You're driving along the road, heading home after a night out with friends, and you see the red lights in the mirror.
Uh-oh. You've been pulled over, suspected of drunk driving. Your trip through the legal system is just beginning, and it starts by learning two separate, but equally serious, terms: DUI and DUI per se.
In the case of DUI, you are considered to be under the influence if a Georgia district attorney can prove you were driving after using drugs or alcohol and can't drive safely. You can be guilty of DUI even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than the standard .08. Field sobriety tests can show you are impaired, physically or mentally, by substances.
With DUI per se, you are violating DUI laws if your BAC exceeds .08.
Either way, a DUI arrest in Georgia could spell trouble on two fronts. First, you'll have to face a criminal case related to the DUI. Then, you also might need to deal with your driver's license being suspended. If you've refused to take a chemical test, you will face a suspension.
The criminal case could yield significant penalties. You could be facing a fine, community service or even jail time. The higher the BAC, the more significant your penalties could be. If you are convicted more than once, you also will have a tougher sentence.
The typical sentence for a first offense is up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, a license suspension of up to a year, 40 hours of community service, probation and a DUI course.
For a second offense, the penalty could include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, a license suspension for up to three years, 40 hours of community service, probation, a DUI course or treatment for substance abuse and usage of an ignition interlock device.
It only gets worse from there. A third offense could include all of the above, plus a fine of up to $5,000. A fourth offense? That's a felony that could land you in state prison for up to five years.
A DUI is nothing to take lightly. If you've been arrested and charged with drunk driving, a Georgia attorney can help.