There are a number of ways that a DUI could be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony in Georgia.
For many people who are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving in Georgia, the ensuing charges will be a misdemeanor. However, depending on the circumstances, that charge could be elevated to a felony. Under Georgia law, the following illustrate ways in which a driver could face a felony DUI charge:
1. Causing serious injury or death
If a driver under the influence of alcohol causes an accident that results in the serious bodily injury or death of another person, a felony charge will likely result. It does not matter if this is the driver’s first offense.
The penalties for seriously harming or killing someone – in another car, in the driver’s car or on the road – are severe. In fact, the law states that anyone who commits homicide by vehicle and is convicted may face at least two years in prison.
2. Being a “high risk operator”
Certain drivers are tasked with the safety of others due to the nature of their job. School bus drivers, for example, fall into that category because they have the duty or transporting students on a regular basis. Under the law, a school bus driver who drinks and drives faces between one and five years in prison.
3. Having multiple offenses
Georgia, like other states, has set certain penalties based on the number of DUI convictions someone has over a certain number of years. The more convictions, the harsher the penalties. For Georgians, the “look-back” period is 10 years. A third DUI in 10 years is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. The fourth offense is considered a felony if each offense came after July 1, 2008.
Criminal and administrative penalties
The criminal penalties associated with a felony DUI are serious. In addition to jail time upward of spending years in prison, the defendant may also be fined thousands of dollars. Additionally, having a felony conviction on a criminal record could be limiting when it comes to applying for jobs and securing suitable housing.
License revocation is often a result of a felony DUI. Even someone who receives driving privileges may have to install an ignition interlock system on his or her vehicle. Many people are sentenced to community service as well as alcohol treatment classes.
A DUI arrest in itself could be life-changing. Knowing what you are up against is a vital part of the process, in terms of understanding the state’s case against you as well as the possible consequences to a conviction. Anyone who has questions concerning this issue should speak with a criminal defense attorney in Georgia.