This letter is in response to your request for advice as to whether the exemption of O.C.G.A. § 40-5-27(a)(3)(A) includes applicants with valid and current licenses from territories of the United States.  Based upon its inclusion in Title 40, pertaining specifically to “Motor Vehicles and Traffic,” and the specific statutory definition of “state” found in O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(61) of that Title, the answer to this question is yes.


Official Code of Georgia Annotated 40-5-27 sets forth the Department of Driver Services’ examination requirements for persons applying for a driver’s license.  Under that statute, an applicant for a driver’s license is exempted from the “on-the-road driving test” and “the knowledge test” if the applicant is “18 years of age and older with a valid and current license . . . issued by another state of the United States or the District of Columbia.”  O.C.G.A. § 40-5-27 (emphasis supplied).  Your question is whether this exemption is also applicable to an otherwise qualified applicant whose valid, current license is from one of the United States territories.


This exemption provision is part of Title 40 of the Code, specifically directed to “Motor Vehicles and Traffic.”  The title has a specific definitional section, codified at O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1.  As used in Title 40, “state” is defined to mean:


a state, territory, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a province of Canada.


O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(61)(emphasis supplied).  By the specific terms of O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1, paragraph 61 is the manner in which the term “state” is to be used in the context of Title 40 of the Code, albeit that it may not be the manner by which the term is otherwise defined outside that context.  See Braley v. City of Forest Park, 286 Ga. 760, 765 (2010)(“[B]y its express terms, O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(57) is not intended to be a definition of general application, but defines the term ‘sidewalk’ in the context of Title 40 of the Code . . ..”) 


Notably, the exemption also makes reference to the “District of Columbia” in conjunction with “another state of the United States” despite the fact that the District of Columbia is also included with the definition of “state” found in O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(61).  However, that repetition, by itself, is not enough to suggest that the definition of “state” as found otherwise in the statute is not applicable in this one section.  “The common and customary usages of the words are important, but so is their context.”  Chan v. Ellis, 296 Ga. 838, 839 (2013).  “A statute must be construed in relation to the other statutes of which it is a part, and all statutes relating to the same subject-matter, briefly called statutes in pari materia, are construed together, and harmonized wherever possible, so as to ascertain the legislative intendment and give effect thereto.”  Tew v. State, 320 Ga. App. 127, 130 (2013).  See also Thornton v. Clarke County School Dist., 270 Ga. 633, 634 (1999)(“The construction of statues must square with common sense and sound reasoning.”)  Considering those principles, viewing the statute as a whole, and considering the express language of O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(61) which provides a clear definition of the term “[a]s used in . . . [T]itle {40],” the term “state” found in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-27(a)(3)(A) includes territories of the United States.


Therefore, it is my official opinion that the term “state” as used specifically in O.C.G.A. § 40-5-27(a)(3)(A) includes territories of the United States such that persons from the territories who are applying for a driver’s license and who otherwise satisfy the conditions of the statute may be exempted from the on-the-road driving test and the knowledge test.



Prepared by:

Susan L. Rutherford

Senior Assistant Attorney General