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2017 Law Update - SB 176 - DUI and Traffic Law Issues

Georgia Senate Bill 176 addresses a number of issues relating to Title 40, the Motor Vehicle Title.  

Failures to Appear

For most traffic offenses, Georgia uses a Failure to Appear (FTA) system to deal with persons who do not either appear in court or pay their traffic fines.  An FTA will cause a suspension of the person's Georgia license or privilege to drive in Georgia, and, in the case of an out-of state license holder, will be communicated to a driver's home state.  Having one's license suspended has a way of getting drivers' attentions.

However, there has been some concern that the process can run too quickly.

With that in mind, OCGA § 17-6-11 and § 17-7-90 are amended to provide that an FTA or a bench warrant cannot be issued until a second court appearance has been missed, and that written notice of the second appearance must be sent and the appearance must be at least 30 days after the initial date.

This change only effects minor traffic violations.  Serious traffic offenses and offenses which could cause a suspension of the driver's license are not effected by this change and the court remains free to issue a bench warrant and/or a failure to appear notice on the first court appearance being missed.  There are also exceptions for certain commercial motor vehicle (CMV) violations, so Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders must be especially careful always.

Habitual Violator (HV) Change

OCGA § 40-5-58 is amended to remove prior alcohol and drug offenses as disqualifying history for issuance of HV probationary licenses.

DUI Drugs/Marijuana Issues

The bill makes changes to OCGA § 40-5-75 to make clear that a third in five years DUI Drugs or Marijuana case will trigger a habitual violator (HV) revocation.  

The provision that made three controlled substances convictions in five years trigger a license revocation was removed.

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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