Jim Yeargan: They’re usually in a pretty bad place. They’re usually depressed, sad, scared. A lot of times, they’re beating themselves up. And many times, people aren’t aware that their blood alcohol concentration was as high as it is or was, so they’re very disappointed because they really didn’t think they were doing something wrong. And then they have all this evidence and alleged proof that something else has happened. So many times, they’re worried about their driver’s license. They think they’re going to lose it for a year and not be able to drive. So they’re worried about getting to and from work, especially if they work in outside sales, or if they’re in any type of pharmaceutical sales; or their job has company insurance, or they drive a company car. They’re worried about getting their kids to school and to other activities. They’re worried about going to the grocery store.
Jim Yeargan: So it really impacts, not just the career, but daily life as well. So all of that comes in on them, and they’re really worried about, basically, how they’re going to do their daily activities and function.
BIM: So talk to me about the blood alcohol level right away. You know, what is that level? And how many drinks, or is there any safe amount of alcohol to be drinking before driving?
Jim Yeargan: In Georgia, the legal limit is .08. And what that means is, if they have a test on you … This is, of course, what the prosecutor’s saying … that at .08 or higher, whether you’re feeling it or not, you’re legally drunk. Of course, you know, some people who drink a lot, they can be a .08, a .10, some could be double, even triple that, and not feel the effects because they drink a lot. Georgia also has what’s called their “less safe” statute, so say your blood alcohol concentration is not a .08, say it’s below that. Say you get pulled over, arrested for a DUI, and you’re a .06. Well, they still charge you with what’s called “less safe.”
Jim Yeargan: So in this case, they’re trying to say that while you weren’t .08 or higher, they feel that the alcohol was affecting your ability to drive, to the point that you’re a less safe driver. So even though you blew under the legal limit, they’re still going to charge you with a DUI, and that’s where the numbers come into play. Now, of course, the .08 or higher, that’s for drivers, age 21 or older; also drivers who are not commercial drivers or CDLs. So for the average person on the street driving a car, .08 or higher is the limit.
BIM: And is that one drink, two drinks?
Jim Yeargan: Again, that varies quite a bit from person to person. You know, bigger guys, they can drink more. Women, you know, sometimes one drink will do it. That’s what we hear a lot, especially in females, is they’ll go out to dinner, and they’ll just have a glass of wine, maybe two. And they’re smaller, and their blood alcohol concentration will be a .10 or a .12. So it really depends on the person, what they’ve had to eat that day, things like that. That’s why it’s really a wildcard.
Jim Yeargan: A lot of people think, incorrectly, but they think that zero tolerance is the law, where if you have any amount of alcohol in your system, you’re not allowed to drive, legally. And that’s not true in Georgia. In Georgia, you can actually drink and drive as long as you’re not .08 or above, or you’re less safe. Sometimes people get will pulled over, and they’ll say, “Oh, I told the officer I had two or three drinks. I shouldn’t have done that.” Well, that’s fine, because again, you can drink and drive. You just can’t be over the limit or “less safe.” You know, I tell people, in this day and age, don’t drink and drive. It’s just not worth it, because when they pull you over, and they smell the alcohol coming off you, whether you’ve had a drink or two, it’s probably all downhill from there.
Jim Yeargan: The other problem with that is prescription medication, because a lot of times, officers will pull people over, and their blood alcohol concentration will be fairly low. It might even be .04, .03. And then the next question is, “Well, which medicines do you take?” And if you tell them, you know, you take antidepressants, or you take any type of pain medicine, or blood pressure medicine, whether you’ve taken it for 10 or 15 years, then they’re going to say, “Well, now you’re DUI, combination alcohol and medication,” saying that the two are working together to affect your driving.
BIM: I certainly know that can be the case. And I remember one time, I was pulled over. And I was using hand-wash that had alcohol in it, and because the officer smelled the alcohol in the hand-wash, he made me go through the whole test. And luckily, I hadn’t been drinking, but you know, you just never know; better safe than sorry, and not drink and drive at all.
Jim Yeargan: Right. In this day and age, you just, you don’t know anymore.
BIM: Let’s talk about the sentence, then. You know, what is the sentence for somebody that has been drinking and driving and is over the limit?
Jim Yeargan: For a first offense in Georgia, we have different look-back periods. So the first look back period, as far as your license is concerned, is a five-year look back. So you want to see if the person has any other DUI convictions in a five-year period. And that five-year period is measured from date of arrest to date of arrest. It’s not when the case actually closes. In some of the jurisdictions in Georgia, it can take two or three years for a case to close, so that’s why they use the arrest date. That’s as far as license sanctions.