If you are charged with DUI, you may have noticed that you do not have just 1 charge of driving under the influence, but you could be charged with several. But what does this mean and how does this affect you?
If you are charged with multiple counts of DUI stemming from the same incident, the most likely reason is because there is a chemical test of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance which indicates a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 grams and/or at the time of the DUI stop, there were children under the age of 14 in the vehicle.
Generally when a prosecutor accuses a DUI, they will attempt to categorize the offense as as many different kinds of DUIs as they can. If your case does not have a chemical test, that is, you refused the State’s requested chemical test and no one sought a warrant either for your blood or from hospital records, you are likely charged with DUI Less Safe. In Georgia, the State does not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your blood alcohol concentration was a 0.08 or above, merely that you were driving while you were under the influence of alcohol, and as a result of the alcohol consumed, you were a less safe driver. This means that the State does not have to have “proof” of your BAC, only that you had consumed some amount of alcohol.
However, if you consented to the officer’s requested chemical test or the officer sought a warrant for your blood, and the results of that test or blood draw indicated a BAC of 0.08 grams or more, you are likely charged with DUI Unlawful Alcohol Content, also referred to as DUI “per se.” This kind of DUI does require evidence of a defendant’s BAC, generally in the form of a scientific report.
If you are charged with both DUI Less Safe and DUI Per Se, think of them as two ways the State can attempt to prove the same charge. One is not any worse than the other, and a conviction of one results in the other being “merged,” that is, effectively dismissed. The penalties under law are the same for a DUI Less Safe and a DUI Unlawful Alcohol Content, and the effect on your license doesn’t change depending on whether you are convicted of one or the other. A DUI conviction is a DUI conviction.
If you are charged with one or both of the above-referenced kinds of DUIs, and an additional DUI charge, you may be looking at a charge of DUI Child Endangerment. You could be charged with this crime if, at the time of your DUI arrest, there was a child under 14 years of age in the vehicle. The most important thing about DUI Child Endangerment is that, unlike the other two kinds of DUI, it does not merge into a DUI. It counts as an entirely separate DUI upon conviction.
Here is an example: Jayme was arrested for DUI. His 10 year old son, Billy, 6 year old daughter, Sarah, and 14 year old nephew, Steven, are all in the car at the time. When he is arrested, he consents to the officer’s request that he submit to a State-administered chemical test of his blood. When the blood test comes back from the lab, it indicates a blood alcohol content of 0.10 grams. When Jayme goes to Court, he notices that he is charged with 4 counts of DUI: DUI Less Safe, DUI Unlawful Alcohol Content, and 2 counts of DUI Child Endangerment. Note that he could not be charged with a 5th count of DUI for his nephew, because Steven is 14 years old. At trial, Jayme is convicted on all counts. However when the Judge sentences Jayme, he is only sentenced as though he was convicted of 3 of the DUI counts, because the DUI Less Safe would merge into the DUI Unlawful Alcohol Content by operation of law. Again, note that unlike DUI Unlawful Alcohol Content and DUI Less Safe, the counts of DUI Child Endangerment do not merge, even upon conviction of multiple counts of the same. Thus, although the charges all come from one DUI investigation and arrest, they count as 3 separate and distinct convictions of DUI.
Don’t be like Jayme. If you are charged with DUI, call our office for a free consultation. 404-581-0999. Written by Attorney Katherine Edmonds.