DUI 101: Don Answers Your Questions

Do I really need a lawyer? Don: The best answer is to think of those who, after the fact, have tremendous regret that they decided they didn’t need—or felt they couldn’t afford—legal representation. The long-term consequences—financially and emotionally—always outweigh the expense of legal representation.

What is the 10-Day Rule? Don: By law you have only 10 days from the date of arrest to prevent your license from being suspended or even revoked. If you are charged with DUI and refused to take a test (breath, blood or urine), or if your test result indicated your blood alcohol level (BAC) was 0.08 grams or higher, we must request a special hearing with the Department of Public Safety along with a $150 filing fee in order to appeal your automatic license suspension.

Do I have to be drunk to be charged with DUI? Don: No. A DUI charge simply implies that a driver has consumed enough alcohol or any amount of drugs to make them a less safe driver. A minor traffic violation such as failure to maintain lane, disregarding a traffic signal, driving too fast or too slow—combined with even a small amount of alcohol or any amount of drugs—will likely be justification for a DUI charge.

What blood alcohol level constitutes DUI? Don: Under Georgia law anyone 21 years of age or older is considered per se under the influence if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 within 3 hours of driving. For someone under 21, the BAC limit is 0.02. For someone with a CDL driving a commercial vehicle, the BAC limit is 0.04.

What does nolo contendere mean? Don: A nolo is a plea that allows you to dispose of your case without admitting guilt. As of July 1, 1997, the only benefit derived from this plea is that it cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil action. It no longer prevents license suspension.

I didn’t take the test—will my license be suspended? Don: Yes, if you refused to take the test or your test result was 0.08 or higher. This is an administrative suspension by the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) that begins on the 31st day after your arrest. To avoid this suspension, we must appeal it in writing to the DPS within 10 days of your arrest. The suspension will then be staid until a hearing is held.

What happens if I’m arrested for possession of drugs? Don: If convicted of even simple possession, you will lose your driver’s license for 6 months. This is true even if no vehicle was involved in the offense.

What are my options once I’ve been arrested? Don: You have three choices: plead guilty, plead not guilty and take the case to trial, or plead nolo contendere if you qualify and at the court’s discretion, although such a plea is of little benefit. Your lawyer will determine your best defense based on your circumstances.