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The more DUI convictions you have, the higher the penalty

In many areas of criminal law, your criminal record will have an impact on the potential consequences and even the charges you face. First time offenders may receive more lenient treatment and are more likely to receive the benefit of the doubt from prosecutors and judges, particularly for nonviolent offenses.

For those facing charges of driving under the influence, even first time charges have serious penalties. However, subsequent offenses can carry even harsher penalties, which can have a long-term impact on your life, your finances and your future. Understanding how Georgia courts penalize DUI offenses is the first step toward reducing the potential consequences you face.

First time offenders face fines, jail and more

While a first offense may seem like a minor issue to you, to the courts it is a serious matter. Many people accused of DUI offenses eventually re-offend, sometimes with disastrous results. Even if you didn't cause a crash or injure anyone, chances are good that a judge will want to penalize you enough to keep you from getting behind the wheel after drinking in the future.

The penalties will depend, in part, on your blood alcohol content. For those accused of a DUI with a BAC of less than 0.08 percent, the penalties include 20 hours of community service. For those with a BAC of over 0.08 percent, those hours increase to 40.

More importantly, there is also a 24-hour minimum jail sentence associated with the charges. A first offense also carries a year of probation, a fine of between $300 and $1,000, between 10 days and a year in jail (although a judge could suspend the jail time), loss of your license for a year and an order to complete a substance abuse class.

Georgia has a 5-year lookback period

A lookback period is how long a previous offense can impact the sentencing and charges related to a new offense. For those accused of a DUI, that period is five years. If you are accused of driving under the influence more than five years after your first plea or conviction, the courts will treat it as a first offense.

Those facing a second charge in five years face steeper penalties, including at least 48 hours in jail, but possibly between 90 days and a year, a fine of between $600 and $1,000, license suspension for three years, 30 days of community service and substance abuse treatment.

A third offense within five years of your second offense carries a minimum of 15 days in jail, a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, suspension of the driver's license for five years and 30 days of community service. Additionally, you will have to pay to publish your name, photo and address in the local paper as a repeat offender, and the courts will seize your license plate.

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