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DUI-Drugs License Disparity May Be Fixed

There are a whole bunch of things about Georgia law, and Georgia DUI law in particular, that are horribly inconsistent.  State Rep. Blackmon (R-146) is trying to fix one of them.  He seems to be doing real well at it.  His bill unanimously passed the Georgia House and was moved over to the Georgia Senate.  Although the session is currently suspended due to the coronavirus, there is hope that when the session resumes that his bill may pass there as well.  It would then eliminate the license disparity for DUI.

The Basics

DUI-drugs refers to a number of different ways that one can commit the offense of driving under the influence.  In this context, drugs refers to prescription medications (including those prescribed to the person, illegal drugs, and marijuana (which is still illegal for reasons few understand).  

If you are less safe to drive on account of any of those substances or a combination of one or more of those substances and alcohol, then you can be charged with and possibly convicted of DUI-Drugs.

If you submit to a blood test and it shows the presence of an illegal drug other than marijuana, then you can be charged with DUI per se.  In that situation, the State does not have to show any bad driving, just that they had a reason to stop you, to arrest you, and to request a state test.  For marijuana, the State always has to show that you were less safe.  

The Current Disparity

If you are convicted of a first DUI within five years (as measured by offense dates) and are a Georgia licensed driver over the age of 21 years, then you will be eligible for a limited driving permit immediately after the conviction.  That is true unless your conviction is for one of the DUI-drugs offenses.

If you are convicted of a DUI-drugs offense, then you will have a 180 day hard suspension during which you will not be eligible for a permit unless you are in an accountability program.

Stop for a minute on that point.  Consider the person who goes to their doctor and is given a prescription.  They begin taking the prescription but have some type of reaction to it.  Next thing you know, they are being pulled over and arrested for DUI-drugs.  Say the prosecutor does not care about the equities of the case and manages to convict the person of the offense.  That person has a hard suspension, but the guy or girl who blew more than .20 on the breath test and plowed into a police car, that person gets a limited permit.

HB 799 Aims to Fix This Issue

HB 799, if it passes both houses and is not vetoed by the Governor would fix that.  Honestly it would be about time.  Really, there are some other fixes that I would add to Rep. Blackmon's bill.  But I am glad to see this step.  Once the Georgia legislature goes back into session, please contact your state senator and encourage that person to vote yes on the bill.


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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