Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in the United States. Each state has specific laws related to DUI charges. Georgia has strict DUI laws and punishments, especially for underage drivers.
Underage drivers facing DUI charges need an experienced Atlanta underage DUI defense attorney on their side. Don’t assume the courts will go easy because the person is a minor. An underage DUI conviction could negatively impact a person’s future.
DUI Jim and the legal team at Yeargan & Kert, LLC, understand the seriousness of your situation. We are prepared to work with minors to protect their future by developing a strong defense to underage DUI charges.
What is an Underage DUI Charge?
It is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of twenty-one years. Therefore, an underage DUI refers to someone under 21 years old operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. In Georgia, there are two main DUI offenses that minors can face when driving under the influence.
Underage DUI Per Se
For drivers 21 years and older, it is illegal to operate or be in physical control of a moving vehicle if the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher. However, the BAC limit for minors is much lower.
A minor (anyone under the age of 21) can be charged with underage DUI if the person’s BAC is .02 or higher. In other words, minors face the same harsh DUI charges if their BAC is just a fraction of the legal limit for drivers over 21 years of age.
Underage DUI Less Safe
If a minor’s BAC is less than .02, the minor can still face a DUI charge.
Georgia DUI laws prohibit a driver from operating a vehicle if the driver’s abilities to operate the vehicle safely are impaired by alcohol or drugs. In other words, the driver’s impairment makes it less safe to operate a vehicle. The charge would be DUI less safe.
Minors can also be charged with underage DUI less safe if they refuse chemical testing so that there is no BAC or they are impaired by drugs.
What are the Punishments for an Underage DUI Arrest in Georgia?
Georgia’s DUI laws are strict. The penalties for driving under the influence can be severe.
Penalties for Underage DUI First Offense
An underage DUI per se first offense is a misdemeanor. Punishments for underage DUI per se first offense include:
- Jail time of 24 hours to 12 months
- Fines of $300 to $1,000
- Minimum of 20 hours of community service
- Suspended driver’s license for six months or longer
If the person’s BAC was .08 or higher, community service is increased to 40 hours, and the person’s driver’s license is suspended for one year.
Penalties for Subsequent Underage DUI in Georgia
Punishments for subsequent underage DUI charges within ten years increase.
Minors convicted of a second DUI offense face a minimum of 72 hours in jail and license suspension for 12 months. The fines increase to between $600 and $1,000. Community service requirements also increase to a minimum of 30 days.
A third underage DUI offense is a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor. Jail time ranges from a minimum of 15 days to 12 months. Fines increase to between $1,000 and $5,000 with at least 30 days of community service.
Fourth underage DUI charges are felonies if all prior offenses occurred on or after July 1, 2008. Minors convicted of DUI fourth offense face 90 days to five years in jail. They also face $1,000 to $5,000 in fines and at least 60 days of community service.
What Are the Other Consequences of an Underage DUI Conviction in Georgia?
Minors convicted of DUI have a criminal record. At the end of the suspension period for their driver’s license, they will pay higher insurance rates to drive. A DUI conviction may negatively impact a minor’s future education and career.
Depending on the circumstances and factors, minors could also face other penalties for DUI convictions. Hiring an experienced Atlanta DUI defense lawyer can help protect your child’s future by providing an aggressive defense to DUI charges.
Defenses to Underage DUI Charges?
Driving under the influence or DUI is a serious criminal charge. However, as with all other criminal charges, a minor is not guilty until the state proves its case. There may be various defenses to the underage DUI charges that could result in an acquittal or dismissal of the charges.
Potential defenses to an underage DUI charge include, but are not limited to:
- The traffic stop was unlawful, such as a lack of probable cause for the stop.
- The person performing the breathalyzer or chemical test did not follow the correct procedures.
- The testing equipment was not calibrated correctly or malfunctioned.
- Your BAC was within the margin of error.
- The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) were not performed according to the guidelines.
- The arrest was unlawful.
- The police officer did not inform the minor of his or her constitutional rights.
- There was another reason for the BAC result, such as a medical condition like GERD or acid reflux.
A skilled, experienced Atlanta underage DUI defense lawyer investigates the traffic stop, arrest, and other factors related to the charges to gather evidence. Using that evidence, the attorney develops a defense strategy that gives the minor the best chance of beating underage DUI charges.
Why It’s Important to Hire an Underage DUI Defense Lawyer in Atlanta?
Unfortunately, a teenage driver is not going to discuss the intent to drink and drive. Young adults should remember to remain calm if pulled over. A driver is not required to answer questions about where they have been or what they have been doing.
Minors may believe they have no choice but to submit to a breathalyzer, answer questions, and take the roadside sobriety tests after being pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. Unfortunately, most minors have already provided the police with a substantial amount of evidence against them by the time parents are contacted.
A lawyer provides guidance and legal advice to help prevent minors and parents from unknowingly giving more damaging evidence to the police.
Other reasons to hire an underage DUI lawyer in Atlanta include:
- Explain the minor’s legal rights.
- Explain the criminal justice process and what to expect.
- Provide support, guidance, and legal representation for the minor and the parents during court hearings and meetings with police and prosecutors.
- Review the traffic stop and arrest to determine if the minor’s legal rights were violated.
- Review evidence to determine if it is admissible in court.
- The current DUI charge is the minor’s second or subsequent DUI offense.
- The minor’s freedom, education, and career are in jeopardy.
- You and your child need Atlanta DUI attorneys who have the skills, experience, extensive knowledge, and resources necessary to obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your child’s case.
Defending Minors Against Underage DUI Charges
Minors make mistakes. They should not suffer forever for a mistake. They should also not face penalties for a crime they did not commit.
Police officers and the courts also make errors. Our Atlanta underage DUI defense attorneys fight to ensure that minors are not penalized for those errors. We fight to ensure that a minor’s legal rights and future are protected throughout the criminal case.
Don’t assume a judge will be lenient because the defendant is a minor. Certain circumstances could result in maximum penalties for underage drinking and driving convictions. Your child’s age, BAC level, and other factors could put your child in jail for up to a year.
Any jail time for a minor can be devastating emotionally. It can also interfere significantly with a child’s education. Because of the impact that an underage DUI conviction can have on your child’s future, don’t hesitate to contact an Atlanta criminal defense attorney now for help.
Contact Our Atlanta Underage DUI Defense Attorneys for Help
If you or your child is charged with underage DUI, contact DUI Jim and the experienced DUI defense attorneys at Yeargan & Kert. We are prepared and ready to help you and your family through this difficult situation. You and your child don’t have to face this matter alone.
We represent individuals throughout Fulton County and the greater Atlanta area. Call us today to speak with an experienced Atlanta underage DUI defense lawyer.