All three offenses can be from the same incident, or on the other hand, can be still be counted if they occurred within a five-year period. For example, it is possible to become a Habitual Violator if convicted of DUI, Hit and Run, and Child Endangerment in one incident. However, even if you pled nolo contendere to Hit and Run five years ago, and are later charged on different dates for any of the above crimes, this too will trigger Habitual Violator status. In order for due process to be met, the State must comply with specific notice requirements to drivers as it relates to Habitual Violator status.
Even if you pled guilty in Court under Georgia’s First Offender Statute to the above offenses, the Department of Driver Services still counts it as a conviction. Likewise, a Nolo Contendere plea is also considered a conviction under this statute and will not save your license.
A person who is declared a Habitual Violator immediately undergoes a five-year long driver’s license suspension. There may be a limited permit available after first serving a two-year hard license suspension.
Can I get a limited permit after being declared a Habitual Violator?
A 3-year limited driving permit may become available after the first two year suspension so long as the person has not been convicted or pled nolo to any moving traffic offense in the two years prior to applying. An approved Defensive Driving course or Risk Reduction course is also required to obtain a probationary license. Additionally, the person applying for a limited permit must submit a sworn affidavit that he or she does not use alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs. In cases involving two or more DUIs, an Ignition Interlock is required to be installed on the vehicle for a period of 12 months. In order to be granted a probationary limited permit after being declared a Habitual Violator, it must be shown that the “refusal to issue such a permit would cause extreme hardship to the driver.”
So long as the above conditions are met, and a fee in the amount of $210.00 is paid, the probationary license may be issued by Georgia Department of Driver Services. These probationary limited permits may have restrictions that limit the specific places the licensee is allowed to drive, or the routes and times of travel, as well as the specific vehicle the licensee may operate.
What happens if I drive after being declared a Habitual Violator without a permit?
Georgia law makes it a felony offense to drive while being declared a habitual violator. Under O.C.G.A. 40-5-58(c), if convicted of driving after being declared a habitual violator, the punishment is a minimum fine of $750, or 1 to 5 years in prison, or both. In order to be convicted of Felony Habitual Violator, the State must prove the offender was declared a habitual violator, was properly notified of that status, and that he or she operated a vehicle without having obtained a valid license. Georgia law does allow defense of Justification at trial in Habitual Violator cases.
Similarly, if convicted for any of the above offenses, including DUI, after having been declared a habitual violator is a serious felony offense in Georgia that can carry prison sentences of up to five years and a base fine between $1,000 and $5,000 on top of any sentencing from the new crimes.
While driving as a Habitual Violator is a felony offense in Georgia, it is a misdemeanor offense to be convicted of any minor traffic offense, after having been given a probationary limited permit. A conviction for a traffic offense while on the probationary limited permit can carry fines and up to 12 months in jail.
Being declared a Habitual Violator in Georgia is the most serious of traffic and license issues you can encounter in Georgia. This is why it is important to be represented in all traffic cases as you can unknowingly become a Habitual Violator by paying tickets on any of the above offenses (even a Suspended Registration). The life-long consequences of being declared a Habitual Violator are severe, so make sure to have a Georgia traffic and criminal attorney advocate for you in such traffic cases. If you or a loved one has been arrested for Habitual Violator status, or any of the contributing crimes to Habitual Violator, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999.