Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Attorney in Atlanta

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

In Georgia, you are, “Driving under the influence,” if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher. Your BAC may be measured from breath, urine, and blood samples. Georgia law prohibits any operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated. This includes having physical control of the vehicle while alcohol, drugs, or a combination of substances make it “less safe” to drive.

Because this is a low standard, drivers may be arrested even if blood or urine tests detect only a “small” amount of a controlled substance. The presence of marijuana, anxiety medication, and even over-the-counter drugs may impair the ability to operate a vehicle, resulting in a DUI charge. Law enforcement and courts consider the following factors in determining whether a DUI arrest or conviction is proper:

  • First time or repeat offender
  • Juvenile and underage drinkers
  • Implied consent of drivers to DUI test
  • Refusal to take blood, urine, or breath test
  • Accident involving property damage, bodily injury, or death
  • Presence of glue aerosol, toxic vapor, or other drug, regardless of BAC

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges in Georgia can be complicated for an individual to deal with without the immediate assistance of an experienced DUI attorney adept in Georgia law. The State of Georgia takes DUI charges very seriously, prosecuting them vigorously and often imposing multiple penalties upon conviction. In addition to any criminal charges that may be filed, people arrested for a DUI in Georgia must also go through an Administrative License Suspension Hearing (ALS) to determine the status of their driver’s license.

If you have been charged with a DUI, seek representation immediately. Any delay could result in jail time and loss of driving privileges. Atlanta DUI attorney David Schnipper has extensive experience helping drivers get back on the road and will work diligently to represent your interests.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and Actual Physical Control

The purpose of determining the concentration of alcohol or drugs is to show that their presence made it “less safe” to drive or control an automobile. The legal limit is a BAC of .08% or less. But drivers may still be charged with DUI if a lower concentration of alcohol or drugs made vehicle operation “less safe.” Those with BAC levels of .08% or higher may be automatically charged with DUI, even if this amount was not enough to make them “drunk” or actually affect vehicle operation.

Underage drinkers (under the age of 21) may be convicted of DUI with BAC levels of .02% or higher. Drivers operating trucks, tractor-trailers, and other vehicles requiring a commercial driver’s license may be convicted of DUI if their BAC level is .04% or above. Georgia law provides more stringent punishment for these drivers.

Georgia law prohibits any individual with a BAC of .08% to exercise actual physical control over a vehicle. Actual physical control does not require driving, but only the ability to operate a vehicle. This punishes motorists who are merely present in the vehicle with access to the keys. Only the ability to drive is required for a DUI charge.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are a way for Georgia police officers to gauge whether a driver is sober or intoxicated. The three most common tests are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: The officer will hold a small object in front of the driver and instruct him or her to follow the object’s line of motion with his or her eyes. The officer is watching so see whether the driver cannot follow the object, or if his or her eye(s) begin to twitch, as evidence of intoxication.
  • Walk and Turn Test: The officer instructs the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, turn, and repeat the same action in the opposite direction. The officer is watching for the driver to lose his or her balance or to fail to follow the instructions as evidence of intoxication.
  • One Legged Stand Test: The officer instructs the driver to stand on one foot, with the other foot six inches off the ground and arms out to the sides, and to count out loud. The officer is watching for the driver to lose his or her balance in any way, including hopping or wobbling, to count incorrectly, or otherwise fail to follow instructions, as evidence of intoxication.

Despite the fact that police officers use field sobriety tests regularly, these tests are highly unreliable indicators intoxication. Improper administration of the tests and the tests’ highly subjective nature are only two ways they can yield inaccurate results. Other confounding factors may include poor weather, uncomfortable or poorly fitting shoes, natural lack of coordination, nerves, fatigue, age or physical characteristics, and illness, to name a few.

Administrative License Suspension Hearings (ALS) in Georgia

In Georgia, anyone who is arrested for DUI has 10 business days from the date of the arrest to appeal the suspension of your driver’s license and request a hearing. If you do not appeal the suspension within the 10 business days, it may be suspended for a year. Thus it is extremely important that you file a timely appeal. Atlanta DUI defense attorney David Schnipper can help you prepare the appeal and keep your license.

Penalties for DUI in Georgia

In Georgia, you are considered to be Driving Under the Influence if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.

Penalties for a DUI in Georgia depend on how many prior offenses a person has been convicted of:

First-time DUI:

  • Normally a misdemeanor offense
  • Jail time ranging from one day to one year
  • Fines starting at $300 to $1,000, plus surcharges
  • 40 hours of community service
  • Court ordered alcohol education and/or treatment program
  • Probation for one year
  • Suspension of driver’s license for one year

Second-time DUI:

  • Normally a misdemeanor offense
  • Jail time ranging from three days to one year
  • Fines starting at $600 to $1,000, plus surcharges
  • 30 days (240 hours) of community service
  • Court ordered alcohol education and/or treatment program
  • Probation for one year
  • Suspension of driver’s license for three years
  • Ignition Interlock Device installed on all of your vehicles for six months after license is reinstated
  • Publication of your conviction

Third-time DUI within 10 years:

  • Normally a misdemeanor offense
  • Jail time ranging from 15 days to one year
  • Fines starting at $1,000 to $5,000, plus surcharges
  • 30 days (240 hours) of community service
  • Court ordered alcohol education and/or treatment program
  • Probation for one year
  • Suspension of driver’s license for five years; classification as a Habitual Violator
  • Publication of your conviction

Fourth-time DUI within 10 years, and any subsequent DUI within 10 years:

  • Normally a felony offense
  • Prison time from one to five years
  • Fines starting at $1,000 to $5,000, plus surcharges
  • 60 days (480 hours) of community service
  • Court-ordered alcohol education and/or treatment program
  • Probation for 5 years, but for the time spent in prison
  • Suspension of driver’s license for five years; classification as a Habitual Violator

Penalties for Underage DUI

In Georgia, you are considered to be Driving Under the Influence if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02% or higher.

Penalties for underage DUI are strict:

  • Jail time ranging from 24 hours to one year
    • Fines starting at $300 to $1,000, plus surcharges
  • 40 hours of community service
    • Court-ordered alcohol education and/or treatment program
  • Probation for one year, but for the time spent in jail
    • Suspension of driver’s license for 6 months for first underage DUI and one year for second underage DUI

Different Types of DUI

Several types of DUI can lead to felony convictions. Punishment is heightened if the individual is convicted of a DUI involving:

  • Child endangerment
  • DUI while transporting a child under 14
  • Serious bodily injury
  • DUI-related crash causing bodily harm to victim
  • Vehicular homicide
  • DUI, a negligent act, resulting in accidental death

Vehicular Homicide Law

In Georgia, a person driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs who kills another person, even unintentionally, can be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide. This is a felony crime, and may be punished by 3 to 15 years in prison.

Because the penalties for even a first-time DUI can be so severe and affect your life for a long time, and penalties for subsequent DUIs are increasingly harsh, it is important to consult a knowledgeable DUI attorney who can examine all the factors in the case, from the arresting officer’s cause to pull you over to the reliability of a breath or blood test.

Attorney David Schnipper has experience working in two District Attorney’s offices and knowledge of how the prosecution builds its case against you. Additionally, he has a certificate of completion pertaining to the Intoxilyzer®5000EN, which is vital for every DUI attorney to understand the machine that produces the strongest evidence against someone in a DUI case. Attorney Schnipper also has a certificate of achievement, which certifies that he has successfully completed a comprehensive course of study entitled, “DUI Detection & Standardize Field Sobriety Testing Using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Curriculum.” Furthermore, he has completed the “Defense of Drinking Drivers Institute,” a nationally recognized course sponsored by the Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia. David Schnipper is personally available to you day or night to answer your questions. Contact Attorney Schnipper online or call (404) 983-6051 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.