Proposed law would give judges more discretion with DUIs

Under Georgia law, people who are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or who plead guilty to it have their driver's licenses suspended. So do those who are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.

However, judges have the power to allow people with DUIs involving alcohol to have a "limited permit." With these limited permits, people are allowed to drive under specific circumstances that are determined to be necessary -- like to get to work or school.

Georgia lawmakers are seeking to give judges the ability to grant these limited permits to those convicted of (or who plead guilty to) a DUI charge involving drugs as well. In late February, the legislation (House Bill 799) passed unanimously in the Georgia House of Representatives.

The lawmaker behind HB 799 says he was inspired by a story reported last year by a Macon news team and the subsequent advocacy of the woman at the center of the story. She was arrested after she blacked out behind the wheel and drove the wrong way on Highway 96. The blackout, she says, was caused by an Ambien sleeping pill she took the night before as directed by her doctor.

The lawmaker, State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, says, "If we're going to entrust the judge to allow some exceptions, I think it ought to be the same with an alcohol conviction (and) with a prescription drug conviction…."

The legislation is now being considered by the Georgia Senate. If it passes, it will go to Gov. Kemp for his signature.

If you're facing charges, it's essential to understand what the law says as well as what discretion a judge has in your case. That's why it's wise to have an experienced attorney at your side.

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