Before pleading guilty to a DUI (driving under the influence) charge, it remains in your best interest to consult with an attorney who specializes in these matters. At the very least, you should understand Georgia's DUI laws. Law enforcement has the benefit of experience and the resources of the state prosecutor, and a DUI conviction stays on your criminal record permanently. Lack of preparation on your part can cause serious ramifications for the rest of your life.
First of all, the well-known 0.08 blood alcohol reading applies only to certain individuals. Those under the age of 21 must have a blood alcohol content below 0.02; otherwise, they may be charged with a "DUI - Less Safe" under state laws. In addition, the operators of commercial vehicles may not have a blood alcohol content above 0.04. The 0.08 limit applies only to individuals over the age of 21 operating private vehicles.
Secondly, law enforcement officials can charge an individual with more than one DUI at once. Officers can issue DUIs for alcohol or drug use, including both prescription and illegal drugs. The court may convict the individual of separate charges for each substance, leading to more than one sentence.
In Georgia, the first DUI offense is often considered a simple misdemeanor. Limits are imposed on this benefit, however, based on a five-year "look back" period into the defendant's criminal record. Previous guilty or nolo contendere pleas prevent persons from receiving this special treatment. In addition, drivers with blood alcohol levels over 0.15 remain ineligible.
Repeat offenders face mandatory minimum punishment increases for each offense within the last five years. However, most judges look back at the entire criminal record, including convictions from other states, when deciding on a sentence. They can and often do impose more stringent sentences than the minimum. Any conviction that resulted from a guilty plea or verdict, or from a nolo contendere plea, counts as a previous offense.
Also keep in mind that, should you receive community service or probation, you maintain responsibility for paying for the costs of these activities on a monthly basis, instituting a de facto fine. In addition, should you fail to meet the requirements of your sentence, you may be placed in jail.
Rather than a minor penalty or fine, a DUI conviction constitutes a serious, criminal offense. In order to prevent a potential DUI conviction from permanently affecting your life, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
About the author: Attorney Michael Vereen possesses over 20 years of experience in bankruptcy and criminal law, including DUIs and personal injury cases. For more information on Michael Vereen and your options, visit vereenlaw.com.