2020 Ignition Interlock on First DUI in Georgia

Currently, a bill is working its way through the Georgia legislature that would make ignition interlock devices mandatory on a first DUI in Georgia. Senate Bill 485, like most legislative proposals, is voluminous, but the takeaway is that anyone convicted- by either guilty plea or guilty verdict at trial- would be required to get an ignition interlock device for a minimum of 6-months before being eligible to reinstate their Georgia driver's license. This is a change from current Georgia law that only mandates ignition interlock for second (in past 5-year) DUI offenders. So, here are the basics about ignition interlock and how this law could impact your case:

CURRENT INTERLOCK LAW:

1. Currently, ignition interlock devices come into play in two different scenarios in Georgia DUI cases. First, if you are facing a first driver's license suspension for a DUI arrest, you can opt to have an interlock installed on your car instead of facing the mandatory administrative license suspension. This usually plays out when an officer accuses a driver of "refusing" to take a state-test and submits the driver's license to the Dept. of Driver Services as a refusal suspension. If your license was taken at the time of arrest and/or you received a 1205 suspension form, then you have a pending administrative license suspension looming. If you agree to go and have an ignition interlock installed instead of facing this hearing, then you must have it put on within 30 days of arrest (and have the permit in-hand) and keep it installed for 12-months. This obligates you to keep the device 12-months with no exceptions, even if your case is later reduced, dismissed, or you are victorious at trial.

The second way an ignition interlock comes into play in Georgia under current law is if you have 2 more more DUIs within a 5-year period. So, for example, if you plead guilty to a DUI in January 2018 and again in January 2020, the Georgia DDS will require that you have an interlock installed on any vehicles you drive after your plea or trial and you wait the required 4-month suspension. It is important to note that during this suspension period, no limited driving permit is available; you are essentially sidelined for 4 months and then eligible for a limited driving permit with an interlock system on your vehicle for 12 months.

PROPOSED INTERLOCK LAW:

2. Under the new proposed law that could be in effect July 1, 2020, anyone convicted of a first DUI would be required to have an ignition interlock installed for 6 months before reinstating their license. This is a change from current law that only requires a 120-day license suspension (with a limited permit available) without any interlock device. It appears that your interlock device would need to be installed on your car before DDS would allow you the permit. Additionally, you would have to complete DUI School (risk reduction program) and pay the $200-$210 reinstatement fee before reinstating your full driver’s license.

On a second DUI (within the past 5 years), anyone convicted would still have to wait the required 120 days without any driving privileges before applying for an interlock permit. Interestingly, the new law does not appear to place restrictions on the allowed uses for the permit. After 12 months of successful interlock monitoring, second DUI offenders would be able to reapply for their driver’s license.

The new law also appears to allow Judges and DDS the ability to issue reduced fee vouchers for potential interlock drivers facing an undue financial hardship. Courts would still retain the ability to exempt drivers from the interlock requirement as well, if an undue financial hardship is found. (In reality, what Judge would exempt someone where they could discount the device instead?)

We will keep this page updated as new information comes out about Georgia’s 2020 interlock proposal. You can see the full text of the proposed law here.

At Zeliff | Watson, we have over 30 years of combined experience navigating clients through Georgia’s DUI laws. Give us a call today to discuss your specific situation, or reach out via our contact form within this site.

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