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What every driver under 21 (and their parents) should know about Georgia traffic laws.

There is often a look of shock and surprise on an individual’s face when they find out that being convicted for a traffic offense they are charged with can lead to a suspension of their driver’s license. To know whether someone is likely to be at risk for a driver’s license suspension, there must be a determination of which one of three categories they are in.  Those categories are based entirely on the age of the individual charged; they are seventeen-year-olds and under, eighteen-year-olds to twenty-year-olds, and those who are twenty-one and older.

What is important, legally, is not the age at the time of the citation, but the age at the time of conviction, which is often when a person goes to court to plead guilty, or pays their fine (generally, whichever comes first). For example, if a person gets a ticket at the age of twenty, but do not go to court to resolve it until after he turns twenty-one, then the individual is legally treated like someone who is the twenty-one-year-old or older category, not the twenty-year old category.

These different age groups determine how many points it takes to suspend an individual’s driver’s license, as well as the types of offenses that can suspend their driver’s license.  For the category of individuals who are twenty-one and older, they can have a total of fifteen points on their driver’s license, within a twenty-four month period, before a suspension due to points, but there are still certain serious traffic offenses, which can carry a mandatory license suspension, which include: Hit and Run, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer, Racing, DUI, Operating a Vehicle with a Suspended Registration, Operating a Vehicle without Insurance, as well as some more serious traffic offenses.

For those eighteen to twenty, they have the same total number of points available before a driver’s license suspension as well as the same automatic suspension offenses as someone twenty-one or older, but additional offenses can lead to an automatic suspension.  For those eighteen to twenty, a mandatory suspension comes in to play for any single offense, which is four or more points.  The most common offenses that we see in this category are: speeding 24 mph over the speed limit or more, reckless driving, aggressive driving, improper passing on a hill or curve, and unlawfully passing a school bus.

For those individuals under the age of eighteen, they are subject to all of the same automatic suspensions as listed above, but they will also suffer an automatic license suspension, if they receive four or more points in any consecutive twelve month period.  For those under eighteen drivers, this means that if they get two tickets for almost any moving violations within a twelve month period, they are likely to experience a driver’s license suspension.

Points are generally assessed on a person’s driver’s license when they are convicted of, or pay the fine for, a moving violation.  The number of points varies, depending on the offense. A points table for common offenses can be found on our website, www.TeenAndYoungAdultDefense.com, under the traffic violations section, or on the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services website, www.dds.ga.gov.

There are two common offenses that do not get sent in to the Department of Driver’s Services by the court upon conviction, which should result in no points and the offense not appearing on a person’s driver’s license history.  Those are speeding 14 mph over the speed limit or less and Too Fast for Conditions, which is also sometimes referred to as a Basic Rules of the Road Violation.  In most traffic cases, where the individual does not want to offense to appear on their driving history, these are the ideal outcomes.

One common misconception is that a plea of nolo contendre will prevent an offense from showing up on a person’s driving history.  In some circumstances, this will prevent the points from being assessed, but the offense still shows up on a driver’s history.  Another common misconception is believing that a person should wait until they get their second or subsequent ticket to try to negotiate a better outcome.  The problem with this is that it is a lot easier to get a prosecutor to reduce a person’s first ticket than it is to reduce a subsequent ticket.  The reduction of that first ticket can help an individual be in a stronger position to seek reductions in the future.

While this provides a good overview of the law on points suspensions of a Georgia driver’s license, if a person is concerned about the suspension of their driver’s license or if they have a commercial driver’s license, which has a totally different set of rules, the safest way to handle the situation is to consult with an experienced attorney about the issue.