If you are charged with DUI in Georgia, you need to hire a skilled and experienced attorney to handle your case. DUI’s can be complex in nature and if convicted, will expose you to serious criminal liability. This article will discuss the criminal penalties to expect if you are convicted of DUI in Georgia for the third time within a ten year period, measured by the dates of arrest for which a conviction was obtained.

Jail and Probation

Generally, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor offense. As such, the maximum penalty is up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Can a judge sentence to the maximum? Yes. Will the judge sentence to the maximum? Unlikely. But, a third DUI in 5 (or 10) years is considered a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor. This means a higher fine and more jail time. For a third DUI in the last ten years, there is a minimum mandatory 15 days in jail. The judge may give you credit for time already spent in custody when you were first arrested. The remainder of the 12 months may be “probated,” meaning you will be placed on probation. It is important to note that with a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor, you will not be entitled to as much “good time credit” as you could get under a regular misdemeanor. Here, you would be limited to four days credit for every thirty days served. Therefore, if you were sentenced to the minimum 15 days in jail, you would have to serve all 15 days.

Probation is like walking around with a rain cloud over your head. While on probation, you are required to “report” to probation, either in-person, or by mail or phone (usually permitted if you live out of county or out of state). You are required to pay a monthly probation supervision fee separate from the fine assessed as part of the conviction (usually $30-$40 per month). You are also prohibited from drinking alcohol or doing drugs while on probation. If you are arrested for a new crime while on probation, this could cause serious issues as well. Your current probation could be “revoked” and you could go back to jail for the time remaining on probation.

Fines and Fees

The minimum fine for a third DUI is $1,000, with a maximum possible fine of $5,000. Interestingly, Georgia law allows for a judge to reduce the fine up to one-half if you are currently enrolled in a substance abuse program at the time of sentencing. This base fine is accompanied by court costs which add a hefty tax to the overall fine. The sentencing judge may also reduce the fine if doing so would impose “an economic hardship” on the defendant. There are additional costs and fees associated with the required classes and counseling, discussed below.

Classes and Counseling

Typical DUI punishment includes mandatory participation in a Risk Reduction class, also referred to as “DUI School.” This 20 hour class focuses on the dangers of DUI driving and costs roughly $350. The Risk Reduction class must be completed within 120 days of the conviction. You will also be required to complete a Victim Impact Panel. This 2 hour class discusses the “impact” DUI cases have on victims and their families.

Furthermore, those convicted of DUI must undergo a clinical evaluation for alcohol and drug dependency. You must meet with a state certified counselor for an assessment and complete any treatment if treatment is recommended.

Community Service

Those convicted of a third-in-ten DUI will also have to complete 30 days (or 240 hours) of community service. Generally, you can choose which organization to work for, so long as it is a federally recognized non-profit organization and is not a religious institution. Some jurisdictions, however, force you to choose from certain designated organizations. At the end of your community service, you will want a document on the organization’s letterhead stating you successfully completed community service.

Publication of Conviction

A third DUI within a ten year period also causes your conviction to be published in the local newspaper in the county you live in, or in the county where the conviction took place (for non-residents).  The publication is one column wide by two inches long and contains the person’s booking photograph, the name of the convicted person, the city, county, and zip code of the convicted person’s residential address, and the date, time, place of arrest, and disposition of the case. The publication is made once in either the second week following the conviction or shortly after the conviction. Furthermore, the person is assessed a $25 publication fee.

License Suspension

O.C.G.A. § 40-5-63 governs the driver’s license suspension for any person convicted of DUI. For a third conviction within a ten year period, you will be considered a “habitual violator.” This will revoke your driving privileges for a five year period, rather than simply suspending them.

After two years of no driving whatsoever, you may finally be eligible for a probationary license during the final three years of your revocation. But, you would be ineligible for this probationary license if you have been convicted of certain offenses (alcohol or drug charges, or certain moving violations) during the two years prior to applying for this license. In addition, in applying for this license you have to make a showing that not having the license would cause you extreme hardship. If you are able to get this license, DDS could place further restrictions on your ability to drive, such as time restrictions or limiting the purposes for driving (work, school, medical, religious, etc.). Violating these restrictions imposed by DDS could result in a felony.   

A third DUI conviction within a ten year period will greatly impact your ability to drive. Therefore, it’s important to get out in front of a third DUI arrest by consulting with an attorney to discuss your options in fighting the case.

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.