I’ve Heard of the Georgia First Offenders Act. What Exactly Is It?

I’ve Heard of the Georgia First Offenders Act. What Exactly Is It?
Person reaching for car keys after drinking beer

A conviction for driving under the influence brings with it a number of serious consequences. If you’ve never been in trouble with the law, the idea of being found guilty of a crime is scary. It is no wonder that many people charged with a DUI in Georgia want to escape conviction. Those who know of the state’s First Offenders Act often assume this can help them to keep their records clear. Unfortunately, the law which is also known as Georgia’s second chance law doesn’t apply to simple DUIs. If you want to learn more about this Act or how you can handle a DUI, this post is for you.

Georgia’s First Offenders Act Defined

The First Offenders Act gives first-time lawbreakers a chance to learn from their mistakes. They are allowed to plead guilty or no contest to certain crimes without having a conviction recorded against them. The hope is that they will learn from their mistakes and never repeat their actions. In return, offenders get the opportunity to get their lives back on track.

It is important to note that offenders can still face jail time and probation. The court may also order them to pay restitution or a fine, attend anger management classes or perform community service. The difference is that the court doesn’t enter judgment regarding the individual. Since they won’t be considered a felon, they won’t have a criminal record and they retain all their civil rights.

Many people in Georgia find this to be an acceptable alternative and they ask their Atlanta, GA DUI lawyers about it. They are often surprised to learn that it’s not applicable to ordinary DUIs. Instead, it may be available for people accused of serious injury by vehicle or vehicular homicide. These charges are usually linked to DUI cases since intoxicated drivers often get involved in serious or fatal accidents. It may seem ridiculous that a misdemeanor DUI can’t be dismissed under the act, but DUI-related felonies can. However, as it stands in 2020, that’s the law.

If you’re facing a more serious charge, the First Offender’s Act can ensure your case is resolved prior to trial. In many cases, defendants in cases of vehicular homicide or serious injury by vehicle are first-time offenders. Allowing them to keep their records clean helps them to retain their civil rights. If you’re dealing with a simple DUI charge, you still have options. However, you will need to work with a competent DUI lawyer in Atlanta, GA.

Penalties for First Offense DUI

Individuals found guilty of driving under the influence for the first time face a range of criminal and administrative penalties. These can include:

  • Up to ten days in jail
  • 12 months of probation
  • A fine of $300 along with court costs and surcharges
  • A minimum of 40 hours of community service
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • DUI Risk Reduction School attendance
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel attendance
  • Driver’s license suspension

Given how disruptive this can be, some accused people ask their attorneys to get their charges reduced to reckless driving. While this is possible in some circumstances, it’s not easy to get the state or a judge to agree to it. If your blood alcohol content was barely over the legal limit of .08 or you had a perfect driving record, you may be eligible. Getting a reduction in charges has several benefits. For example:

  • You can hold on to your driver’s license
  • You won’t have a DUI conviction on your record although your DUI arrest will remain.
  • Your auto insurance won’t go up as much
  • Resolving your case will be cheaper and quicker

Even if you don’t get your charges reduced, an experienced attorney may still be able to get your punishment reduced. While you will have a conviction against you, you may be able to avoid the worst.

Discuss Your Case with Howard & Arca Today!

If you are facing DUI charges in Atlanta, GA, contact our lawyers at Howard & Arca. Even though you won’t qualify under the First Offenders Act for a misdemeanor DUI, your punishment can be minimized. We may even be able to get the charges dismissed. It all starts with a thorough analysis of your case. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation so we can look at the facts. With your future at stake, you shouldn’t try to go at it alone. We’ll do everything we can to help you navigate this difficult time.

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