What Are the Penalties for Your First DUI?

Drunk man holding car keys

For many, a drunk driving charge is their first experience with the Georgia criminal court system. If you’ve never been charged before you may wonder what to expect if you get convicted. Will you go to jail? Find out the penalties for first DUI offenses in Georgia, and the other consequences you should expect along the way.

Georgia Drunk Driving Laws Are Serious, Even Your First Time

Georgia’s drunk driving and drugged driving laws are severe. Even if this is your first offense, a DUI charge could threaten your driving privileges, finances, and even your freedom. While the penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) get worse for second, third, fourth, and habitual offenders, even a first DUI can have serious consequences.

Court Penalties for First DUI

Even your first Georgia DUI conviction will send you to jail and could cost more than a thousand dollars in fines and costs. If you are convicted with Driving Under the Influence, penalties include:

Jail Time for DUI

If you are convicted based on having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more, you will go to jail. The penalty for your first DUI is 10 days to 12 months in jail, but your judge may suspend, stay, or probate all but the first 24 hours. If you are convicted of “DUI-less-safe” because your driving was impaired but your BAC was below 0.08% (or you refused the chemical test), there is no minimum jail time. However, most Georgia judges will impose the 24 hour minimum even if it is not required by statute. Regardless of the alcohol concentration, the 12 month maximum still applies. Many DUI defendants spend that first night after a drunk driving arrest in jail before they ever go to court. That time may be credited to your sentence if a conviction is entered.

Mandatory 1-Year Probation

The law requires that every first-time DUI offender be sentenced to 12 months probation, minus any time spent in jail. The judge cannot shorten this time period, but he or she can adjust the terms of your probation such as how often you must report, what classes or treatment you must complete, what restrictions you need to comply with, or whether the probation is reporting or non-reporting. Some of the most common probation terms for DUI convictions include:

  • Avoiding possessing or using (illegal) drugs and alcohol
  • Random drug and alcohol testing
  • Attending a MADD victim impact program

Fines and Costs

Georgia DUI law imposes a fine of $300 - $1,000 for your first DUI offense. In addition to the fine imposed, if you are convicted you will also have to pay surcharges, assessments, and probation supervision fees that often add up to more than the fine itself. You should discuss the total cost of any DUI conviction with your criminal defense attorney before accepting a plea, so that you can be prepared to pay when the time comes. Failing to pay your fines and court costs could cause a probation violation and result in jail time being imposed for a probation violation.

Community Service

During your probation, you will be required to complete community service:

  • Drivers ages 21 and over: 40 - 250 hours (a minimum of 40 hours is required)
  • Minors under age 21 with BAC over 0.08: 40 - 250 hours
  • Minors under age 21 with BAC less than 0.08: 20 - 250 hours

DUI School and Substance Abuse Treatment

Every person convicted of DUI must complete a state-approved DUI school program within 120 days of sentencing. These programs are designed to reduce alcohol or drug use risk and reduce repeat DUI offenses. Most defendants are also required to undergo a clinical evaluation for substance dependence or abuse. Depending on the results of that evaluation, you may also be required to complete substance abuse treatment, or attend Alcoholics Anonymous or another sobriety program.

License Suspensions From DUI Charges

Any DUI conviction will result in a suspension of your ability to drive in the state. If you have been arrested for a DUI, even if arrested for the first time, you should immediately contact a DUI attorney to obtain advice on the steps that are needed to maintain your driving privileges.

Defending Against Your First DUI Charge

It is important to remember that being charged with DUI isn’t the same as being convicted. Our DUI lawyers in Cartersville, Georgia, have been helping residents and visitors to the state fight DUI charges for decades. We know how to search out procedural problems and develop defenses to avoid life-changing convictions.

We can help you deal with the Georgia Department of Driver Services and the prosecutor’s office, considering plea deals when appropriate, all while building your strongest defense to the charges in front of you. If you are facing your first DUI charge, don’t wait. Contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away. Our attorneys at The McCoy Law Firm can help.

Categories: DUI