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Will Georgia increase penalties for first-time DUI offenders?

Before the start of the New Year, we had mentioned on our Athens, Georgia, DUI defense law blog that penalties for convicted drunk drivers would change in the state as of Jan. 1. One change included reducing the number of days repeat offenders must wait before reapplying for a driving permit after having their licenses suspended as a result of a repeat DUI conviction.

Although this change may seem like Georgia is making it too easy for DUI offenders to get their licenses back, repeat DUI offenders must agree to install ignition interlock devices in their cars and participate in treatment programs before they are eligible to reapply for driving permits. The waiting time for reapplying for a driving permit was reduced to 120 days for two-time offenders.

The penalties for repeat DUI offenders typically differ from the penalties first-time offenders may face, but one group is pushing to increase penalties for first-time offenders in Georgia, making punishments for first-time offenders much more similar to the new punishments two-time DUI offenders now face.

The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been urging lawmakers in Georgia to increase penalties for those who are convicted of first-offense DUI. The group believes that imposing harsher punishments for a first offense will discourage drivers from making the same mistakes twice. The group is asking lawmakers to pass a bill that would require first-time offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. The group claims that 17 states impose such penalties and that Georgia should follow suit.

Some argue that this is a harsh punishment for a first-time offender, but others claim it will only help to make our roads safer. What do you think? Should first-time offenders face punishments that are similar to the punishments repeat DUI offenders face in Georgia?

Source: WSB Radio, "MADD pushes lawmakers for tougher DUI restrictions," Sandra Parrish, March 12, 2013