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Category: DUI Laws

Don’t be Misled by Minimum Sentences on DUIs

There seems be a misconception among the public when it comes to minimum sentencing on DUI convictions.  All criminal cases carry minimum sentencing (as well as maximum sentencing), but minimum means just that: it is the least sentence the judge can impose. The judge can (and often does), however, impose a higher sentence, and this is the area which causes confusion among some DUI defendants.

zero tolerance georgia

In Georgia, the minimum and maximum sentences depend on the number of DUI convictions the defendant has had in the past ten years. The current minimum sentences for DUIs in Georgia include:

1st DUI:  12 months of probation, $300 fine, 24 hours in jail, 40 hours of community service, and DUI School.

2nd DUI: 12 months of probation, $600 fine, 72 hours in jail, 240 hours of community service, DUI School, and alcohol and drug evaluation as well as treatment if recommended.

3rd DUI: 12 months of probation, $1000 fine, 15 days in jail, 240 hours of community service, DUI school, alcohol and drug evaluation and treatment if recommended, forfeiture of vehicle tags, and ignition interlock device.

The judge can impose a sentence of anything between the legal minimum and maximum, and this is a much larger range than most defendants realize. For example, the maximum sentence on a 1st or 2nd DUI includes 12 months in jail and a fine of $1000, and the maximum sentence on a 3rd DUI includes 12 months in jail and a fine of $5000.

Clearly, there is a degree of subjectivity in DUI sentencing. What the law doesn’t say, and what some inexperienced lawyers won’t tell you, is that most courts now look back at an entire lifetime, and the more DUI convictions you have, the more likely you are to receive a sentence that is closer to the maximum amount allowed by law. Most DUI defendants in Gwinnett County, for instance, receive MORE than 72 hours of incarceration on a 2nd DUI, and if you have multiple lifetime DUIs (even if NOT in the 10 year look-back period), you are more likely to serve between 30 and 180 days in jail. The same goes for most counties in the metro Atlanta area.

By correcting the assumption that DUI defendants should expect the minimum sentence, I hope to help Georgia drivers be more knowledgeable about their rights and to demonstrate that a DUI charge must be taken seriously. This is why it is important to hire a qualified, experienced DUI attorney, whether this is your first DUI arrest or the most recent of many—because the outcome of your case will impact you for years to come.

Dollars and Cents: The Financial Consequences of a DUI Conviction Under 21

Your teens and early 20s are a thrilling time: you’re getting ready to start your “adult” life and you’re trying to start off on the right foot as a responsible adult. It may be cliché to say that what happens when you’re young can impact the rest of your life, but it’s true. DUI convictions are no exception to this rule, especially when you’re under 21.

Everyone talks about the potential consequences like jail time and having the conviction on your record, but you have another consideration to keep in mind: finances. Just how expensive can a DUI be? It can reach immeasurable levels because the financial burden comes in one hit after another:

  • Fines – This may be obvious, but DUIs under 21 can carry heavy fines, even up to $1,000 depending on your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).
  • DUI school – You may be required to complete a Risk Reduction class, also known as “DUI school.” In Georgia, enrollment in these classes cost over $350.
  • Alcohol Evaluation: You may have to attend and complete an alcohol evaluation and any treatment if recommended. Costs can be anywhere from $150 to over $2000.
  • Missed work or school – DUIs can become very time-consuming very quickly, between attorney meetings, court dates, Risk Reduction classes, and especially court-ordered community service. If you’re working, it’s likely that all these extra time commitments will cause you to miss some time at work. Or, if you’re in school full-time, you’ll likely need to miss some class time or at least some necessary study time, which can eventually result in delayed graduation.
  • Insurance premiums – Because you’re a less experienced driver, your car insurance company already considers you a riskier driver than someone who’s over the age of 21. But with a DUI conviction added to your driving record as well, their risk to insure you increases tremendously, which could cause your monthly premiums to skyrocket.
  • Transportation – A DUI conviction will result in a suspension of your driver’s license for a minimum of either 6 months or 1 year, depending on your BAC. Plus, since you’re under 21, you don’t have the opportunity for a limited permit to drive to work and school, so chances are that you’ll be relying on (and paying for) a significant amount of public transit or taxi cabs. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re responsible for car payments, the payments don’t go away just because you can’t drive the car, so you’ll end up paying your regular car payments PLUS the public transit or cab fees you’d need to pay if you didn’t own a car.
  • Future Employment- Many employers will not hire you with a DUI conviction on your record.

Clearly, there are huge financial consequences for a DUI conviction, and those consequences are even greater as a driver who’s under the age of 21. If you’re arrested and charged with a DUI, your best chance to avoid a conviction is to work with a highly skilled traffic lawyer who specializes in DUI defense. Get in touch with me, Mickey Roberts, PC, to discuss your specific case, and keep up with Mr. GA DUI on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to stay up-to-date with tips and changes in traffic law.

What is a “DUI Less Safe”?

Many people are under the impression that you cannot be arrested and convicted of a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is less than .08 grams. This is incorrect. In Georgia, while the legal limit is .08, a person can be a DUI “less safe,” even if their BAC is below a .08.

dui less safe in georgiaIn Georgia, there is no legal presumption of impairment if your BAC is between a .05 and a .08.  If your BAC is below a .05, there is a rebuttable presumption that you are NOT impaired.
A DUI less safe is defined as “being under the influence of alcohol to the extent that you are less safe to drive.”

But what does it mean, legally, to be “DUI less safe to drive?” First, it means that you are less safe to drive than if you had not consumed alcohol or drugs. But, hey, that depends on the person’s tolerance, right? So, according to the Pattern Jury Charges that judges in Georgia read to jurors before deliberating, this is what “less safe” means:
A person is less safe to drive when that person is less efficient, less skillful, less coherent, less able, and less proficient to drive a car.

Notice that there is NOTHING that describes less safe as having your eyes jerk, or performing gymnastic floor exercises.  There is nothing about bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech or the smell of alcohol. The definition also does not mention anything about alcohol or drug blood levels.  The definition has to do with whether a person’s fine motor skills have been affected so much that they cannot effectively drive a car.

So the next time you are on a jury and are asked to decide if someone were DUI “less safe", remember that we are talking about driving ability here; is there evidence that the person was  able, efficient, skilful or proficient WHILE driving the car? Or is there simply collateral evidence that may or may not have anything to do with actual driving skill?

Hiring a qualified, knowledgeable DUI attorney can make all the difference in winning your case.  If you are arrested for DUI or other serious traffic matters, contact MrGaDUI today. Also be sure to follow me, Mickey Roberts, on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for more traffic law updates and news. 

No Laughing Matter: The Serious Consequences of a Second DUI Conviction

One DUI is certainly one more than anyone needs or wants, but a second DUI conviction carries the very real possibility of hefty fees and fines, significant jail time, hundreds of hours of community service, long-term license suspension, and tag forfeiture of any car titled in your name.
The Georgia legislature has enacted strongly worded laws and put in place severe penalties for anyone convicted of driving under the influence for the second time. While some of the penalties may be lessened at the discretion of a lenient judge, in general, second-time offenders should expect to receive a lengthy, expensive, and difficult punishment.

Expense
A second DUI carries a heavy financial burden. The state of Georgia charges a minimum of $600 in DUI fines, but in many cases judges raise the fine to over $1,000. This fine is in addition to 40% of that amount in statutory surcharges. While that number by itself is daunting, keep in mind that it does not include DUI attorney’s fees, lost wages due to missed work, the expense of completing court-mandated alcohol or driving education, or the transportation costs incurred after you lose your license.

Time
Second-time Georgia DUI offenders face between three days and 12 months in jail. A judge may reduce the requisite jail time, but offenders must spend a minimum of 72 hours behind bars. In Metro Atlanta, it is common for second-time DUI offenders to spend around 10 days in jail. You must complete a clinical alcohol and drug evaluation and attend what is commonly referred to as ‘DUI school.’ Factor in any time spent in your attorney’s office, in court, or performing the mandatory 240 hours of community service, and a second DUI is likely to have extremely time-consuming consequences.

Stress
The stress of a second arrest, incarceration, court date, and loss of any driving for a at least four months  – can take a heavy emotional toll on both the offender and his or her loved ones. Adding to the stress of the experience is the embarrassment of having your photo and DUI conviction published in the local legal newspaper. When the requisite four-month period of license suspension is up, offenders must deal with the stress and expense of applying for a limited permit. In order to obtain a limited permit, the offender’s vehicle must be outfitted – at the offender’s expense – with an Interlock Ignition Device (IID) for 12 months. Then you are entitled to a limited permit with no IID for 2 more months before becoming eligible for full license reinstatement.

Clearly, a second DUI conviction creates significant hardship for the offender. If you have been charged as a second-time DUI offender, it’s crucial to contact an experienced DUI lawyer who knows the law and defends DUI cases. Atlanta DUI attorney Mickey Roberts has been successfully fighting for drivers for over 34 years. Connect with Mickey on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Why You Should Never Consent to a Search of Your Car

The 4th Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches of our bodies, homes and cars, among other things. There seems to be an epidemic of cases where police officers stop someone for a minor traffic violation, then pressures the driver into consenting to a search of their car.  Of course we only know of cases where drugs have been found; those are the cases we see in the appellate courts. Who knows how many times cops have searched vehicles and found nothing?

what to do if pulled over by police in Georgia

I am sure you have seen cars stopped by police while traveling on our expressways.  Because of my law practice, I pay particular attention when I see these instances; even though I may be traveling by at a fast speed, when I pass a stopped car and I see officers searching the car, I pay close attention. Many times, quite frankly, the drivers are either black or Hispanic.

No doubt these police officers are “profiling” drivers of color; they pull over the drivers on minor traffic offenses (or make one up), with the express intention of searching the car for drugs. This is the routine: cop pulls you over, say for speeding, takes your license, and after having checked on your license status comes back and asks if he/she can search the car for drugs. If you say “no,” the officer threatens you. The officer may ask you why you are exercising your rights, and ultimately will threaten to “bring the drug dog” if you will not give consent to a search.  Fortunately, the Georgia Appellate courts have sided with our Forefathers in upholding the 4th Amendment in these cases. In the past 12 months alone, the Georgia Appeals Courts have reversed 4 or 5 trial courts who have ruled these searches as legal. 

You might say, “Well I don’t carry illegal drugs in my car, so who cares?”  As a middle aged white male who doesn’t fit the profile of a drug courier, I really don’t have much expectation that a cop will ask if he can search my car.  But if you have children, and especially if you are black or Latino, the truth is that there is a high likelihood that at some point in time they will be stopped and will be asked to consent to a search.  

I recently won a motion to throw out such a search, where my 20 year old client was stopped for a brake light being out; she had not been drinking, nor was there any evidence which would have indicated she had any drugs in her car.  After 28 minutes of threats by the officer, who eventually called a drug dog, my client “consented” to a search.  A half pill of methadone was found in the car; this was a car that had been used by several members of her family, so in reality she did not know what was in her car.  Because the stop was for a brake light and because there was no probable cause to prolong the stop and ask for a search, the case was thrown out against my client.

In addition to DUI defense, I handle any case involving the stop of vehicles by police, including felony drug cases.  Hiring a qualified, knowledgeable DUI attorney can be very beneficial to winning your case.  If you are arrested for DUI or other serious traffic violations, contact me, Mickey Roberts, today. Also be sure to follow MrGaDUI on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more traffic law updates and news.


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Disclaimer

The above information is intended to help educate members of the Georgia motoring public as to their rights under the law and to assist presumptively innocent citizens in properly asserting those rights. Information within this site should not be misconstrued as legal advice.
DUI Laws