What Are the Types of Georgia DUI Offenses?
Georgia law specifies six different reasons that a driver may be charged with Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol. There are two basic types of DUI offenses charges: DUI Less Safe and DUI Per Se. Regardless of the specific charge and reason, severe potential penalties apply even for a first offense. Representation by an experienced DUI offenses attorney is essential to protect your rights and help you navigate the Georgia criminal justice system.
Georgia DUI Statute
The Georgia DUI law is found in OCGA § 40-6-391. The provisions of the statute are extremely complex. Subsection (a) lists six situations in which a person driving or in physical control of a moving vehicle can be charged with DUI. Two of the situations involve driving under the influence of alcohol. The other four relate to driving under the influence of other substances. The six DUI situations are:
(1) Being under the influence of alcohol to the extent it is less safe for the person to drive
This provision is the DUI Less Safe alcohol violation. A breath, blood, or urine test is not required. The law also does not require the individual to actually commit an unsafe act. It is sufficient if evidence demonstrates that it was less safe for the person to drive. Typically, police try to demonstrate the less-safe requirement through evidence relating to how the person was driving, including the results of field sobriety tests, the driver’s appearance or demeanor, or other relevant facts.
DUI Less Safe for alcohol (or drugs) may be charged when a person refuses to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test. It can also be used if the BAC does not meet the legal minimum, but there is evidence of unsafe driving. DUI Less Safe cases are the most commonly tried type of DUI cases, due to the lack of test evidence and the requirement that the prosecutor prove impairment beyond a reasonable doubt.
(2) Being under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive
This is the Driving Less Safe drug violation. Like DUI Less Safe for alcohol, an unsafe act is not required, nor is a blood or urine test. It does require showing that the person was rendered incapable of driving safely. The same types of evidence are used for this charge as for DUI Less Safe for Alcohol. Possession of a legal prescription for a drug is not a defense to this charge.
(3) Being under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive
This provision is sometimes referred to as DUI Inhalants. In most cases, the presence of the substance is proven through a blood test, unless there is other evidence to indicate the substance that rendered the person incapable of driving safely. The prosecution must prove all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, including that the person intentionally inhaled a toxic vapor, operated a vehicle while under the influence, and was incapable of driving safely.
(4) Being under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this subsection to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive
This provision is referred to as the “combined influence” DUI Less Safe violation. As with the other DUI Less Safe provisions, a test and actual unsafe act are not required.
(5) Having an alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended
This is the DUI Per Se for alcohol violation, which is the most common DUI charge. A breath, blood, or urine test is required. For an ordinary driver, the BAC limit is 0.08 grams. For commercial drivers, the limit is a BAC of 0.04. And for drivers under the age of 21, the limit is 0.02 BAC.
(6) Having any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in Code Section 16-13-21, present in the person's blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in the person's breath or blood
This statutory section is the DUI Per Se for marijuana or a controlled substance. A blood or urine test is necessary to prove this violation. Having a legal prescription for a drug is not a defense to this charge, if the person is rendered incapable of driving safely as a result of using a drug other than alcohol which such person is legally entitled to use. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that, regardless of the language in the code section, the government must prove that marijuana made an individual less safe to drive. In practical terms, any marijuana DUI case will be treated as a DUI Less Safe as defined in item (2) above. However, if the blood or urine contains methamphetamine, cocaine, or any other non-prescribed drug, the presence of the controlled substance provides for a violation of this subsection, and the government will not have to prove the individual was less safe to drive.
Defending Against a Georgia DUI Offenses Charge
If you face a Georgia DUI Offenses charge — regardless of which of the above provisions applies — the potential penalties are serious, even for a first offense. A conviction can result in jail time, mandatory probation, fines and costs, community service, DUI school, and substance abuse treatment. In addition to the criminal penalties, a DUI charge carries administrative penalties that can result in suspension of your driver’s license.
To navigate the DUI process and protect your rights, you need assistance from an experienced DUI lawyer who can defend aggressively against the charge. You are not guilty until the prosecutor proves all elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
Talk with an Experienced Georgia DUI Defense Lawyer
Our criminal and DUI defense lawyers at The McCoy Law Firm, LLC have decades of experience representing defendants facing DUI charges in northwest Georgia. If you need representation on a DUI charge, please call (770) 382-0984 or contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia, so we can begin working on your case right away.
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