Over the past decade, Georgia has seen a relatively steady decline in the number of DUI convictions per year. This indicates that more drivers are avoiding driving under the influence, as opposed to an easing up of Georgia DUI laws.
In fact, Georgia’s DUI laws may be considered stricter than many other states. That is because of Georgia’s DUI Less Safe statute, which changes the definition of what constitutes as intoxicated enough to be charged with a DUI.
What, exactly, is the DUI Less Safe statute? If you’ve been charged with a DUI Less Safe, what will happen next?
Hiring an experienced DUI attorney should always be your first step after receiving a DUI charge. Once you’ve taken care of that step, it’s time to learn more about the charges you’re facing. Click here to keep reading.
The Difference Between a Standard DUI and DUI Less Safe
Every state has its own specific standards for what constitutes driving under the influence. In almost every state, one factor that must be present is a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Alternatively, if a driver is convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, a positive drug test is typically part of the evidence.
In Georgia, a standard DUI often relies on this type of evidence. However, the DUI Less Safe statute makes it possible for Georgia drivers to be convicted of a DUI without failing an alcohol or drug test. The basic premise of the DUI Less Safe statute is that a driver can be charged if they are found to be intoxicated enough that it is no longer safe for them to be behind the wheel.
Required Evidence to Prove a DUI Less Safe
In order to be convicted of a DUI Less Safe, two things must be proven in court:
- That the driver in question had consumed some amount of alcohol or drugs before or while operating a motor vehicle
- That the consumption of alcohol or drugs impaired the driver to the extent that their driving was deemed unsafe
It is possible that an actual drug or alcohol test will be used and admitted as evidence in a DUI Less Safe case. However, police officers do not have to have administered either test in order to charge you with a DUI Less Safe.
Let’s take a look at some possible evidence that can be used against you in a DUI Less Safe case.
Typically, a DUI Less Safe charge begins when a police officer pulls you over for a traffic violation. This could include speeding, driving in the wrong lane, changing lanes recklessly, and more.
If a police officer pulls you over for a traffic violation and observes possible signs of drug or alcohol consumption, they will likely ask you to perform certain field sobriety tests to determine whether or not it is reasonable to believe that you are intoxicated.
Field Sobriety Tests
The issue for drivers is that police officers are able to use their own observations as evidence in a DUI Less Safe case. Of course, there are standardized field sobriety tests that many of them will use. These tests may be completed within three hours of the initial arrest.
Although these tests are standardized–for example, field sobriety tests that test a driver’s balance, coordination, and/or cognitive processing–the evaluation of a driver’s performance is ultimately subjective.
In some cases, field sobriety tests can be used to charge a driver with DUI Less Safe even if you have not committed a traffic violation. Georgia police officers often use DUI checkpoints to stop drivers and determine whether or not they are intoxicated.
The Consequences of a DUI Less Safe
In the state of Georgia, there is no real distinction between a standard DUI and a DUI Less Safe when it comes to related penalties. These penalties include:
- License suspension lasting up to one year
- 40 hours of community service for a first offense and 240 hours of community service for a second offense
- Minimum of 24 hours of jail time for drivers who do blow a 0.08% BAC or higher
- Up to 12 months of probation (minus any jail time)
- DUI risk reduction school with at least 20 hours of course-time
In addition to these DUI Less Safe penalties, convicted drivers can expect to pay a number of court fees.
Why You Should Work With an Attorney If You Receive a DUI Less Safe Charge
As you can see, the DUI Less Safe statute in Georgia can involve very subjective evidence and result in serious consequences. Most drivers don’t understand the ins and outs of DUI laws, which is why you should always work with a DUI attorney.
For starters, your DUI attorney can have your license reinstated as long as they act fast. Convicted drivers have up to 30 days to appeal their automatic license suspension.
In addition, an attorney can present any evidence that challenges the report given by the police. For example, some drivers with disabilities may not be able to pass field sobriety tests regardless of a lack of substance use.
Ultimately, the most sure-fire way to fight a DUI Less Safe or reduce the penalties of a conviction is to work with an experienced attorney.
Understand the Rules of the Georgia Road
Georgia DUI convictions are steadily going down, but that doesn’t mean that drivers should lower their guard. The Georgia Less Safe statute makes it easy for drivers to receive DUI convictions based on circumstantial evidence. Knowing the laws–and a good attorney–is the best way to avoid this outcome.
To talk to an experienced attorney about your DUI case, contact us today. We’ll start with a free case evaluation so that you can make an informed decision about your next steps as you navigate the Georgia court.