By Monica Ruechel
If you are a first-time DUI offender in the state of Georgia, I have some good news and some bad news for you.
Good news: A newly proposed law says that you don’t have to get your driver’s license suspended if you get a DUI!
Bad news: To avoid getting your license suspended, you’ll need to use an ignition interlock device on your car.
What is an ignition interlock device? An ignition interlock device is a device that is installed in a car that requires you to blow into a Breathalyzer before it will start. If you blow below whatever the legal limit, the car will start. You’ll have to blow randomly throughout the drive to ensure that you don't drive while intoxicated. If you at any point blow over the legal limit, the device will log that entry and an alarm will sound until you turn the car off and provide a clean sample. If you blow over the legal limit, the car will not start and will stay off for a set period of time. It’s very handy!
Building off of House Bill 205, this new allows you to receive an “Ignition Interlock Device Limited Permit." This means that you can still drive to specified places! Of course, it isn’t as easy as it seems. To get that Ignition Interlock Device Limited Permit:
Application for the permit must be made with DDS within 30 days of the person being served notice of the ALS by the arresting officer through the DS-1205 form, or—in the event of a DS-1205S form—within 30 days of receiving such notice of the ALS from DDS; The ALS cannot stem from a motor vehicle accident involving fatalities or serious injuries; The person must be licensed in Georgia and not have any other suspensions, cancellations, or revocations against his or her Georgia driver’s license; If the person holds a Georgia commercial driver’s license (CDL), he or she must downgrade to a non-commercial Georgia driver’s license in order to obtain and maintain the permit; The person cannot have any prior convictions for DUI in the 5-year period preceding application for the permit; The person must surrender his or her Georgia driver’s license, either to the arresting officer at time of arrest or to DDS prior to issuance of the permit; and, The person must pay a $25.00 permit fee (http://www.covnews.com/section/163/article/203834/)
The length of time that you must keep the device in your car ranges from 4-12 months. This is determined by whether you consent to the chemical test requested by the officer upon your arrest. If you consented to the chemical test, you must keep the device for 4 months. It can be removed early and if you are acquitted of the charge or the charge is dismissed. If you didn’t consent to chemical tests, you must have the device installed for 12 months. The device cannot be removed early if you are acquitted or the charge is dismissed.
That sounds like a pretty good deal! What could possibly be the downside to this? How is this “bad news”?
As I said, the good news is that you won’t lose your license. The reason this ignition interlock device isn’t entirely good news is that while it seems like an easy way out, it isn’t. It doesn’t absolve you of the fees or conditions associated with the licensure part of your DUI charge.
Think about it: you must be entirely compliant with the restrictions or else the device will be removed and you’ll lose your driving privileges. If you blow a 0.01 because you rinsed your mouth with mouthwash after breakfast, you probably won’t be arriving at work on time that morning. Your probation officer will think you're drinking! Being seen as “non-compliant” does you NO favors in the justice system.
Then, there’s the $25 fee for the Ignition Interlock Limited Permit. After you get that permit, you have to pay $100 to get the device installed in your car. The fees don’t stop there. You have to pay somewhere between $60-$80 per month in device rental, monitoring, and device calibration fees. That’s between $240-$960 in extra fees depending on the period of time you have the device installed. THEN, it’ll cost you between $90-$100 to get the device REMOVED from your car. On top of that, there may be a reinstatement fee for your driver's license. You’ll be spending between $455-$1,193 total throughout the process of having an Ignition Interlock Limited Permit.
Obviously, there’s a massive downside to not losing your driver’s license after your first DUI, hence the “bad news” comment. BUT there’s more good news!
Good news: The ignition interlock device will make your post-DUI life SIGNIFICANTLY easier.
Think about it—your life isn’t going to drastically change like it does when you lose your driver’s license. You can get yourself from point A to point B. You don't have to rely on alternative methods of transportation. You don’t have to wait a year to get your license back. You don’t have to pay $250 to reinstate your license after that time is up. You don’t have to spend a fortune on transportation when friends and family can’t give you a ride. Even though bus fares are low and Uber is easy, all those fees add up! You’ll end up paying significantly more money if you decide to have your license suspended than you would if you opted for the Ignition Interlock Limited Permit.
This new law is good news for everyone. Now, you don’t have to put your entire life on hold if you get your first DUI. It gives you the opportunity to go about your day as you always did—it’s a second chance in a way. Of course, this law changes nothing about the punishment for your second or third DUI, but if you just get one DUI, you can get through it without making drastic changes to your routine or making your wallet cry tears of pain. Even with this new change, I would recommend that you avoid getting your first DUI altogether so that you don’t have to worry about losing your license or having an ignition interlock device on your car.