Georgia lawmakers take underage drinking seriously. You may think everyone does it, or that getting caught won’t have major or lifetime consequences. Unfortunately for teens, this isn’t true. One mistake involving underage drinking could follow you for years to come. The attorney you hire for your defense and the steps you take together can help you protect your future, whether this is your first encounter with the law or if you have a previous arrest record.
Underage Drinking Laws in Georgia
The legal drinking age in Georgia is 21 years old. Consuming, purchasing, trying to purchase, or being found in possession of alcoholic beverages under the age of 21 is against state law. It does not matter if you have friends who drink underage, if it was a family member who gave you the alcohol, if it was your first time drinking, or if you had your parent’s permission; underage drinking in Georgia is a crime under the law. Georgia laws criminalize the following actions:
- Possessing alcohol as a minor. A minor in possession (MIP) of alcohol charge can happen if an officer smells alcohol on a minor’s breath or has other evidence of underage drinking – even without a breath test. You could end up with a permanent criminal record and jail time for committing this offense, as well as lose your driver’s license.
- Underage driving under the influence (DUI). You could get a DUI charge and conviction for any detectable amount of alcohol in your system as a minor under the age of 21. It does not matter whether or not you were actually intoxicated. If your breath test comes back with a 0.02% or higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, you could receive an underage DUI.
- DUI-less-safe. The prosecution may file a “DUI-less-safe” charge against a minor if the minor refuses a chemical test or is only intoxicated by a drug. It is illegal in Georgia to drive while impaired at any level that makes it less safe for you to drive, regardless of your age.
Georgia is a “Zero-Tolerance” state for underage drinkers and drivers. Zero Tolerance laws essentially mean that driving with any amount of alcohol in your system could lead to a DUI. It can be very difficult to convince the courts to drop these charges or reduce the penalties – especially if the minor has a prior criminal record. A DUI on your record even as a minor could result in lost scholarships and job opportunities, as well as driver’s license suspension.
Penalties for Underage Drinking
In the event that the courts convict you of MIP of alcohol or underage DUI in Georgia, you could receive a misdemeanor and serious penalties. A MIP conviction automatically results in the suspension of your driver’s license for six months without any available permits of any kind. This means you cannot get a permit to allow you to drive only to and from work or your job. You will not be able to drive legally for six months. In addition, Georgia judges could order the following penalties:
- Mandatory alcohol or substance education course
- Mandatory treatment programs
- Community service hours
- Expensive fines and legal fees
- Probation or house arrest
- Jail time
The penalties for underage DUI are even more severe. You could be facing a misdemeanor or felony (for second offenses), with $300 to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and mandatory community service hours. Judges may want to set a precedent for other underage drinkers by punishing one defendant severely. You could become a scapegoat for underage DUI penalties without an attorney’s assistance. Contact a qualified Georgia lawyer right away if the state charges you with any type of underage drinking crime in Georgia: our DUI lawyers have the experience and expertise needed to help in underage DUI cases.