When Can You Be Sent to Jail for a DUI in Georgia?

Beer bottle and Keys in Jail Cell

When you see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror and you know you’ve been drinking, your first thought might be that you are going to jail. Georgia law can be tough on drunk driving offenses. That may leave you wondering, when can you be sent to jail for a DUI in Georgia?

This blog post will discuss the mandatory jail sentencing requirements on a Georgia driving under the influence (DUI) charge. It will address how repeated offenses increase the penalties, and when you can be sent to jail for a DUI in Georgia.

What Counts as DUI in Georgia?

Georgia has very strict driving under the influence laws. You may be convicted of a DUI if you have:

  • A blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher (0.04% for commercial drivers and 0.02% for people under age 21)
  • Consumed enough alcohol that it makes you less safe to drive
  • Taken any drug (prescribed or otherwise) or intoxicating substance that makes it less safe to drive
  • Combine drugs and alcohol in a way that makes you less safe to drive

These laws apply any time you have physical control of a moving vehicle. If you are pulled over by a police officer or are stopped at a DUI checkpoint and that officer thinks you probably meet one of these standards, you may be asked to complete sobriety tests, asked to submit to a blood alcohol test, and arrested for DUI.

Anyone who is convicted of DUI in Georgia can expect to face a combination of:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Fees and costs
  • Community service
  • License restrictions
  • Alcohol and drug evaluation
  • DUI risk reduction course (DUI school)

This post will focus on the mandatory minimum jail time and the maximum sentences for DUI convictions. Later posts will consider the other effects of a getting a DUI.

What’s the Worst Jail Sentence for a DUI Conviction in Georgia?

Georgia law sets the maximum penalty for DUI convictions based on how old you were when the offense occurred, and whether you’ve been convicted of DUI offenses before. The law also imposes mandatory minimum sentences that judges must follow.  A later blog post will discuss DUIs for minors under age 21.

First Time DUI Misdemeanors

If this is the first time you are found guilty of drunk driving, you could face up to a maximum of 12 months in jail. The judge must impose minimum sentence of not fewer than 10 days; however, he or she may choose to suspend all but 24 hours of that jail sentence.

Second Time DUI Misdemeanors

If you’ve been convicted of one prior DUI within the last 10 years, the maximum penalties don’t change. (Calculating prior DUI offenses looks at the date of arrest, not the date of conviction or when you are released from jail or probation.) However, the mandatory jail time that must be sentenced is increased.  The minimum serve time required is 120 days in jail; however, the judge has discretion to suspend all but 72 hours of actual incarceration (time in jail).

Third Time DUI Misdemeanors

A third DUI conviction becomes a “high and aggravated misdemeanor”. This designation is significant when it comes to jail serve time because the jail facility is not supposed to “give” good time for high and aggravated misdemeanors. The maximum serve time that can be imposed is still 12 months; however, the minimum serve time is 120 days.  The judge has discretion to suspend all but 15 days of actual incarceration.

Fourth Time DUI Felony

If this is your fourth or higher DUI conviction within 10 years, things become even more serious. A fourth DUI charge becomes a felony. The maximum penalty increases to a minimum of 1 year of imprisonment. The maximum penalty is a 5-year prison sentence.  The judge has discretion to suspend all but 90 days of actual incarceration.

What are the Chances You Will Be Sent to Jail for a DUI in Georgia?

Most criminal defendants do not receive the maximum sentence allowed by law. However, as you can see, even a first-time DUI charge will result in some jail time.  Still the amount of time you will spend in jail with a DUI conviction can vary greatly. The judge has discretion on how much time will be served above the minimum, and has the authority to suspend all but a portion of the sentence. Having an attorney represent you at sentencing can improve your chances and shorten the jail time given by the court.

The truth is that anyone can be sent to jail for DUI in Georgia if they are convicted. That is why it is so important to talk to an attorney as soon as you learn you have been charged. Lance McCoy of The McCoy Law Firm, LLC, is a criminal and DUI defense attorney with 25 years of experience. From his family-owned law firm in Cartersville, Georgia, he represents defendants facing DUI charges throughout northwest Georgia. If you are facing Georgia DUI charges, please contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away.

Categories: DUI

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