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Underage DUI Charges

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.

BAC Limits

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.

Court Process

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.

Georgia liquor laws for possession, consumption and by having an open container in a motor vehicle, carry penalties that can include loss of driving privileges or demerit points being added to your driving record at Georgia DDS. The legal drinking age in Georgia is 21 years of age, as it is in all other states.

Georgia drinking 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 Georgia DUI law has separate guidelines on driving after consuming any alcoholic beverage. The Georgia alcohol limit for any motor vehicle driver is 0.02 grams percent. This seems to be contrary to the legal drinking age in GA, which allows no alcohol at all. about what is the legal alcohol limit GA, but it is still a Georgia zero-tolerance policy.

The Intoxilyzer 9000 test device can have a 0.020 sampling error issue, so our Legislators used a 0.02 grams percent “cushion” for breath alcohol testing. So, this is the permissible blood alcohol level in Georgia, for drivers under the age of 21.

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 under 21, you have a much better chance of keeping your driver’s license than if you are charged with a DUI offense. If you were not driving at the time of your arrest, an underage alcohol possession charge will not cause a license suspension.

What’s an MIP?

What does MIP mean? In Georgia, under OCGA 3-3-23(a), a minor in possession of alcohol (MIP) can entail all crimes for underage drinking, such as possessing an open container, drinking any amount, thereby creating possession by consumption, or having a container of any type with a broken seal or with part of the contents partially consumed in the passenger area of a motor vehicle.

Some people are cited for a MIP charge plus driving under the influence. A DUI defense lawyer can sometimes find a favorable resolution of that driver’s case if his or her BAC levels are very low or zero, and the driving conduct was not egregious. Having only a MIP ticket is a “win.”

Georgia has its own MIP law, but do not assume that another state’s statutes are the same. Many Georgia vacationers go to Florida and may run afoul of that state’s MIP laws by assuming all state laws are the same.

Plus, in states like South Carolina, if a car full of teenagers drinking alcohol is pulled over by police and alcohol is present, every underage person in that vehicle loses the right to drive in the Palmetto State! That day of fun could turn into your worst nightmare.

What happens if you get caught drinking under 21? At a minimum, expect to receive a court summons and be going to court. In some cases, especially when seen entering a motor vehicle with the keys or ignition fob, you may also find yourself cuffed and stuffed for drunk driving. The vehicle need not be cranked or moving for an officer to arrest you for being in actual physical control of that vehicle.

Open Container Law GA

Open alcoholic beverages are always a problem in a car, SUV or pickup truck. This is because federal laws that were put in place over 40 years ago required states to create an open container violation criminalizing having any bottle, flask, can or cup with the seal broken or contents partially removed.

The concept of NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) was to not allow any open containers in any device of apparatus used for the transportation of persons. Preventing car accidents from drinking and driving was the government’s objective.

Some states, including Georgia, pushed back and tried to make exceptions for vehicles driven by persons for compensation, like taxi cabs. But the federal regulators rejected early attempts by the Georgia legislature to create state exceptions. So, OCGA 40-6-253 is our state’s open container GA code section.

The one place that the N.H.T.S.A. officials found to be allowable was the use of motor homes that are primarily for the transportation of guests who have chartered the vehicle for group trips. However, if that bus crosses state lines, the open container law in other states may make this accommodation of passengers a crime.

Beyond being in cars, trucks or other motor vehicles, unless a city has enacted a statute allowing pedestrians to carry an open alcohol container, a local ordinance likely prohibits drinking or carrying out an open alcohol container. In some places with designated cities, like the Savannah GA open container law, tourists and locals can walk around in the designated parts of the riverfront area. But, be aware that this is not like New Orleans, and you may have a “start” time, such as 12:30 PM and a curfew, such as 2:00 AM.

8 Common Underage Drinking in Georgia Questions And Penalties for MIP, Open Container, or DUI in Georgia
  1. Is a MIP a misdemeanor? YES. A “Minor in Possession” charge (MIP alcohol), is a misdemeanor criminal offense.
  2. Can a person with an MIP be arrested? 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. But, a change in the law was put in place in 2010 that usually permits an officer to ticket the person and release the detained person to his or her parents.
  3. If you are charged with the purchase of alcohol or attempting to purchase alcohol, you will face several consequences if you are found guilty of the offense. If behind the wheel and caught driving intoxicated even harsher penalties are possible with a MIP and operating under the influence.
  4. What if I used a fake ID, and police find that false identification? Additional misdemeanor or felony charges will also be sought against a driver found attempting to use a fake ID.
  5. What are the MIP penalties in Georgia? If convicted of minor in possession charges, the penalties you face will vary depending on any prior convictions or diversions or conditional discharge dispositions.
  6. Can by driver’s license be suspended after failing my MIP diversion program? Not likely, if not in a motor vehicle when arrested.
  7. If I tried to buy alcoholic beverages at a liquor store, but was rejected, is this a crime? Yes.
  8. If I gave an older guy $5 to purchase booze for me, is that a crime? Yes.
The Long-Term Impact of Drunk Driving Conviction and Georgia DUI Penalties

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 most cases, your DUI sentence will also include mandatory probation, community service hours, and a substance abuse evaluation, with and treatment to be followed.

For repeat offenders within the past 10 years, a person who is convicted of a 2nd DUI in GA will face jail time, loss of all driving privileges for some period of time, 240 hours of community service, photo publication in the legal newspaper, and MANY more DUI penalties. A person with 3 DUI in GA convictions within ten years faces substantial jail time and could be declared a habitual violator.

Get Help And FREE Advice From Our Experienced Attorneys In Atlanta

A top-rated criminal lawyer near me will know if the court in which your case is pending is amenable to allowing a MIP diversion program and later have your MIP expunged, upon successful completion. You will want to have legal representation when you have your day in court.

To talk to a law partner at our law firm, call (404) 567-5515 for a FREE consultation about your facts and prior criminal history. Knowing that you have options for a favorable outcome can calm your nerves. Speak to ex-cop Cory Yager, AVVO superstar Larry Kohn or to award-winning Bubba Head, criminal lawyer near me.

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 who is 21 or over even if they were underage at the time of arrest. This is one of the quirks in Georgia law that only specialists generally know. However, an attorney can use such “hidden” strategies to your advantage. You may be advised to go to trial and fight your open container or MIP case in court.

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.

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