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Is a DUI a Criminal Offense?

— September 7, 2022

If you commit a third offense, you may be jailed for 90 days to a year, put on probation, and enroll in a rehabilitation program at your own expense, along with 40-60 hours of community service.

The criminal history of an individual is necessary to assess a variety of opportunities in life. When looking for a job, moving, or applying for a scholarship, many applications ask: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?” The conviction of DUI has the potential to impact your future employment and education. To answer this question, we will explain everything in this article.

Is a DUI a Criminal Offense?

It is a crime to drive under the influence. DUIs are not only considered traffic violations but are also crimes in every state across the entire country. Charges and penalties imposed against you are determined by the circumstances surrounding your arrest. After conducting a background check, employers, landlords, and college admission committees alike will find that you have been arrested and convicted of DUI.

It is difficult to predict how a DUI charge will affect your life opportunities, but generally speaking, a DUI charge can have serious consequences for your livelihood. However, you should consult an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney if you need help navigating the DUI laws in Georgia.

DUI Convictions: Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

There is considerable variation in how DUIs are classified and what they mean for your criminal record. When charged with a non-violent DUI and have no prior convictions, you are unlikely to face jail time. The state of Georgia considers DUIs committed on a first offense as misdemeanors. It is also considered a misdemeanor to drive under the influence a second time, however, the penalties are usually more severe and require at least one year in jail for the defendant. For a third offense, DUI carries a mandatory one-year jail sentence as a felony. In light of the wide range of DUI classifications, you should prepare to explain the circumstances of your charge if you are offered a job. Your hiring manager won’t see the full picture of your past if you tell your version of the story when disclosing these charges on a job application.

Criminal Penalties for a First DUI in Georgia

You’ll face different penalties if you’re convicted of your first DUI in Georgia based on a variety of factors. Below we provide an overview of the possible penalties.

Jail Time and Probation for a first DUI

DUIs that occur for the first time are generally classified as misdemeanors. You can spend up to 12 months in the county jail if the judge sentences you to that. If you have already served time in jail when you were arrested, you may not be sent back to jail after your sentencing (prison is reserved for sentences over 12 months). Those who have a BAC of .08% or higher are required to serve at least 24 hours in jail.

DUI probation. In the case of your first DUI, you will likely spend most of the time on probation rather than in prison. Your total sentence cannot be shorter than a year. A probation officer will monitor your progress, and you will have to pay a supervision fee while on probation.

Fines and Costs for a First DUI Conviction

It’s expensive to get a DUI, even if it’s your first offense. When the required surcharges are added, the amount of the fine can almost double from $300 to $1000.

Additionally, you must attend a twenty-hour DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (“Risk Reduction Program”), which costs more than $350. The Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) also requires this course to reinstate your license.

Second DUI Offense in Georgia

Most people are arrested and charged with DUI if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher when pulled over for suspected DUI. It is possible for an officer to charge you with a DUI even if your blood alcohol level is below 0.08%.

An officer may arrest you for driving under the influence (DUI) if there is evidence of open liquor containers in your vehicle or drug paraphernalia present.

DWI/DUI conviction history is also a key factor in determining whether someone will face a second DUI charge. For a second conviction, you would be facing increased penalties if you had a previous conviction within five years of your current arrest.


Prison Officer Jailed After an Affair with Murderer
Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

Second-time offenders are typically fined $600 to $1,000 more than their first convictions. If you are charged with your third DUI, you could also face jail time, although it would not be as serious as if you were charged with your second.

In order to get your license reinstated, you must install an ignition interlock device on your car.

In addition to your DUI, if you are arrested for reckless driving or speeding over 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, you will have a “DUI” conviction history, and you may be sentenced to imprisonment instead of house arrest.

An alcohol and drug evaluation will be required within 60 days of a second DUI conviction, and you must follow any recommendations made by the counselor. It is also possible that DUI school and/or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings will be required of you.

Third DUI Offense in Georgia

Third DUI offenses in Georgia are classified as high and aggravated misdemeanors. In other words, the drunk driver now faces harsher penalties. You could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, fined $5,000 or more, and have your license suspended for at least five years if convicted of a third DUI.

You may also be subject to civil penalties in addition to criminal penalties. Insurance rates are increased, cars are immobilized or forfeited, and alcohol education and treatment programs are required.

Additionally, your vehicle may be seized, and an ignition interlock device may be required. Knowing your rights and understanding how to protect yourself is essential to avoid these penalties. Your future can be protected if you hire a criminal defense attorney with experience.


If you commit a third offense, you may be jailed for 90 days to a year, put on probation, and enroll in a rehabilitation program at your own expense, along with 40-60 hours of community service. You must also complete an alcohol safety course approved by DDS.

The offender faces 365 days in jail and $5,000 in fines if he has two prior convictions from another state or federal court within the past 10 years. The refusal to take evidentiary tests during an arrest for DUI can also result in penalties.

Can I Get My Georgia DUI Expunged?

There is no way to expunge a DUI conviction from your Georgia record. Due to the serious nature of driving under the influence, under the new ‘Second Chance Law’, driving under the influence is not eligible for expungement. In the event that you were recently convicted, you may be able to file an appeal and try to restrict your record if you win.

In addition, you may be able to apply for restriction if your case was dismissed or you weren’t convicted of your charge.

Why Maintaining a Clean Record Is Important

You can face numerous difficulties in your life if you have a DUI conviction on your record. A DUI can raise your insurance premiums, appear on background checks, prevent you from getting a job, and, in some more serious cases, prevent you from getting an apartment when it is associated with a drug charge or injury.

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