Underage DUI in Georgia
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a major offense in the State of Georgia. However, when the perpetrator of this crime is under 21 years of age, the penal and administrative consequences are even greater.
What is an Underage DUI?
Underage DUI laws are strict in Georgia, and the low blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit is a clear indication as to the severity of the offense. In the state of Georgia, the two types major drunk driving offenses are DUI-Per Se and DUI-Less Safe. In the former, a driver over the age of 21 is charged based on a BAC reading of 0.08%, whereas in a less safe DUI, the charge is based on whether the driver’s level of intoxication at the time of arrest made it less safe for the driver to operate a motor vehicle.
In a DUI Less Safe arrest, you can be charged even if your BAC levels are lower than the legal limit of 0.08%. However, in Georgia, an offense is treated as an underage DUI Per Se if you're under the age of 21 and your BAC is 0.02%. Conversely, if there was no test or the underage driver’s BAC was under 0.02%, he could be charged with DUI less safe.
Just to put it into perspective, an underage motorist need only consume a quarter of what a driver over 21 years of age could drink to receive the same charge.
So how much is too much before you reach a BAC of 0.02%? While alcohol absorption is different for each individual, based on multiple factors, one glass of wine or a single bottle of beer can easily push you over the legal limit. Furthermore, considering the possible charge of DUI Less Safe, even half a glass of wine could render you impaired by law.
Consequences of an Underage DUI in Georgia
An underage DUI conviction can drastically alter one’s life. For instance, anyone with an underage drunk driving charge on his or her record may find it difficult to enter college or graduate school, and it could also reduce your chances of finding a good job.
As such, if charged with an underage DUI, it is critical that you have an experienced DUI lawyer at sentencing to mitigate on your behalf. There are several factors that a court can consider if you are found guilty of DUI in Georgia.
First Underage DUI Offense
If the underage DUI offense is your first, the charge is considered a misdemeanor. Jail time for DUI Per Se carries a mandatory minimum of 24 hours and up to 12 months. In addition to jail time, you will face a fine, and there are community service requirements. DUI Less Safe does not carry a mandatory 24-hour minimum jail time.
Subsequent Underage DUI Offenses
With a first conviction, you may get away with little jail time. However, penalties for underage DUI will increase for subsequent convictions. The progressive sentencing for underage DUI applies to offenses committed within a ten-year period.
If a court convicts you for a second underage DUI, you will face a minimum jail time of 72 hours up to 12 months, in addition to a fine and community service. Your third DUI conviction is considered a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor and carries a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 15 days.
Furthermore, the judge has the discretion depending on the facts of the case to send you to jail for up to 12 months, along with ordering a fine and community service.
A fourth conviction is classified as a felony if the prior DUI offenses occurred after July 1, 2008. Jail time can range from 90 days to as high as five years. A fourth underage DUI will also carry a fine and community service.
In addition to jail time, community service, and fines, if you are convicted of underage DUI, you will also have to cope with the suspension of your license. In the state of Georgia, this could range from a minimum of six months for a first offense and up to five years for repeat offenders.
Hire a Georgia DUI Attorney
Underage DUI is a serious offense. However, like any other criminal case, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is important that you meet with an experienced Georgia DUI lawyer to discuss your options. Your attorney will advise you on the available defenses at law and the likelihood of success.
At the Dickerson Firm, we are committed to providing high-quality legal representation to individuals facing underage DUI charges in Georgia. Our 30+ years of experience in prosecution and DUI defense give us a comprehensive understanding of the criminal judicial system, as well as Georgia’s DUI laws.
To learn more about your rights in an underage DUI arrest, contact the Georgia DUI defense specialists at Dickerson Firm today.