Is a first time DUI a misdemeanor in the state of Georgia?
There is much confusion surrounding whether a DUI in the state of Georgia is classified as a felony or misdemeanor. The distinction is critical because these two crimes are punished quite differently. A misdemeanor is typically punishable by one year in jail or less. Penalties will likely include substantial fines and any time spent behind bars will typically be in a local county jail, rather than a high security prison. Felonies, on the other hand, are considered any crime punishable by death or imprisonment of over 12 months, per Georgia law. Sentences will usually be served in a prison and a felony record will impact your civil liberties, like your right to bear arms or vote. Below, our Atlanta DUI lawyers review Georgia’s laws concerning DUIs to ensure you understand when a DUI is a misdemeanor and when it will instead constitute a felony.
DUIs Are Generally Misdemeanors
In the state of Georgia, a DUI conviction will typically be classified as a misdemeanor, with many exceptions. A first, second, or third offense DUI without any aggravating factors will usually be punishable by less than 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. As a misdemeanor, it will still show on a criminal background check, but you will not be classified as a convicted felon. This means that you may not need to declare the conviction in your job search and can still buy a gun or vote.
When DUIs Turn into Felonies
There are several circumstances that will elevate a misdemeanor DUI to a felony in the state of Georgia. These include:
- Having multiple prior convictions: Your penalty for a DUI will be determined, in part, by the number of previous convictions you have had within a set period of years. In Georgia, courts will look at your prior convictions in the past 10 years. A fourth offense DUI will be considered a felony in Georgia.
- Causing the serious injury or death of another: If you are driving while intoxicated and you cause a car accident, which then results in the serious injury or death of another, you may be charged with a felony DUI. Under these circumstances, even a first time offender could end up with a felony conviction.
- Operating a school bus: If you are operating a school bus at the time you are stopped for a DUI, you may be charged with a felony level offense. You can be charged with a felony even if no students were present on the bus.
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony DUI offense, you will need the assistance of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Contact the experienced Suwanee, Georgia DUI attorneys at The Law Office of Carter Pilgrim today to protect your legal rights.