Georgia’s zero tolerance laws make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess or consume any amount of alcohol. If you are arrested for drinking and driving as a minor, you can be charged for underage DUI as well as minor in possession, or MIP.

The penalties for underage alcohol use depend primarily upon whether you are charged with a DUI or a non-DUI offense. If the act is treated as a non-DUI offense such as possession of alcohol, you have a much better chance of keeping your driver’s license than if you are charged with a DUI offense. As long as you were not driving at the time of your arrest, an underage alcohol possession charge will not cause a license suspension.

Penalties

A “Minor in Possession” charge, or an MIP, is a misdemeanor criminal offense. Anyone under the age of 21 that possesses alcohol in the United States, with the exception of special circumstances, is violating state law. If a police officer has enough evidence that a person under 21 has been drinking or is in possession of alcohol, an MIP arrest can occur. Some states refer to a minor in possession as a PAULA, or Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age.

As such, if you are charged with the purchase of alcohol or attempting to purchase alcohol, you will face a number of consequences if the court finds you guilty of the offense. You will face even harsher penalties if you were charged while operating a motor vehicle or while attempting to use a fake ID.

If convicted of minor in possession charges, the penalties you face will vary depending on any prior charges.

  • For a first offense, you may have to serve up to six months in jail and pay a fine of $300 or less. It is likely that you will also lose your license for six months.
  • For a second or subsequent offense, you are subject to a jail term of up to one year, a fine of $1,000 or less and you may lose your license for one year.

Long-Term Impacts

Depending on the nature of your offense, an underage DUI conviction may carry up to a one-year license suspension, along with a hefty fine. In some cases, your sentence may also include probation, community service, and substance abuse treatment. If you are a repeat offender, you could even face jail time and felony charges.

Whether you are a first-time offender or have a history of driving under the influence, a DUI conviction will impact you long after you’ve completed your sentence. From increasing your auto insurance premiums to limiting your eligibility for certain jobs, it takes only one drunk driving conviction to cause long-term harm to your future. In light of these consequences, many drivers choose to challenge the charges against them in court in an attempt to avoid a criminal DUI conviction.

Help From an Attorney

Although the best way to avoid being charged for underage DUI is to simply avoid purchasing or using alcohol if you are not 21, mistakes happen. If you are facing criminal charges in Georgia, it is always best to have legal representation when you have your day in court.

The way Georgia law works is that if the person is past age twenty-one before their case goes to trial, they’re treated the same way as an adult even if they were under age when arrested. This is one of the quirks in Georgia law that only specialists generally know. However, an attorney can use that to your advantage if you want to go to trial and fight your case in court.

Given all the penalties you may face if you are convicted of underage alcohol possession, it’s easy to understand why so many drivers seek legal counsel. From challenging the legality of your arrest to negotiating a reduced sentence, a skilled attorney will review the facts in your case and identify the ideal defense strategy.