Posted in Atlanta DUI Law on January 16, 2020
You’re driving along, minding your own business. Suddenly, the blue lights and siren of a police car pierce the calm. When the officer asks you to step out of the car to take a field sobriety test, you know this may not end well.
You’ve never been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) before. Now, however, a million nervous thoughts are rushing through your mind…none of them good.
Do I have to spend the night in jail? Will I have a criminal record for the rest of my life? Will I be able to get a job? Will I be able to rent an apartment or apply for a mortgage? How much will my insurance go up?
The best resource for answers to your questions is a criminal defense attorney who specializes in Georgia DUI law. Hiring an Atlanta DUI defense lawyer will be your best bet for having the charges dismissed altogether or at least reduced.
What Happens on Your first DUI?
There’s no getting around the fact that Georgia has some of the toughest DUI laws in the land. For a first time DUI offense, you’re probably facing a misdemeanor charge if no one was injured or there wasn’t an accident.
If your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, you’ll probably be spending the night in jail. Other potential consequences of a first time DUI include:
- Suspension of your driver’s license
- Multiple hours of community service
- Hundreds of dollars in fines, or
- Mandatory attendance for DUI awareness classes (also referred to as DUI Risk Reduction School).
Keep in mind, though, that a charge is a completely different ballgame than being convicted. The arresting officer – and the state – still has to prove you were driving while impaired. That’s easier said than done, even with high-tech breathalyzer machines and other gadgets.
Is Fighting the DUI Charge Really Worth the Effort?
We think so, but then again we know there’s plenty at stake. While a conviction for a first time DUI isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it definitely has the potential to cause a lot of collateral damage in your life.
If a DUI conviction – even if it’s a first-time offense – can lead to:
- You losing your job or having a lot of difficulties finding another one
- Being disqualified for banks loans and other forms of financial assistance
- Losing your Green Card and risking deportation if you’re not a citizen of the U.S.
- Inability to find work in certain fields (e.g. state agencies, schools and colleges, etc.), or
- Sky-rocketing car insurance rates.
As you can see, this type of charge is much more than a “pay your fine and forget about it” experience. It affects so many more aspects of your life.
Will I Lose My Driver’s License?
If you’re charged with DUI or refuse to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test, you can bank on losing your driver’s license for a while.
That suspension could be for a very short time if you make the right selection for a DUI defense attorney.
Here’s how the process works.
- The driver’s license is taken in exchange for a permit. As soon as you’re charged with DUI, your driver’s license will be taken by the officer. In return, you’ll be given a permit that gives you the right to drive for 45 days.
- The clock starts ticking for you to get your driver’s license back. You have just 30 days from the date of your arrest to file a request for an administrative hearing or have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. Not requesting the hearing or missing the deadline could result in losing your driver’s license for up to a full year.
At the hearing, your charges could be dismissed. A negotiated agreement with a plea deal could be reached between your defense lawyer and the prosecution or the judge could rule against you.
Should I Get a Lawyer For My First DUI?
This is your first DUI charge? Doesn’t matter. You have an otherwise spotless record? Doesn’t matter. You volunteer at the local food bank? Doesn’t matter.
Taking a cue from the harsh penalties for DUI charges in general, the last thing you should expect is for the court to be lenient with you. They won’t.
Few things are fair in life, and this is one of them. Make no mistake: you will be completely outgunned in a court without a skilled DUI lawyer on your side. The smart move is to leverage the expertise and skill of a DUI attorney who has a successful record in handling cases similar to yours.
Your lawyer should have existing relationships with prosecutors and judges, which should help negotiations if a plea deal is necessary.
Remember, if the case goes to trial, it’s up to the state or prosecutor to prove your guilt. That’s difficult to do, and a qualified DUI lawyer in Georgia will have the know-how to poke holes in just about any argument made by the prosecutor.