Prior DUI Convictions:
The state of Georgia allows prosecutors to use prior DUI convictions against you in two very powerful ways: sentencing and as similar transaction evidence during your DUI trial.
In Georgia prior DUIs are required to be held against you for sentencing purposes for ten years. DUIs older than ten years can be considered by the sentencing court, but the judge is not required to give you more jail time because of them. The years accounted from date of prior DUI arrest, not convictions, to the date of the DUI arrest you are in court for. The court looks back for a decade and with each subsequent DUI conviction jail time and other penalties become more significant. For example on your third DUI conviction in ten years the court must sentence you to not less than 120 days in jail, obviously this far different from the 24 hours in jail most first lifetime DUIs are sentenced to.
Similar Transaction Evidence:
OCGA § 24–4–417, which specifically provides for the introduction of DUI similar transaction evidence, provides that,
“evidence of the commission of another [DUI] on a different occasion by the same accused shall be admissible when the accused refused in the current case to take the state administered test required by Code Section 40–5–55 and such evidence is relevant to prove knowledge, plan, or absence of mistake or accident.”
Under this law the prosecutors office is allowed to file a similar transaction notice against you. It allows them, when done with proper legal notice and for proper legal purpose, to enter evidence of your prior DUIs into your current case. A common example, prosecutors will admit your prior DUI to show you understood Georgia’s implied consent law at the time of arrest in your current case because of the preexisting knowledge gained from your prior arrest and prosecution. This is most clear when someone in the first case submits to a test of their blood alcohol content but in the subsequent DUI refuses. The prosecutor’s position is that your refusal is due to your understanding of what the test would have shown, specifically that your blood alcohol content is above our state legal limit of 0.08.