Drunk driving is a serious offense that can lead to severe consequences. In Georgia, the law makes a clear distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony when it comes to driving under the influence.
It is essential to understand this difference because the penalties associated with each vary significantly.
Number of offenses
In Georgia, the first three DUI offenses within a ten-year period are typically treated as misdemeanors. However, if a person commits a fourth DUI within ten years, it escalates to a felony offense. Felony charges come with more severe consequences, including stiffer fines, longer license suspensions and the possibility of imprisonment.
Severity of the offense
Apart from the number of offenses, the severity of the offense can also make a DUI charge a felony. This includes cases where drunk driving leads to an accident that causes serious injury or death. In these instances, even if it is the person’s first offense, the courts can charge them with a felony due to the serious nature of the accident.
Additional factors can lead the courts to elevate a DUI charge to a felony. For instance, if a person gets arrested for DUI while the courts have suspended or revoked their license, it could result in a felony charge. Similarly, if the police arrest someone for driving under the influence with a minor in the car, this could also escalate the charge to a felony.
Being charged with a felony DUI has serious implications. It can affect a person’s employment prospects and limit their future opportunities. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of the circumstances under which a DUI can become a felony in Georgia.