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No one plans to get a DUI. Most first-time DUI defenders didn't even know they were legally drunk when they got behind the wheel.

That said, being stopped for a DUI is a scary experience, and you likely have many questions about the penalties you now face. A first-time DUI charge will carry both administrative and criminal penalties if you're convicted. Here's an overview of Georgia's DUI penalties for first-time drunk driving offenses.

Being "legally" drunk

According to Georgia's DUI laws, you are considered legally drunk if your blood alcohol concentration is above .08 percent (.04 for commercial drivers). If your BAC is over this limit, you will be charged with "DUI Per Se," the technical term for driving under the influence in Georgia.

Georgia laws also include a DUI "less safe" charge. Officers may charge someone with DUI less safe if they believe the driver's impairment makes them a danger to others on the road. It is most often charged when the driver refuses to submit to blood, breath or urine tests to determine his or her BAC.

The administrative side

If convicted of DUI, your driver's license will be suspended for up to one year. This is an administrative penalty because your right to drive is governed by the Department of Driver Services, not the criminal court.

You should also know that refusing to take part in the field sobriety tests or refusing breath or blood analysis means the immediate suspension of your license for one year, regardless of the outcome of your case. Refusing to submit to these tests violates Georgia's implied consent laws, which you agreed to when you applied for your license in the first place.

Criminal penalties for first-time DUI

Along with a license suspension, you will likely face jail time and fines if you are convicted. The minimum sentence is one day in jail but can be as long as a year, and the fine can be as high as $1,000.

You may also have to complete community service and a mandatory DUI education program. You could also be placed on probation for a certain amount of time.

The non-criminal penalties

There's more? Yes, the impact of a criminal conviction goes well beyond the courtroom. Not only could it hurt your reputation now, but it will show up on any criminal background checks in the future. This could limit your job opportunities and potentially increase your car insurance premiums.

Defending against DUI charges

The good news here is that with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, these penalties may never come to pass. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Police officers and lab techs can make mistakes. These mistakes can mean the reduction of charges to reckless driving or moving violations, or even having your case thrown out altogether. Your attorney can investigate all the elements of your claim to minimize the penalties you face, both now and in the future.

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