Driving Drunk in Georgia

In Georgia, the second strictest state in the nation for DUI cases and license suspensions, 368 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2016. While this number is alarming, it is in stark contrast to the 803 people who died in alcohol related accidents in 1986, long before tougher DUI laws were passed.

In fact, although the total number of traffic fatalities has actually increased over the years, the percentage of drunk driving fatalities has slowly declined. The actual number of alcohol related fatalities has declined also, after peaking in 1986. Since 2012, out of all traffic fatalities, 24.6 percent involved a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, considerably lower than the national average of 30 percent.

Keep in mind, if you are pulled over for any reason and the officer has reason to believe you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he has the right to administer field sobriety tests to determine whether you can safely drive.

You are considered legally drunk in Georgia if your blood alcohol content is 0.08 or above. If you are suspected of drunk driving, the officer will administer a Breathalyzer test at the scene. The Breathalyzer is a small hand-held machine that measures the amount of ethanol in your breath with an infrared light. If you are suspected of drunk driving, the deputy or officer who pulls you over will ask you to blow into this machine for a minute, by placing your mouth around the tube. When the officer instructs you to stop blowing, the Breathalyzer will give him your score.

In addition to the Breathalyzer test, you may be asked to perform certain physical tasks to check your balance and thinking abilities. These can include reciting the alphabet, counting backwards, touching your finger to your nose with your eyes closed and balancing on one foot. These tests are particularly helpful to an officer if you are suspected of being under the influence of legal or illegal drugs. If you have any physical limitations that would prevent you from performing these actions at any time, it is important to inform the officer immediately.

Georgia is among many states with an implied consent law, under which a person who drives a car in Georgia is presumed to agree to suspension of his driver’s license if he refuses to consent to a blood, breathalyzer, or urine test for DUI. Courts have ruled implied consent laws constitutional.
Under the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions, you do have the right to refuse to provide evidence against yourself by testing, but your driver’s license may be immediately confiscated and you’ll face a one year suspension. In addition, your act of refusal can be used as evidence of guilt in a DUI prosecution. If you consent, you have the right to an independent blood test, at your own expense.

Georgia has mandatory punishment guidelines for convicted drunk drivers, and they are severe. Zero tolerance laws are intended to keep drivers under the legal drinking age from indulging in the risk of drinking and driving, and therefore there are stricter penalties and limits for underage drivers. A person under the age of 21 is allowed just .02 percent BAC limit by law before being subjected to DUI penalties.