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The Effect of Prior DUIs on a Sentence

Question: I got arrested for DUI in Woodstock and I'm really scared that my other DUIs will be a major problem. I have two other DUIs. I got one in Alpharetta and one in Roswell. I got one of them 7 years ago and the other about 9 years ago. I need to get some advice on who those prior DUIs will affect me this time.

I got arrested in Woodstock two weeks ago because I fell asleep in my car at a McDonald's drive-thru. I was waiting for my food and I fell asleep and a cop was in the parking lot. He banged on my window to wake me up. I admitted to drinking but said that I only had a few beers. I took a blood test and I'm waiting for those results.

But I want to understand what I'm looking at because of the other DUIs. I went through a bad time at work and in my marriage so I used to drink a lot. I definitely won't get any more DUIs.

Please help me to understand what those other DUIs will mean. I need to stay out of jail.

N.K. in Canton, GA

Answer: For each DUI conviction, penalties increase. Under Georgia law, things like jail time and fines increase for each additional DUI. However, at trial, prior DUI convictions are not necessarily admissible. So a jury may not ever know that you have had other DUIs.

Some issues that a DUI attorney will examine to try to prevent the introduction of prior DUIs include:

  • Whether the client had counsel;
  • If the conviction was the result of a plea;
  • Whether the conviction is remote in time;
  • Whether the conviction was the result of an underage or juvenile DUI.

It is possible that the state may not be able to use prior DUIs pursuant to statutory prohibition or relevant case law. However, for sentencing purposes, a judge will base your sentence upon your prior DUIs.

With non-DUI convictions, your lawyer needs to make sure that they are not mentioned to the jury and that they are minimized as much as possible for sentencing or plea purposes.

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