Driving under the influence (DUI) charges may not seem as serious as certain other offenses to people, but they are among the most significant and highly-penalized traffic offenses that the state prosecutes.
Frequently, DUI charges in Georgia are classified as misdemeanor offenses. Even certain situations that trigger felony charges in many other states, lil<e driving with someone under the age of 14 in the vehicle while under the influence, won’t automatically result in felony charges in Georgia. However, there are a few scenarios wherein the state might pursue a felony charge against someone who has been accused of impaired driving.
When they have multiple prior offenses
The recidivism rate for drunk driving is relatively high, and state code reflects the likelihood that someone will drive drunk a second or third time after their first arrest by imposing increasing penalties on every subsequent DUI charge. While a first DUI offense will be a misdemeanor charge in most cases, if someone gets arrested multiple additional times for drunk driving, the state might pursue a felony charge. Those arrested for a fourth DUI offense within 10 years of the first will likely face felony charges in criminal court. Additionally, if the state declares someone a habitual DUI offender, that could also be grounds for felony charges.
When they cause injury or death
One of the reasons there are such strict rules about impaired driving is that intoxication at the wheel has an association with severe, even horrific motor vehicle collisions. When the driver at fault for a collision that leads to injury or death is over the legal limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the state may pursue felony charges.
Felony offenses generally lead to more serious criminal penalties imposed by the courts and could also have more of a chilling effect on someone’s future opportunities. While many employers and educational institutions will overlook misdemeanor offenses, especially if they don’t directly relate to someone’s job, many employers have a firm policy about felony offenses when hiring or promoting employees.
Fighting back against first, second or third DUI charges may be one of the most effective ways of reducing one’s risk of being charged with a felony DUI in the future. Learning more about how Georgia handles impaired driving offenses may help someone who has recently been arrested to choose the best path forward in their case.