I’m under 21 and charged with a DUI in Georgia: Now what?

Georgia has a strict policy and penalties when it comes to dealing with underage drivers charged with drinking and driving.

On Father's Day of last year, a 20-year-old man from Georgia drove his vehicle the wrong way on a highway, which resulted in a fatal accident. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the man had a previous DUI conviction. His blood alcohol concentration for this incident was 0.125, well above the state's legal limit for underage drivers.

This young man was sentenced in April to 50 years in prison after pleading to a number of charges. Though this is an extreme case due to the aggravating circumstances, it paints a very real picture of the consequences that underage drivers could face if charged with a DUI.

Defining limits

For drivers older than 21 in Georgia, the legal blood alcohol concentration limit is at 0.08. As FindLaw points out, the standard for underage drivers, however, is 0.02. Therefore, someone younger than 21 who registers a 0.02 on a breath test may be arrested on charges of drunk driving. Determining the blood alcohol concentration is imperative, as it can play a role in what the punishment may be.

Consequences to underage DUI

There are a number of penalties that someone younger than 21 may face following a DUI conviction. If the blood alcohol concentration is between 0.02 and 0.08, the state does not levy a mandatory jail sentence, but it will include a six-month license suspension and community service. When the underage driver's blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08, the license suspension period is increased to one year.

As the Georgia Department of Driver Services points out, someone who is convicted of a DUI before turning 16 will not be permitted to obtain a license until he or she turns 17; for a second such offense, he or she will not be eligible for a license until 18.

Other consequences to an underage DUI include the following:

  • Fines
  • Possible jail time
  • Academic consequences, including suspension or expulsion from school

It is also possible that having a DUI on a criminal record can affect someone's ability to find gainful employment or even suitable housing. Further, if the DUI is associated with an injury, property damage or death, the penalties could be even harsher.

Defending against underage DUI

Each of the above-mentioned penalties illustrate why building a solid defense against an underage DUI charge is imperative. Experts agree that as soon as the arrest takes place, defendants should contact an attorney who can help them navigate the legal process. Additionally, an attorney knows how to build a compelling defense that can help dismiss a case, reduce charges or reduce the penalties someone may face.

Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with a criminal defense attorney in Georgia.

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