What Does the Georgia Law Say About Felony DUI?
Felony DUI encompasses a range of charges, all of them serious, with serious consequences upon conviction.
Felony DUI includes:
- Fourth Georgia DUI charge in a 10-year period
- Habitual violator
- Child endangerment
- Serious injury by vehicle
- Vehicular homicide
- Vehicular infanticide
- Homicide or serious injury by interference with traffic control device
Any of these underlying charges requires a professional assessment of the strength of the prosecutor’s case, looking at the stop and arrest procedures, and analyzing the toxicology and police reports. A felony DUI conviction carries mandatory prison time and substantial fines along with a permanent place on your criminal and driving records. That’s why you need to retain a skilled and competent felony DUI defense lawyer to represent you as early in the proceedings as possible.
Let’s examine each of the possible felony DUI–related charges.
Fourth Georgia DUI Charge in a 10-Year Period: The convictions that are included in counting to a fourth DUI charge within a 10-year period only include convictions on or after July 1, 2008. Any prior convictions cannot be counted. In addition to a 10-year driver’s license suspension, with ignition interlock possible after the first 2 years of suspension, a judge can impose a sentence of 1-5 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 90 days in county jail. Fines are between $1,000-$5,000, with additional court fees to pay for mandatory programs and even the cost of probation. Other penalties include 60 days of community service, DUI school, 5-years probation, less time served, clinical evaluation, mandatory alcohol/drug treatment, surrender of the license plates for all your registered vehicles, and publication of your photograph as a habitual violator in your local county newspaper.
Habitual Violator: is a status that attaches when anyone is convicted of a third or subsequent DUI within 5 years, or any combination of additional vehicular crimes—fleeing or attempting to elude police, racing, leaving the scene of an accident, homicide by vehicle, serious injury by vehicle, or fraudulent or fictitious use or application of a driver’s license. The status as habitual violator can attach if you are convicted of any of these three charges stemming from even a single incident. Violating the terms of your habitual violator status can result in revocation of any limited driving privileges and prison.
Sentencing is harsh with up to 5 years in prison, $1,000-$5,000 fines and additional court fees, 2-5 year license suspension, 30 days community service unless sentenced to 3 years in prison, DUI school, clinical evaluation, and up to 5-years probation, less time served. There is the possibility of installing an ignition interlock system if awarded a limited HV driving privileges once released from prison.
Child Endangerment: Arrest for DUI with children under the age of 14 in the vehicle can result in charge of both DUI and child endangerment. You can also be charged separately for child endangerment for each underage child. A single arrest, even with a clean driving record, can result in a felony charge, habitual violator status, and increased sentencing. Besides driving while impaired, child endangerment can also be charged if you have failed to fasten a child’s seat belt, neglected to use a car seat for an infant or toddler, or engaged in dangerous driving.
A conviction for felony child endangerment can mean 1-5 years in prison and a fine of $1,000-$5,000 fines and court fees.
Serious Injury by Vehicle: An accident resulting from DUI driving that causes another person bodily harm can result in a charge of serious injury by vehicle. Serious injury means dismemberment or disfigurement, organic brain damage, loss of the use of a limb or other body part, loss of vision in one eye, 2-inch scar on the forehead, broken ribs, or severe bruising. The serious injury need not be permanent to qualify for this felony charge. In addition to the possibility of a subsequent civil suit for damages, upon conviction, you can be sentenced to 1-15 years in prison, a 3-year license suspension without an opportunity for early reinstatement, and no limited driving permit privileges.
Vehicular Homicide: a felony charge can be brought for vehicular homicide in the first degree if the driver caused the death of another person while driving recklessly or under the influence of alcohol/drugs or caused a fatal accident and left the scene. Sentencing requires 3-15 years in prison. If you had habitual violator status at the time of this arrest, at least 90 percent of any prison sentence must be served inside. A conviction also raises the specter of a civil suit for wrongful death brought by the family of the deceased.
Vehicular Feticide: If an unborn child was killed due to injuries caused to a pregnant woman or her death, resulting from DUI driving, a separate charge of vehicular feticide can be brought. A felony charge can result in a 3-15 years prison sentence.
Homicide or Serious Injury by Interference With Traffic Control Device: This felony charge involves attempting to or actually damaging or alterating an official traffic-control device, railroad signals, and signs. Sentencing is 5-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.