Most driving under the influence (DUI) charges are victimless crimes. Through targeted traffic enforcement or a sobriety checkpoint, officers locate someone they believe has had too much to drink. The driver never hurt anyone else or even caused property damage, yet they find themselves facing criminal charges.
A DUI charge will usually be a misdemeanor, especially if this is your first-ever arrest for drunk driving. If you have never had legal issues before and think that going to court would be a hardship because of your job, you might plead guilty and just try to move on with your life.
However, a guilty plea will mean major consequences for you that could last for years.
The criminal consequences
Although you may think of your DUI as a victimless crime, a judge who has overseen cases involving drunk drivers before may have a different view. There is no guarantee that pleading guilty will results in lenient sentencing, in most cases.
A judge could sentence you to the maximum allowed under state law even if there are no aggravating factors in your case. Even a first DUI charge in Georgia can carry serious penalties. A judge could sentence you to up to a year in jail, in addition to a fine of between $300 and $1,000. You will usually also have to serve at least 40 hours of community service.
The driving consequences
Georgia law calls for the automatic suspension of someone’s license after a DUI conviction. How long it lasts depends on your record and on the discretion of the judge. You will lose your driver’s license for up to one year. There is a $210 license reinstatement fee you will have to pay, along with a likely drastic increase in your insurance costs.
The career consequences
Missing work because you have to perform community service or you can’t drive yourself to the office could affect your employment. Even if you don’t lose your job due to a zero-tolerance policy for criminal convictions, you might notice that your upward career trajectory slows down after your guilty plea.
You will have a criminal record that will limit what new jobs you can obtain in the future. Even your current employer might use your guilty plea against you if you ever seriously compete for a promotion, as background checks are often part of that process.
Given the potentially long-lasting consequences of a DUI conviction, defending yourself against drunk driving charges may be the better choice.