DUI Overview: What is a DUI in Georgia?

Being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) can change your life. You may lose your license, rack up significant monetary fines, and it can affect your future background checks as well. With all of these negative consequences, it is important to understand exactly what is considered a DUI in Georgia and how it is established.

DUI Convictions in Georgia

Driving under the influence can be established in two ways in Georgia. The first is often referred to as “DUI Per Se.” This type of DUI is the one that most drivers think of when they hear the term “DUI.”

DUI Per Se

A DUI Per Se means that your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit and you are operating a motor vehicle. The legal limit for DUIs in Georgia is 0.08. You may be convicted of a DUI if your blood alcohol is above this level, even if your ability to drive is not considered impaired.

Under a DUI Per Se, the prosecution must show that your BAC was at 0.08 or above within three hours of being in physical control of a moving vehicle. For drivers under 21, the BAC limit is 0.02. The threshold for commercial operators is 0.04.


A “traditional” DUI is based on the perceptions of the arresting officer. Even if your BAC is below 0.08, you can still be convicted of a DUI if the arresting officer determines that your ability to drive is impaired because of drugs or alcohol. Usually, the officer will use field sobriety tests to make this type of determination.

Keep in mind that if you refuse a field sobriety test or blood test, your license can be suspended up to one year automatically. This is the case because all drivers have “implicitly consented” to testing simply by virtue of driving on Georgia’s roads.

“Driving” Requirement for DUI

The DUI laws in Georgia state that you cannot “drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle” while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The “physical control” requirement is very broad. When you are actually driving, the “physical control” aspect of a DUI charge is easily met. However, there are other situations where physical control means more than just driving. The following are just a few examples:

  • If you have the keys while in a running vehicle (but you are not driving)
  • You are listening to the radio and under the influence
  • You are sleeping or passed out in a vehicle
  • You were driving, but switch drivers just before meeting with law enforcement

All of the above situations can be proven by circumstantial evidence that you were at one point in actual physical control. 

 You can also be charged with a DUI if someone reported you, even if you have already made it to your destination.

As a rule, it is a good idea to avoid cars entirely while you are intoxicated. If you are in a car, be sure that someone else is there with you, and he or she has control of the keys. You may be surprised when you can be charged, even if you were not technically driving.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI, you have legal options. Contact our team to find out more or to set up an appointment.

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We are located in Suwanee Georgia, but we defend clients throughout Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, Hall County, Barrow County, Jackson County, and Dawson County.  Contact our Atlanta law firm as soon as possible to learn how we advocate for your best interests.

Carter Pilgrim
Attorneys at Law

3725 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd, Suite A-4
Suwanee, GA 30024

Phone: Call our office 770-945-2320

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