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DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Laws

Authored By: Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia
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DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Laws

This document tells you the following:

  • Why are there DUI laws?
  • What happens if you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and you are 21 or over?
  • What happens if you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and you are under 21?

INTRODUCTION

In the 1980s, public concern about accidents and fatalities caused by drunk driving increased. As a result, Georgia, like other states, toughened its DUI (driving under the influence) laws. The legal drinking age was increased from 18 to 21 years of age. Local laws were passed banning "happy hours" or prohibiting open containers of alcoholic drinks on public streets. Lawsuit decisions made private hosts and bartenders responsible for accidents caused by persons who were unfit to drive when they left the host's home or a bar.

Anyone under 21 years old who is convicted of underage possession of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle may have his or her license suspended for 120 days. The license can be reinstated only after the person completes a DUI alcohol and drug awareness program. In addition, any person under 21 who is convicted of attempting to buy alcohol will have his or her license suspended for six months for the first offense and for one year for any subsequent convictions.

Drivers who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be arrested. They will be asked to take a breath analysis or blood-alcohol test. A person can refuse. However, a refusal will result in an automatic suspension of the driver's license. On the other hand, the field sobriety tests noted in the table below are voluntary. There is no adverse consequence that directly stems from refusing to take the tests, but a refusal may be used against a person in a subsequent trial for DUI.

Under Georgia law, a person with 0.08 gram blood alcohol content is considered to be DUI without further evidence. An even lower level of 0.02 is set for drivers under the age of 21.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A DRIVER IS CONVICTED OF A DUI?

His or her license can be suspended:

  • up to a year for a first offense
  • up to three years for a second offense, and
  • the license is entirely revoked for a third offense.

In order for a driver's license to be reinstated, the driver must complete an approved alcohol and drug course and pay a fine.

Persons convicted of DUI will most likely go to jail as well:

  • 10 days to 12 months for a first offense;
  • 90 days to 12 months for a second offense; and
  • 120 days to 12 months for a third offense.

In addition, community service must be completed:

  • 40 hours for a first offense
  • 30 days for any subsequent offenses.

Fines are as follows:

  • $300-$1,000 for a first offense
  • $600-$1,000 for a second offense, and
  • $1,000-$5,000 for any subsequent offenses.

Being convicted of DUI can affect you in other ways, too. Your insurance rates will go up. It may also be hard to get insurance.

Other costs in addition to a bail bond fee for release after arrest might include a surcharge on the fine or charges for reinstating a license, towing a car to your home, transportation while your license is suspended, and enrollment in an alcohol abuse prevention program.

* Excerpted from An Introduction to Law in Georgia, Fourth Edition, published by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, 1998 (updated 2004). The Vinson Institute is not responsible for errors in the online text. Content is for information only; in no way should the information in the book be considered legal advice to anyone on any matter for which there are legal implications. Any such matter should be specifically addressed with an attorney. The book is available for purchase ator by contacting the Publications Program, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, 201 M. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30602; telephone 706-542-6377; fax 706-542-6239.

Last Review and Update: Jul 30, 2004