Regardless of the situation, it is against the law for any Georgia driver to operate a vehicle if he or she is under the influence of alcohol—a crime often referred to as DUI. Under the state’s mandatory sentencing guidelines, even a first-time offender could lose his or her driver’s license, spend time in jail, and face a number of other harsh penalties if convicted of drunk driving. If you are under 21, you can expect to face even tougher consequences if you are arrested for underage DUI in Georgia.
Georgia is not alone – all states in recent years have passed laws to target and punish those charged with underage drinking and driving. While a state may not have the label Zero Tolerance, they will have some penalties in place to punish anyone caught using drugs or alcohol under 21 and operating a motor vehicle.
Under federal and state law, any person operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more is considered legally impaired and unfit to drive. However, because these laws only apply to drivers who are legally allowed to purchase alcohol, drivers under 21 must abide by a much lower BAC limit of just 0.02%. Unfortunately, this means an underage driver can be arrested for DUI if he or she has even a small amount of alcohol in his or her bloodstream.
Despite the lower BAC limit placed on them, drivers under 21 face the same—if not harsher—penalties for DUI as any other driver. In fact, you could actually be charged with two separate offenses: one for driving under the influence and another for underage DUI.
Assuming it’s your first offense, an underage DUI carries a mandatory license suspension of 30 days or more, as well as a minimum $300 fine. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may also be sentenced to probation or community service, and/or required to complete an alcohol treatment program.
Regardless of the type of sentence you receive, it is important to understand the long-term ramifications of a drunk driving conviction. As a convicted drunk driver, your auto insurance rates are sure to skyrocket, and your DUI will remain on your criminal record long after you’ve completed the terms of your sentence—jeopardizing countless opportunities in the future.
Fortunately, there are many ways to avoid a DUI conviction. From challenging the officer’s reasons for stopping you to proving that the results of your breathalyzer were inaccurate, an experienced DUI defense attorney can review your case to determine the best defense strategy for your situation.
Anyone under 17 who gets a DUI, it’s going to be handled in juvenile court and not in regular criminal court. That is good in one way and it’s bad in another. It is bad because you don’t get the right to jury trial in juvenile court. You are actually dealing with the judge and what’s called a delinquency adjudication. You’re not dealing with a criminal case any longer.
If you lose that case you can lose the right to drive and you may not be eligible for any license until age eighteen, depending on when that case is resolved. Same thing will happen with a seventeen-year-old. He’ll start though in criminal court, not a juvenile, and you could be prevented from getting any type of license until your 18th birthday and maybe even longer depending on the case.
Contacting an Attorney
If you live in Georgia and have been charged with DUI and violated the Zero Tolerance Law, you must contact a lawyer immediately. There are many ways your attorney can defend you. For example, with such a small amount of alcohol in your system, your breath test could have picked up alcohol from a mint or cough syrup.