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A DUI Conviction is Forever

A DUI conviction or plea of "guilty" or nolo contendere will be a permanent part of your driving record and your criminal history. It does not "come off" your record after five (5) years... it never comes off your record. Moreover, a conviction, guilty plea or nolo contendere plea is reported to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, which in turn, reports it to the National Driver's License Registry. These computer records are accessible to driver's licensing agencies nationwide. This is why fighting a DUI case is so important to so many persons charged with this offense.

Special Note to Non-Resident Licensees (Persons Licensed by a State Other than GEORGIA). CLICK HERE to learn about penalties for Non-Residents.

Legal Limits of Alcohol Concentration - Three Different Standards

An alcohol content reading of 0.02 BAC is the level for per se (unlawful alcohol level) intoxication for persons under the age of 21 at the time of arrest who are accused of violating subsection "k" of the DUI code. This means that if you are under 21 years of age and submitted to the state's test and the result was 0.020 or higher, you may be accused of driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level under subsection "k" plus be accused of "DUI - Less Safe" under paragraph 1 of subsection "a," based on other evidence (including manifestations of impairment, driving conduct, or other evidence).

An alcohol content reading of 0.04 BAC is the level for per se (unlawful alcohol level) intoxication for persons accused under subsection "i" of the DUI code that were stopped while operating a commercial vehicle. This means that if you submitted to the state's test and the result was 0.04 or higher, you may be accused of driving a commercial vehicle while having an unlawful blood alcohol level. If a driver is stopped in a commercial vehicle and the State's test reveals ANY alcohol, a 24-hour out-of-service order will be issued, and the truck will be impounded until said time period is over.

An alcohol content reading of 0.08 is the level for per se (unlawful alcohol level) intoxication for persons who are age 21 and older and accused of violating subsection 40-6-391(a)(5) of Georgia law. The prosecutor, however, must be able to prove that the test given was a valid test, and that it was taken within three (3) hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle, from alcohol consumed PRIOR TO the driving of the vehicle ended. This means that if you submit to testing and yield a result over 0.079, you will be accused of driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level under subsection "(a)(5)." No evidence of "bad driving" or visible signs or manifestations of impairment is REQUIRED to obtain a conviction for this type of DUI.

DUI - "drugs" and DUI - "alcohol and drugs"

Other than the two methods of proving DUI-alcohol for the various "types" of vehicles or drivers, Georgia law also provides for prosecution of other types of "impaired" driving. A person can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, or drugs (prescribed or non-prescribed), or DUI contraband (illegal) drugs such as marijuana or cocaine. If the person is accused of being DUI by multiple "substances" (example: alcohol in one "count" and drugs in a different "count"), the jury (or judge --- if a non-jury trial) can convict on both and two sentences can be imposed.

What Does the Five-Year "Look-back" Period Relate to?

"Repeat offender" status for MANDATORY increased minimum punishment in DUI cases is determined in Georgia-based upon a five-year "look-back" period. This status is used for purposes of increased mandatory minimum punishment. This "look-back" period has nothing to do with how long a DUI remains on your record. In deciding the extent to which a repeat offender should be punished, most judges will look at a person's lifetime record, not just the five-year "look-back" period. Also, Georgia law requires out-of-state convictions to be considered as "priors," in the same manner as Georgia convictions. Whenever the five-year "look-back" period is discussed, the method of counting is as follows:

  1. take the DATE OF ARREST for the previous DUI offense (not the disposition or plea date);
  2. the prior DUI "counts" against you, whether it was disposed of as a plea of guilty, or with a trial that resulted in a "guilty" verdict or where a nolo contendere plea was ultimately accepted; and
  3. take the DATE OF ARREST in the current case, and determine if more than five full years have expired.

Due to the SEVERE increased punishment for repeat offenses within the five-year "look-back" period, obtain precise dates of any prior drunk driving convictions before your initial visit to our office.

A bad record can come back to haunt a person facing a current DUI charge. Remember that a judge can ignore (and many do) the five-year "look-back" period and review your ENTIRE record for purposes of:

  1. increasing your punishment (up to the maximum penalties set by law) over that punishment which he/she would give another person with no prior record;
  2. at your trial, allowing the prosecutor (in some instances, after notice and a pre-trial hearing) to introduce evidence of prior instances where you were convicted of driving while impaired, or even plead guilty or nolo contendere to a driving under the influence charge. The prosecutor may attempt to bring in evidence from any DUI case, even those cases greater than five years old and those from other states. This is called "introducing evidence of similar transactions." Some judges will not readily admit similar transaction evidence from other DUI cases, due to its tremendous prejudicial harm to the current case. Other judges routinely permit prior transaction evidence into the current case; and
  3. not allowing a nolo contendere plea even where otherwise eligible for this special plea (a valuable right, for civil damages consequences, if an accident has occurred).

The counting of "first," "second," etc., relates to which offense this is within the five-year "look-back" period. This determines minimum punishment that must be assessed if a guilty verdict or plea is entered, or (if available) upon entry of a nolo contendere plea.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR ANY CONVICTION OF DUI OR PLEA OF GUILTY OR NOLO CONTENDERE: The sentencing court has broad powers at sentencing insofar as whether to grant "probation," rather than put the person convicted in jail. Furthermore, if probation is granted (in lieu of jail time), the conditions of probation can be extremely onerous and restrictive. Moreover, all jurisdictions charge monthly "supervision" fees so that the person pays for his/her probationary sentence. Georgia law requires that the balance of 12 months of probation (deducting for any jail time imposed) on every DUI conviction. The judge imposing the sentence can require "reporting" or "non-reporting" probation after other conditions of the sentence are met. This can not only lower total costs (most non-reporting months are not assessed a supervision fee), but can eliminate time-consuming visits or call to a probation officer. Caution: Even non-reporting probation --- if violated --- can result in a revocation of all or part of the remaining term of probation. This means being put in jail, or some alternative form of incarceration (examples: work-release confinement, home confinement, alcohol and drug residential facility). The length of supervised probation is optional with the judge, up to the length of the maximum amount of jail time, minus any days spent in jail.

DUI First offense: Considered to be a "Simple Misdemeanor" under Georgia law (NOTE: No person who has had a prior nolo contendere plea or guilty plea or verdict within the five-year "look-back" period is eligible to receive the benefits of a nolo contendere plea. A nolo plea is unavailable for persons arrested July 1, 1997 or after who take a State test and have a result higher than 0.15%. Also, drivers under age 21 at the time of arrest are completely ineligible for "nolo" treatment.)

CLICK HERE to learn about the penalties for a first offense DUI.

For additional information, click the category of interest below.

 › A DUI Conviction is Forever
 › Legal Limits of Alcohol Concentration - Three Different Standards
 › DUI - "drugs" and DUI - "alcohol and drugs"
 › What Does the Five-Year "Look-back" Period Relate to?
 › DUI First offense
 › Plea of Nolo Contendere
 › DUI Second Offense/Guilty Plea or Being Found Guilty at Trial
 › Drug Offenses and DUI-Contraband
 › Driver's License Consequences
 › Filing An "Appeal" (Request For Hearing)