. . . Georgia DUI law explained in plain English . . .

Summary of Georgia DUI Laws in Plain English: Knowing the Law Can be Your Best DUI Defense

Chris E. Ambrose
Silvis, Ambrose & Lindquist & Coch, P.C.
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A Summary of Georgia DUI Law
in Plain English

Complete and Up-to-Date

The information on this page is a summary of Georgia DUI law and contains the most up-to-date version of the law and penalties in plain English. 

If you have been stopped for DUI (either alcohol or drugs), you need more than just a criminal defense attorney.  You need the best DUI defense lawyer you can find.

TWO TYPES OF DUI CASES

Although several parts of the Georgia Code pertain to DUI cases, the main DUI statute is found in O.C.G.A. Section 40-6-391. If you are charged with DUI, you will be charged with violating subsections (a) (1,2,3,4,5, or 6) of 40-6-391.

Lawyers know subsections (a) (1-4) as "less safe" violations, and (a) (5-6) are known as "per se" or "unlawful level" violations.

Less Safe Driver Definition

If you are charged as a "less safe" driver, the prosecuting witness will have to prove that you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, glue or a combination of same to the extent that you are less safe to drive as a result of such consumption. The officer typically makes his case by testifying as to any physical manifestation you exhibit (e.g. odor of alcohol, bloodshot glassy eyes, unsteady on your feet, slurred speech), or by any unsafe driving maneuver.

Per Se Definition

To be charged as a "per se" violation, you either must have an unlawful blood alcohol level (see below for limits) or any amount of contraband drugs. Keep in mind that the prosecuting witness would not have to prove that you were a less safe driver. He would only have to prove that you had either an unlawful blood alcohol level or any amount of contraband drugs in your system.

LEGAL LIMITS OF ALCOHOL

Most people believe that you have to have the magic 0.08 blood alcohol level in order to be convicted of DUI. Nothing could be further from the truth. Georgia law provides that if you test 0.05 or less, then a jury or other trier of fact may infer that you are not a less safe driver. However, if the prosecutor can show through proper evidence that you indeed were a less safe driver due to alcohol consumption, then you could be convicted.

The law further provides that if you test between 0.05 and 0.08, there is no inference one way or the other that you are a less safe driver.

Finally, prior to July 1, 2001, the law provided that if you test 0.08 or 0.09, then an inference existed that you were a less safe driver. This was a rebuttable inference. In other words, if you could show through proper evidence that you were not a less safe driver due to alcohol consumption, then you would be acquitted. On or after July 1, 2001, since 0.08 is an unlawful blood alcohol level, no inference exists.  This brings us to the "per se" levels of alcohol.

Per Se (Unlawful) Blood Alcohol Levels

Being "per se" in violation of the DUI statute means you either have an unlawful blood alcohol level or you have a prohibited substance in your system (e.g. cocaine metabolites). 

Under Age 21

If you are under 21 years of age, an alcohol reading of 0.02 is a "per se" violation of the DUI statute.

Teenage or underage drivers are dealt with in more detail  here.

Commercial Vehicles

If you were operating a commercial vehicle when you were stopped and your blood alcohol level is 0.04, then you are "per se" in violation of the DUI statute.

Over Age 21

If you are 21 years of age or older and test 0.08, then you are "per se" in violation of the DUI statute.

Keep in mind that in order for you to be found guilty of a "per se" violation, the prosecutor must first be able to tender the reading into evidence.  If the reading is allowed into evidence, and if the jury believes it is an accurate reading, no evidence regarding being a less safe driver is required to convict.  However, this is easier said than done and is a good reason for you to hire an experienced DUI attorney to determine if the reading is admissible in court.

PENALTIES FOR DUI CONVICTION


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