Driver’s License Offenses in Georgia
Georgia has some of the strictest driving laws in the country and driver’s license offenses are no exception.
If you drive on a suspended license in Georgia, you are committing a criminal offense that can carry serious long-term consequences, such as mandatory sentences and a lifelong criminal conviction.
If you hope to prevent this, it’s imperative to seek experienced legal assistance.
Start by arranging a free consultation with the Law Office of Adam D. Brown for a free case evaluation and a clear understanding of the legal steps that can be taken to limit the consequences.
What are the main driver’s license offenses in Georgia?
The four major driver’s license offenses in Georgia are driving without a license, driving with no license on person, driving on a suspended or revoked license, and the violation of driving with a limited driving permit.
Driving without a license on person
According to Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 40-5-29, your license is “to be carried and exhibited on demand” to a law enforcement officer.
This means that it must be kept in your possession while driving.
If you are stopped and fail to produce a valid license, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor offense and fined $10 even if you later produce a license that was valid at the time of your arrest.
Driving without a license
In the first scenario above, a licensed driver was stopped while they didn’t carry their license on their person. What happens if you drive a car without being licensed in the first place? This frequently happens if you are unable to become licensed due to age, medical, immigration reasons.
If you are charged with driving without a license (note, this is different than “driving without a license on person), then the penalty is a mandatory 2-days in jail and a minimum of $500 fine for the first offense. If you are an undocumented immigrant and are arrested in certain Georgia counties, this arrest may well result in your removal (deportation) from the United States.
Driving while license suspended or revoked
Driving while your license is suspended or revoked is generally a more serious crime and is detailed in Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 40-5-121.
Driving privileges can be suspended by the state of Georgia for a variety of reasons, detailed below. Unfortunately, most people still need daily transportation and don’t have the resources or know-how to obtain alternative transportation, so they chose to drive on a suspended or revoked license..
For some, it is unintentional. They are unaware that their driver’s license has been suspended, canceled, or revoked and is no longer valid.
The license is usually revoked or taken away for a certain period of time. After this period expires, if you have not taken active steps to reinstate your license, you still do not have a valid license and cannot drive in the state.
Reinstatement is not automatic and some people are unaware of, or forget, this.
Why might a person drive without a valid license?
There are three main reasons why drivers in Georgia are stopped and found to be driving without a valid license:
- The driver has a valid license but is not carrying it and is unable to show it to a police officer
- The license was suspended, canceled or revoked by the state of Georgia
- The driver never applied for a driver’s license or it expired
The act of driving without a valid license can be intentional or unintentional. If the driver never applied for a license or is aware that it has expired or been suspended, canceled or revoked and choose to drive regardless, this is clearly intentional.
However, just because you forgot to renew your license or were unaware that it was not automatically reinstated after a suspension won’t save you from being charged.
In Georgia, everyone must have a valid license to drive. No driver is exempt.
This means that if you violate the law, you can expect harsh consequences for which you will need legal assistance to navigate.
How are driver’s license offenses treated by the justice system in Georgia?
If you drive without a license on your person and are stopped, arrested, charged, and convicted, it will be treated as a misdemeanor offense.
Anyone stopped in Georgia and found to be driving on a suspended license is likely to be charged and face misdemeanor penalties (details following).
For second and third offenses, the penalties are more severe, as they are classed as high and aggravated misdemeanors if they occur within five years of the first offense.
Fourth or subsequent offenses are classified as felonies and will result in much more severe penalties.
What are the main reasons for license suspension?
A suspended license can be the result of a civil penalty or criminal conviction but it amounts to the same thing: your driving privileges are taken away for a specified period of time.
Sometimes, a serious violation of law leads to a license suspension as a mandatory requirement alongside other severe penalties. This may apply to the following offenses:
- Fleeing from a police officer
- Committing vehicular homicide
- Committing a felony using a vehicle
- Involvement in a hit and run accident
- Street racing
- Driving with an invalid registration
- Forgery of a license or ID
- A conviction for a felony drug charge
- Refusing to submit to a DUI blood, breath, or urine test
- Failing to appear in court
A wide range of other offenses can also result in a license suspension, such as:
- Failing to pay child support
- Driving without insurance
- Failing to respond to traffic violations
- Accumulating 15 points within a 24-month period
- Using a license fraudulently
- Committing an offense worth four points while under the age of 21
- Accumulating four points on your license within 12 months while under the age of 18
- Underage possession of alcohol while driving
What is a DUI testing refusal suspension?
If you are arrested and you refuse to submit to an official state-administered breath, blood or urine test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer, you will be issued with an Administrative License Suspension (ALS) DDS form 1205.
This suspension is separate from the DUI criminal charge and it may result in a one-year “hard suspension.” That means your driver’s license is suspended with no possibility of a limited permit. You are left with no way to legally drive even if you depend on your vehicle for employment, education, or other essential activities.
If you receive a DDS Form 1205 after a DUI arrest, you have a 30-day window to request an ALS hearing in writing or your license will be automatically suspended on the 46th day after your arrest (yes, the number of days is confusing for a reason). It’s essential to seek prompt legal assistance if you find yourself in this position.
What are the penalties for driver’s license offenses in Georgia?
Driving without a license, and Driving on a suspended or revoked license carries severe penalties. A first offense carries the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum fine of $500 plus surcharges, up to a maximum of a $1,000 fine plus surcharges
- Mandatory 2 days in jail, followed by a possible 12 months of probation
- A 6-month additional license suspension (if you don’t have a license to begin with, then you will not be eligible to apply for a license for six months, either)
- Mandatory fingerprinting forwarded to the Georgia Crime Information Center
- $210 reinstatement fee payable at the end of the additional suspension period
A second or third offense occurring within five years of the first offense could result in the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 plus surcharges, up to a maximum of a $2,500 fine plus surcharges
- Mandatory 10 days in jail, followed by a possible 12 months of probation
- An additional six-month license suspension
- A $310 (2nd offense) to $410 (3rd or subsequent offense) reinstatement fee for the license
A fourth or subsequent offense within five years is a felony, and incurs the following penalties:
- Imprisonment for one to five years.
- A fine of $2,500 – $5,000
- Felony conviction for life
Is there any way to drive legally on a suspended license?
If you are facing a license suspension in the Gwinnett County area, we will pursue all possible avenues to reduce the impact on your day-to-day life, including your employment, education, and family.
Depending on the charge, the circumstances of your license suspension, and your personal circumstances, we may be able to apply for a limited driving permit with the Georgia DDS even if your license has already been suspended.
This allows you to perform essential duties such as driving to work, school or college, and to receive medical care but not to drive outside of these strict limits.
In some instances there are solid grounds to appeal your license suspension, like with a DUI administrative license suspension, we can appeal your license suspension and request a hearing in front of the Office of State Administrative Hearings.
Should it be established that your license was not legally or rightfully suspended, there is the possibility that it can be reinstated.
What is the driver’s license points schedule in Georgia?
The Georgia Point System applies points to the license for each driving conviction, ranging from two to six points.
This can lead to a license suspension if:
- You are over 21 and accumulate 15 points within a 24-month period
- You are under 21 and commit any violation worth four points
- You are under the age of 18 and accumulate four points on your license within 12 months
Speeding does not add points to your license unless you are driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit.
For out-of-state drivers, note that any offense is reported to the driver’s home state and the offense will be assessed there rather than applied by the Georgia Point System.
Can you apply for a driver’s license points reduction?
You may be able to submit a request to reduce the number of points against your license but only up to a maximum of seven points can be reduced once every five years.
In order to qualify for this, you need to provide evidence to the Georgia DDS that you have completed a certified defensive driving or driver improvement course.
An experienced traffic defense lawyer can also request a “zero points order” from the judge in order to avoid points accumulation for certain offenses.
Contact an experienced driver’s license lawyer in Gwinnett County
If you have been charged with a driver’s license offense in Georgia, your freedom to drive might not be the only thing at stake.
It’s important to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer who is familiar with defending such cases in the Gwinnett County area.
Start with a free consultation with Adam Brown to consider your legal options.