WHAT IS A 10 DAY LETTER?
In the state of Georgia, a countdown begins on the day of your DUI arrest. From that date, you have just 10 business days to have your lawyer file an appeal to request your Administrative Leave Suspension hearing (or ALS hearing). This hearing gives you the opportunity to halt the suspension of your driver’s license. You must pay a $150 filing fee to request the hearing, and if the request is not filed, your license will be suspended 30 days later. If you are accused of refusal to submit to testing, this suspension can last up to a year, and you will not be eligible for even a limited or restricted license, leaving you completely unable to drive (even for school or work) for twelve months. There is no wiggle room in the case of refusal, so it is important to bring in legal counsel as soon as possible.
THE LEGAL LIMIT
For drivers over 21, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Georgia is .08. However, the legal limit for drivers under 21 is .02. This is intended to provide some leeway for mouthwash, gum or other things that contain trace amounts of alcohol and may show up on a breath test. A BAC of .02 is not generally considered likely to significantly impair driving skill, so you may feel (and, indeed, be) completely sober but still be in violation of Georgia state law.
REFUSAL OF BREATH AND BLOOD TESTING
One of the most stressful and difficult parts of a DUI charge is deciding whether or not to take the breathalyzer test administered by the arresting officer. This test is often the most powerful evidence against you if you are found to be over the legal limit, and it may be difficult for a prosecutor to make a case against you without that information. However, an ALS hearing allows the state of Georgia to suspend your license based on the refusal to submit to a breath test. Without appropriate counsel, many people feel that they have no choice but to plead guilty when faced with these choices.
PENALTIES AND CONSEQUENCES
As mentioned above, a DUI (even if you were not actually drunk) can lead to the suspension of your license, but you may face even steeper consequences. Georgia law sets very stringent penalties against underage drivers charged with a DUI; you could face fines, community service, rehabilitation classes, or even jail time. You could be charged with a major crime like Felony Vehicular Homicide or Felony Serious Injury By Vehicle, even if you were not impaired. Even if you do not end up a convicted felon, a permanent criminal record will follow you your whole life. You may find that your DUI makes it more difficult to be accepted to graduate or professional schools, and given the choice between equally talented job candidates, many employers will prefer the candidate without a criminal record. Once the conviction is on your record, it is too late. If you do not fight now, your whole life could be affected by this arrest.
STEPS TO TAKE
If you are under 21 and have been arrested for a DUI, do not hesitate to seek the counsel of an experienced DUI lawyer. Georgia state law is very strict regarding DUI laws, especially for those under 21, and can be confusing. It may seem as though there is no option but to plead guilty, but there is always an alternative to consider. The sooner your DUI lawyer is able to start preparing your defense, the better. Do not forget that you have only 10 days from the date of the arrest to file an appeal of the suspension of your driver’s license. The time to fight your DUI charge is now.