Georgia is famous for its gorgeous peaches - both the fruit and the southern belles. However, anyone planning to drive in the southern state should be familiar with more than the state's reputation for hospitality. Georgia DUI law is intricate; a conviction for driving under the influence carries with it harsh penalties and a blemish on a person's driving record.
According to Georgia law, people may be convicted for driving under the influence if the state can prove that their driving ability was hampered by alcohol. When an arrestee submitted to a blood alcohol test, by an examination of blood, breath, or urine, the state may use the results as evidence. Test results will help determine whether or not the party on trial was indeed impaired. Like most other states, Georgia recognizes .08 percent as the blood alcohol level that triggers an assumption of intoxication. In recent years, Georgia law has evolved away from a system that gives a heavy advantage to the state through the use of several presumptions related to the DUI proceedings.
Under the current law, the state may use blood alcohol levels as evidence where test results show .08 percent or greater. In cases where the blood alcohol level does not meet or exceed the .08 percent standard, or where the blood alcohol level cannot be determined because the arrestee refused testing, the state may put forth evidence to show that the driver was somehow impaired at the time of the arrest. This evidence may include performance during field sobriety tests, driving patterns, appearance and speech pattern, general attitude, and any other evidence that may point to the truth or falsehood of the DUI allegation.
It is important to distinguish between the theory of impairment while behind the wheel and per se DUI guilt. Where a driver's test results show that his or her blood alcohol content met or exceeded the .08 percent standard, the state will not need additional evidence to prove intoxication. This is true regardless of the driver's behavior, perceived control, and/or performance in field sobriety tests. The per se theory is distinguishable from the impairment theory, which relies on evidence other than test results. This second theory is most often used where a driver refuses a blood alcohol test or tests below .08%, but appears impaired nonetheless.
Georgia maintains DUI records for five years. Multiple offenses within a five-year period will result in increased punishment for each additional offense. A first offense will carry with it a fine between $300 and $1,000 and imprisonment for ten days to 12 months. A judge may choose to substitute probation for imprisonment in cases where the blood alcohol level of the driver failed to meet or exceed .08 percent. Georgia also mandates a minimum of 40 hours of community service for first time offenders and completion of a drug and alcohol education program. A second offense carries with it similar, but increased punishment, with a fine between $600 and $1,000 and imprisonment between 90 days and 12 months, also subject to probation at the discretion of the court. Eighty hours of community service will be required of second offenders and a drug and alcohol education program must be completed, in addition to a clinical evaluation for substance abuse.