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A felony or aggravated DUI may come as a surprise

Georgia is known for dealing with driving under the influence through tough approaches to lawmaking and enforcement.

Certain factors can turn a DUI arrest from a serious but temporary headache into a life-changing event and a major turning point leading in the wrong direction.

Georgia is no place to be found guilty of DUI

A recent survey of DUI laws around the country confirmed what many of us suspect. Some of the strictest laws in America await Georgians caught driving while intoxicated. The survey placed us as the third toughest on drunk drivers, behind Utah and Minnesota.

But arguments and evidence presented during trial and, if necessary, at sentencing can have huge impacts on the seemingly inflexible sentences specified in Georgia’s statutes.

Sentencing, of course, assumes a finding of guilt or guilty plea, which should not be taken as a foregone conclusion. But decisions about which factors will be taken into account, whether multiple sentences will be served at the same time or one after another, and other issues are often made at the discretion of the judge.

Factors leading to next-level DUIs

The year 2010 may seem like a long time ago. Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake, the Deep Water Horizon explosion caused an oil spill, and LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami.

But if a person had three DUIs in Georgia in that year, another this year would mean four in a ten-year period, so the new violation would have the potential to be a felony. Only the third in the same period could be an “aggravated misdemeanor.”

Other factors can result in more serious DUIs in Georgia. A DUI with a passenger less than 14 years old can be a felony if there’s an accident or on repeat offenses.

Causing anyone a serious injury or death makes for the most severe punishments involving a DUI charge.

Very high blood alcohol (usually 0.16 and higher), driving at very high speeds, trying to evade police, racing other drivers and leaving the scene of an accident are factors that can turn a DUI-related arrest into a landmark event shaping the rest of a person’s life.

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