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When does a DUI charge become a felony in Georgia?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | DUI |

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute, more than 10,000 people die each year as a result of drunk driving.

Driving under the influence is a serious offense in Georgia, and the consequences can escalate depending on the circumstances. While a DUI is typically considered a misdemeanor, it can become a felony under specific conditions.

Factors elevating DUI to a felony

Several factors can elevate a DUI offense from a misdemeanor to a felony in Georgia:

  • Repeat offenses: If a jury convicts an individual of DUI for the second or subsequent time within a ten-year period, the offense becomes a felony. Repeat offenses demonstrate a pattern of disregard for traffic laws and public safety.
  • Serious injury or death: DUI incidents resulting in serious injury or death can lead to felony charges. If the impaired driver causes harm to another person while operating a vehicle under the influence, the severity of the consequences increases significantly.
  • Child endangerment: Having a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle while driving under the influence can elevate a DUI to a felony charge. This is child endangerment, and the legal system takes a strong stance against putting minors at risk.

If a DUI charge is a first offense and poses no danger to another person, especially children, the courts will consider it a misdemeanor.

Potential felony penalties

Felony DUI convictions bring more severe consequences, including longer jail sentences, higher fines and a longer period of license suspension. Additionally, individuals with felony DUI convictions may face challenges in employment, housing and other aspects of daily life due to the more serious nature of the offense.

Understanding the circumstances that elevate a DUI to a felony is important for individuals to make informed decisions and avoid the serious repercussions associated with felony convictions. Always prioritize responsible and sober driving to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road.