If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence (DUI), you may wonder whether you should spend the extra money to hire an attorney, fight your charge on your own, or even worse, plead guilty to the DUI charge. This is one of those times when being pennywise could result in unwanted consequences that might drastically impact your future.
DUI laws in Georgia are complicated. They involve following precise steps, making decisions within the first 30 days following the charge, and, in many cases, attending a hearing on not only the DUI charge but on license suspension as well. Even if you are innocent, a missed deadline could lead to license suspension.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Hiring an experienced DUI lawyer who knows the ins and outs of challenging a DUI charge and who will fight throughout the process for the absolute best results often makes a big difference in the outcome of your case. Having a DUI lawyer on your side can result in less time in court, shorter license suspension, no license suspension, other lessened penalties, or even getting the charges reduced or dismissed. A knowledgeable DUI attorney can make sure you meet deadlines and file the correct paperwork, help you navigate the Department of Motor Vehicles when facing a license suspension and then reinstatement, appear on your behalf in court, work with prosecutors to mitigate penalties, and strategically approach each part of fighting your charge. You may have been wrongly charged, in which case an experienced DUI attorney can identify the error and fight the accusation. A DUI lawyer also knows how and when to use an arresting officer’s record as well as transcripts from the arrest in defense strategies.
The Costs of a DUI
Here are five costs or consequences to a DUI to consider when deciding whether to hire a lawyer to defend your DUI charge:
- Driver’s license suspension – in Georgia, if you are convicted of a DUI, your license will automatically be suspended. License suspension can also be the outcome of an administrative license suspension (ALS) hearing. An ALS is initiated by the police officer at the time you are charged with a DUI. An officer can initiate the process if you refuse to submit to state-administered chemical testing or if the chemical tests result in a blood-alcohol level above legal limits. You can then appeal the ALS within 30 days, request an ignition interlock device, or choose to do nothing. If you choose to do nothing or miss the deadlines, your license will automatically be suspended. If you appeal, you will go to an ALS hearing, presided over by a judge, where you can still lose your license. The length of a license suspension varies based on a number of factors, including the source of the suspension (whether it’s the result of a conviction or an ALS hearing), your age (under or over 21), and the results of your chemical testing.
- Jail time or probation – if you are convicted of a DUI, you can be sentenced to jail time as well as receive probation. The length of time depends on whether you are over or under 21 and whether this is your first or a subsequent conviction. While a first DUI for an adult 21 or older is generally a misdemeanor in Georgia, it can still result in up to a maximum of 12 months of jail time. A first conviction also carries mandatory 12 months of probation, minus time served in jail.
- Fines – DUI convictions carry fines of up to $1,000, plus surcharges, for a first or second conviction and as much as $5,000 for the third conviction and any subsequent convictions. The minimum fine for a first conviction is $300.
- Completion of community service work and DUI programs – sentences for all DUI convictions carry community service requirements. The length of the service depends on whether it is your first or a subsequent conviction. Each conviction also requires you to complete a DUI alcohol- or drug-use risk prevention program. Those convicted of a DUI must also go through a clinical evaluation, which could also result in substance abuse treatment.
- Permanent mark on your record – DUI convictions stay on your record forever in Georgia.
In addition, a DUI in Georgia usually leads to higher insurance rates. The average annual increase for a Georgia driver charged with DUI is $1,236. One bad decision to drive after drinking can cost you money and time, affect driving privileges, and negatively impact your integrity, potentially for life. Hiring a lawyer can mitigate these damages, ease your experience through the process, and lessen the lifetime impact of one bad decision.
Call the Experienced DUI Attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm
If you or your child have been charged with a DUI, the experienced attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm can work to minimize the long-term costs and impacts to you. We’ll provide clarity on the options you have, and together we’ll determine if it makes sense to work together. Even if you decide on a different direction, we’ll still help you. Contact us today at 770-720-6336 for a complimentary defense strategy meeting.