Felony vs. Misdemeanor DUIs in Georgia

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.

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Our Service Area

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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