A recent car accident involving an apparently inebriated driver shows how driving under the influence (DUI) situations can quickly lead to other criminal charges. Whether these charges carry consecutive or concurrent sentences can make a huge difference in your criminal defense strategy.
Speeding driver in North Fulton crashes, arrested for DUI
Police say that a driver just north of Atlanta was going over 130 miles per hour on Georgia 400. When police followed in pursuit, the driver allegedly accelerated even more. When he tried turning off the road onto McFarland Parkway, though, he lost control.
The Volvo he was driving went airborne, hit the concrete median, and flipped over the guardrail.
The driver, however, walked away from the wreck.
When police arrived at the scene of the crash, they decided the driver was under the influence. He was arrested and is now facing numerous charges, including:
- Driving under the influence,
- Eluding the police,
- Reckless driving, and
- Driving with an open container of alcohol.
DUI arrests can quickly lead to other charges
The incident is something that DUI-defense and criminal defense lawyers see all the time: Traffic stops for one offense can quickly snowball into several other charges.
Police who suspect drunk driving and pull a car to the side of the road will search for evidence of other crimes, too. They will often ask the driver of the car for permission to search the vehicle. If they get consent to search it, police can root around for evidence of other offenses, like:
- Drug possession or trafficking,
- Firearms offenses, or
- Probation violations.
Some of these offenses carry considerable jail time if they end with a conviction.
Consecutive versus concurrent sentences
Whenever multiple charges are being filed that carry jail time, a crucial question to ask is whether the sentences have to be served consecutively.
Consecutive jail sentences are harsher, but also more intuitive. If you are convicted for more than one criminal offense carrying jail time, you serve them one after the other.
For example, someone convicted to serve six months in jail for DUI, and six months in jail for drug possession would serve one year behind bars.
Concurrent jail sentences are lighter. They are often a goal of a defense lawyer during the sentencing phase of a criminal case. Jail sentences that are served concurrently go alongside each other. They begin at the same time, rather than one beginning when the other ends.
In the example above, the six months for DUI and the six months for drug possession would both begin at the time of the conviction. Rather than serving a year behind bars, a defendant would only be facing six months.
Judges have lots of discretion in which kind of sentence to hand down
In Georgia, jail sentences are to be concurrent, unless the criminal statute says otherwise.
However, judges still have a lot of discretion in whether to issue concurrent or consecutive sentences. The decision is made during the sentencing portion of a criminal trial, which comes after a conviction. Having a criminal defense lawyer at this stage is crucially important if consecutive sentences are a possibility.