DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is a criminal offer in the State of Georgia. The consequences and penalty for such an offense are even higher when the perpetrator is under the age of 21 years. Get in touch with our experienced DUI lawyers here at Howard & Arca if you are facing underage DUI charges.
What Constitutes An Underage DUI?
Georgia has stringent laws governing underage DUI; the legal BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) limit bears testament to the severity of this type of a traffic offense. In Georgia, DUI offenses are placed under two categories – DUI Less Safe and DUI-Per Se.
In the case of a DUI-Less Safe, the charge depends on whether the driver’s intoxication levels at the time of the arrest was found to be less safe for the driver in question to be operating the vehicle. The perpetrator can be charged even when their BAC levels are lower than 0.08%, which is the legal limit.
As for the DUI-Per Se, the charges are based on a BAC limit of 0.08%. In this instance, the matter is considered as a DUI-Per Se if the perpetrator is under the age of 21 and found to have a BAC level of 0.08%. The issue becomes a DUI-Less Safe case if the driver has a BAC reading of under 0.02% or was not tested.
To put things into perspective, an underage driver that consumes only a quarter of what an adult motorist over 21 years of age is legally allowed to drink for the juvenile drive to slapped with the same DUI charge the adult driver would receive.
It thus begs the question, “how much is too much before an underage motorist reaches a BAC level of 0.02%? Keep in mind that alcohol absorption is different from one person to the next. And if you consider other factors, a glass of wine or one bottle of beer can be enough to push an individual over the legal limit. Moreover, a potential DUI-Less Safe can be an outcome for a young driver that consumed half a glass of wine since that would be enough to render the motorist impaired as per the law.
What Are The DUI Penalties For Drivers Under 21?
An individual who is under the age of 21 is legally allowed to drive but not allowed to purchase alcohol. It is an issue that seems to play favoritisms since people who are above 21 years of age can buy and drink alcohol and get to drive if they are not impaired. The law, unfortunately, holds drivers that are under 21 to a much higher standard when it comes to drinking and driving. That is why underage DUI in Atlanta is an offense that warrants harsh punishments under the law.
Given these facts, it is wise to consider someone with the necessary legal expertise fighting on your side to get the charges dropped and ensure you get justice.
Before you consider fighting the DUI arrest on your own, you should take the time to evaluate all the consequences of such a decision. If you are convicted for a DUI, then this will reflect on your criminal record; and this is not something that will away, let alone be forgotten. It can be a stain in your record that impacts your prospects of education and employment. The DUI might be because of a lapse of judgment; it will be your first mistake and something you want to be purged. It would help if you did not allow it to lead to a conviction, which will be your second mistake. Remember, you are only guilty when the court says so, not based on what the police said or did.
Motorists who are over 21 years are considered impaired if their BAC limit at 0.08% or higher. As for the drivers who are under the age of 21, they are deemed to be impaired if their BAC is at 0.02% or higher. Such a limit can be attributed to taking less than one bottle of beer or glass of wine. Georgia’s zero-tolerance policy towards underage drinking is the force behind such stringent traffic laws that aims at discouraging young adults under 21 years from drinking and driving.
It Is My First Underage DUI Offense, What Next?
If this is your first DUI offense, then your charge will be considered a misdemeanor. The mandatory jail time for DUI-Per Se is a minimum of 24hrs and a maximum of 12 months. A DUI-Less Safe, on the other hand, does not have the mandatory 24hrs minimum jail time.
DUI punishments that a minor may be facing include:
- Fines and fees that can amount to hundreds of dollars
- Increased car insurance premiums for several years
- Compulsory community service
- Mandatory attendance to a DUI school
- Suspension of the driver’s license for a period of 6 months to 1 year
Many of the young drivers rely on their cars to get around – to school, the gym, social events, and work, among other things. Losing their driver’s license for nearly a year is such an extreme thing. It will mean that they will have to resort to taking the bus, asking for rides, or getting a bike to help them get around. When facing an underage DUI charge, you can lose your driver’s license even before the case has its day in court. The Department of Driver Services oversees the suspension of the licenses of motorists arrest for a DUI offense; this is via a process knows as ALS (Administrative License Suspension).
You have 30 days within which you are expected to have requested an ALS hearing in Atlanta. That is the same period you are given to have installed an ignition interlock device on your car lest your license is suspended automatically.
Once you have requested the hearing within 30 days, the Department of Driver Services will issue an administrative license hearing. We at Howard & Arca have experienced DUI attorneys that will ensure they send out the letter to secure a hearing within the stipulated 30-day period. They will also be present in the ALS hearings representing you and your interests. Matters related to an ALS hearing or having to install an ignition interlock device should be discussed with your lawyer. We say this because we know how every decision you make and action you take impacts the prospects of the case and your future. With a lawyer on your side, you will be in a better position to make the right choices.
What if I Miss My ALS Hearing or Don’t get an Interlock Device?
Failure to request the hearing or install the gadget in your vehicle, coupled with not having a qualified DUI attorney representing you, you face a high risk of having your driver’s license suspended. If you have a BAC of 0.02%, but it not more than 0.08%, you might face a license suspension of up to 6 months. The suspension can be up to a year for drivers with a BAC reading of 0.08% or higher. Furthermore, the suspension can be given if the driver contests or refuses taking a blood alcohol test, whether they are intoxicated or not.
Requesting an ALS hearing is the formal way of challenging a license revocation. You must pay the required administrative fee when placing your hearing request, and the letter should be sent within 30 days from the date of your DUI arrest. We cannot do much for you if you fail to request the hearing in time. Call us today so that we can start the process within the stipulated 30-day period and ensure you have the best legal representation during your ALS hearing.
What About Any Subsequent Underage DUI Offenses?
If you have a prior conviction, you might face a bit of jail time. But the penalties for underage DUI in Atlanta will be hefty for the subsequent sentences. Consecutive sentencing for underage DUI will be in effect for crimes committed within 10 years from the date of the conviction.
If you land a second DUI conviction while underage, you risk facing jail time of at least 72 hours and a maximum of a year. Furthermore, you also might be fined and expected to do community service.
A third DUI will be considered as a ‘high and aggravated” misdemeanor. It carries a jail sentence of at least 15 days. Please note that the judge will have full discretion on the matter, passing judgment based on the facts related to your case. You might face some jail time of up to a year and a fine along with compulsory community service.
Landing the fourth conviction will see your underage DUI offense classified as a felony if the prior convictions are within fewer than 10 years. Jail time might be a minimum of 3 months to a maximum of 5 years. The fourth conviction will also carry a hefty fine and mandatory community service and possible DUI classes.
Contact a DUI Defense Lawyer
At Howard & Arca, we have highly qualified and experience DUI attorneys that can help you fight your underage DUI charges. They will be fully committed to helping you retain your driver’s license and maintain a clean criminal record. Call our criminal defense law firm today and allow us to offer you the legal help and guidance you need.