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Can I still drive after being arrested for DUI?

As a criminal defense attorney who handles a lot of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases, I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about DUIs over the last 14 years. The most common questions I get surround a person’s ability to drive.  They include questions like: “Can I still drive after my DUI arrest?” “Will I automatically lose my license?” “Can I get a permit to drive to and from work?”

There are basically two different points in a DUI case that can lead to a driver’s license suspension.  The first one is something an officer can initiate at the time of the arrest and the other is upon a conviction for DUI.

Officers can initiate a license suspension through a process called an Administrative License Suspension (usually called ALS).  To do this, the officer usually seizes the driver’s license of the person and serves them with a form called a DDS 1205.  An officer can initiate this suspension after someone is charged with a DUI, in one of these scenarios:

  • the driver refused to submit to the state administered chemical testing the officer asked for; or
  • the driver submitted to a chemical test and the results indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more; or
  • the driver was under the age of 21 and the chemical test results indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.02 grams or more; or
  • the driver was operating a moving commercial motor vehicle and the chemical test results indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.04 grams or more.

If the officer initiates an ALS then the person will have to make one of three decisions:

  • Appeal the proposed suspension; or
  • Request an ignition interlock device limited permit (if eligible); or
  • Do nothing.

If the person decides to appeal the suspension, the appeal must be postmarked within 30 calendar days of the serve date on the DDS 1205.  Similarly, if the person wishes to request an ignition interlock device limited permit, this must also be done within 30 calendar days of the serve date.   If the person does not do either of these things within the 30 days, then their license will be suspended on the 46th day after the serve date.  Generally, doing nothing also means that the person will have waived the opportunity to appeal or seek the ignition interlock limited permit.

There are a number of considerations about whether appealing an ALS makes sense, it is best to discuss those with an experienced DUI defense attorney before making the decision about whether or not to appeal. There can be tactical reasons to appeal, get an ignition interlock limited permit, or do nothing, depending on the specific circumstances that the individual person is experiencing.

If the officer did not initiate an administrative license suspension, then the person’s driver’s license typically stays valid.  This only changes if the person is convicted of DUI or another offense that suspends their driver’s license.  Suspensions based upon a DUI conviction occur by operation of law, meaning that they happen automatically upon conviction.

In either case, the length of a driver’s license suspension and whether the person is eligible for any type of a permit to allow them to drive for particular purposes varies significantly based upon a number of factors, including: whether it is an ALS or a suspension based on a conviction; whether the person is under 21 or over 21; whether the person submitted to a chemical test or not; what the results of the chemical test was; any prior DUIs or drivers license suspensions; and many other factors.

If in doubt about the validity of their driver’s license, anyone can check whether their driver’s license is currently valid on the Georgia Department of Driver Services’ website.

Part of the process that should take place during representation for a DUI is ensuring that a person facing a DUI charge, with or without an ALS, is made fully aware of all of the potential impacts on their driver’s license.  When developing a strategy for how to handle these potential suspensions, consideration should be given to how the interplay between a DUI Suspension and an Administrative License Suspension can be leveraged to minimize any period of suspension and maximize a person’s ability to drive.

Due to the complexities associated with DUI related license suspension, it is important to get a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney involved to help ensure that all of this is considered when facing these types of driver’s license suspensions.  This is not something that a person without the proper training and experience should handle on their own.