Jones v. State: Use of Prior DUI Convictions to Show Intent or Knowledge of the Defendant in a New DUI Case Held Inadmissible

The Georgia Court of Appeals restricts the State from using a person's past DUI convictions to argue for a conviction on a new DUI case.

It's hard to believe, but Georgia has a long history of allowing the State to use a person's past DUI convictions, or even just an arrest, to prove that the person is guilty of a new DUI arrest. Common sense would lead one to believe that the State should have to prove the elements of the DUI with which they've charged a defendant based on evidence gathered against that defendant during that DUI investigation.


Prior to Jones v. State, if a person had a prior DUI conviction, the State could move the Court to allow them to bring up the person's prior DUI conviction or arrest, even if the prior DUI occurred long ago. This invariably would lead a jury hearing a case to develop a prejudice or bias against the Defendant. After all, "if he committed a DUI before, he is more likely to have committed this DUI."


Jones v. State represents the first case handed down by the Georgia Court of Appeals applying the new Georgia evidence code, which was recently adopted by the Georgia Legislature and aligns more with the rules of evidence used in Federal courts. In the appeal the State argued, as it had successfully in the past, that admission of the prior DUI was necessary to prove, among other things, the defendant's intent in committing the alleged crime of DUI and the defendant's prior knowledge of what charges could result from an ingestion of intoxicating beverages coupled with driving.

The Georgia Court of Appeals, in a well-reasoned opinion, applied the new Georgia evidence code and found that the crime of DUI does not even require a proof of specific intent on the part of the Defendant to commit the crime of DUI; therefore, there was no basis for using a prior criminal charge, or conviction, for DUI to show he had intent.

Using the same line of reasoning the Court also found there was no need to use the prior DUI charge or conviction to prove knowledge on the part of the Defendant.

Recently, the Prosecuting Attorney's Council of Georgia (PAC) published an article in which they cautioned prosecutors from using prior "bad act evidence" [prior DUI convictions] in their DUI cases.

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