Posted by Jim Yeargan in Atlanta DUI Law on April 22, 2015
Georgia drivers under the age of 21 can easily have their driver’s licenses suspended. The Under 21 License Suspension is harsh as it is a 6-month suspension, and there is no limited driving permit in most instances. The statute governing drivers under the age of 21 is O.C.G.A. 40-5-57.1 which can be found here. In determining the possibility of a license suspension for an under 21-year-old driver we must first look at the driver’s age.
Georgia separates under 21-year-old drivers into 2 classes: drivers under the age of 18, and drivers ages 18 to 21. Drivers under the age of 18 will have their license suspended if the accumulate 4 or more points in any consecutive 12 month period.
Since most moving violations in Georgia are 3 points it is very easy for a young driver to accumulate 4 points in a year. These drivers must also watch out for violations that carry 4 or more points such as Reckless Driving, Aggressive Driving, as well as all other violations that will suspend a license in Georgia such as a hit and run.
To fully appreciate the severity with which Georgia treats drivers under the age of 18 we need only compare their point suspension with that of older drivers. Drivers 21 and older will not have their license suspended unless they accumulate 15 or more points in a 2 year period.
Once a driver turns 18 Georgia Law lightens the restrictions on young drivers, but with a heavy exception. Once 18 a driver must accumulate 15 or more points in a 24 month period before their license will be suspended unless they accumulate 4 or more points from a single incident.
Where young drivers run into the most problems is with speeding tickets. Driving 24 or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit is at least a 4 point violation, and a conviction will suspend the driver’s license. Other offenses with a total of 4 or more points, such as Reckless Driving, will also suspend the license, but most young drivers have their license suspended because of a fast speeding ticket.
For a list of offenses that will suspend a driver under the age of 21 consults the Georgia Department of Driver Services Traffic Court Reference Manual.
Nolo Contendere/No Contest
Many attorneys may advise their young clients to go enter a Nolo, no contest, plea to the speeding citation because doing so keeps points off your driving history. This is true for drivers age 21 and older. Unfortunately for young drivers pleading Nolo will not keep the points off their driving history.
Most judges will not accept a Nolo plea from a driver under the age of 21. Even if the judge did accept the Nolo plea the Georgia Department of Driver Services would convert the Nolo plea to guilty and assess points as soon as the plea was reported to them by the court.
In short, pleading Nolo will not stop the driver’s license for suspension for an under 21-year-old driver in Georgia.
How Do You Stop An Under 21 License Suspension?
The easiest way to stop the suspension is to have the prosecutor reduce the driver’s speed. For example, if a 20 year old driver was given a ticket for driving 80 in a 55 mph zone he would lose his license if convicted. However, if the prosecutor amends his speed to 78 in a 55 this then becomes a 3 point violation, and the driver’s license is safe.
Better yet, if the prosecutor reduces the speed to 69 in a 55 mph zone then the citation will not report to the Department of Driver Services, and will not go on the driver’s record.
Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as asking the prosecutor for a reduction. A bad driving record or high speed may keep the prosecutor from reducing the speed. When this happens there are other options to try to save the driver’s license.
Many courts have special programs for drivers under the age of 21. These courts take a special interest in young drivers and try to educate them in hopes of not seeing them back in court.
In exchange for attending driver improvement courses, performing community service, etc. the court will either reduce the driver’s speed so their license will not be suspended or dismiss the ticket. While not all courts have these programs many do.
The Municipal Court of Atlanta is known for its Teens Learning Control (TLC) Program which focuses on driver education and improvement to help keep young drivers alive. For more information on the TLC Program, you may visit their web site.
Get The Driver To 21 Years Old
The license suspension for under 21-year-old drivers is based on the driver’s age at the time of conviction, and not their age when the citation was written. Therefore, if the case can be delayed until the driver turns 21 the citation will no longer suspend the driver’s license.
For some drivers, this may be fortuitous timing while for others it may take some work. Some courts have an 18 to 24-month backlog while other courts will grant attorneys several continuances. Young drivers may be surprised to learn that their license can be saved as the case works it way through busy court systems.
When All else Fails, Fight
While beating a traffic ticket is difficult in Georgia it is not impossible. Hire an experienced attorney to negotiate on the young driver’s behalf, or take the ticket to trial. Georgia has many legal requirements for the use of radar and laser detection devices. A speeding ticket trial can be very complicated, and in-depth when fought by an experienced traffic attorney.
The Under 21 License Suspension
If none of these tactics work the driver’s license is going to be suspended for a minimum period of 6 months. This is a hard suspension meaning there is no limited permit for work, school, or any activity.
However, there is hope for a limited number of drivers. If the court wishes to grant a temporary license to an under 21-year-old driver who has had their license suspended for speeding the court may do so if the driver is 18, or older, at the time he petitions the court for the permit, and his speed was not more than 33 mph over the posted speed limit.
The driver, or his lawyer, must get the judge to sign an O.C.G.A. 40-5-57.1 authorization for the permit, and forward the signed authorization to DDS. Aside from this exception, there are no other limited permits available for young drivers.
Getting The License Reinstated
If the license is suspended the driver may reinstate his license after waiting the suspension time, completing defensive driving school, and paying the reinstatement fee. For a first suspension, the license will be suspended for 6 months, and the reinstatement fee is $210 if paid in person, or $200 by mail. For a second suspension, the license will be suspended for 12 months, and the reinstatement fee is $310 if paid in person, or $300 by mail.