In Georgia, DUIs are serious for any driver, but for people under 21, the consequences can be particularly steep—even without actual impairment. That’s because an under 21 driver in Georgia  can be arrested for DUI with only a small amount of alcohol in their system. If convicted, the driver will be facing license suspension, probation, jail time, and a potential long-term record. It’s critical to take the right steps after a DUI arrest.

Georgia’s DUI laws for Under 21 Drivers

For an adult driver (one 21 or over), it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams or higher within three hours of driving. Authorities determine BAC by conducting chemical testing: breath, blood or urine. Drivers have the right to refuse these tests, but under the implied consent law, such a refusal may still set them up for a DUI less-safe charge as well as a potential driver’s license suspension. 

For an individual under 21, however, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .02 grams or higher. While everyone’s body processes alcohol in different ways, such a low BAC can be reached by consuming a very small quantity of alcohol—a single beer, for example—and does not necessarily reflect impairment. 

This can be one of the most challenging things for an under 21 driver to face.  They can be found guilty of a DUI simply due to their BAC without any actual impairment to their driving.

Criminal penalties for a DUI under 21

The penalties for DUI convictions vary depending on whether the driver has a previous DUI record:  

  • If the conviction is the young driver’s first DUI offense, the charge is a misdemeanor with $300 to $1,000 in fines, 24 hours to 12 months in jail and a minimum of 20 hours of community service. A minimum of 12-months of probation, typically requiring monthly check-ins with a probation officer, random drug and alcohol screens, and other compliance requirements that can make it challenging to attend college out of state or move for work. 
  • If a second DUI conviction occurs within 10 years of the first, the misdemeanor charge comes with $600 to $1,000 in fines, 72 hours to 12 months in jail and 30 days of community service.
  • Upon the third conviction in a 10-year period, the charge gets upgraded to a high and aggravated misdemeanor, carrying $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, 15 days to 12 months in jail and 30 days of community service. 
  • And a fourth conviction in a 10-year period, is a felony. This carries $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, 90 days to five years in prison and 60 days of community service. 

At each step, the driver is also required to complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (DUI school), and a substance abuse evaluation and, if recommended, attend any follow up treatment.  Some courts will require other courses or harsher penalties, in addition to these minimum punishments.

DUI license suspension

After a first DUI, an under 21 Georgia driver will also lose his or her license for a minimum of six months. In certain circumstances, that time bumps up to 12 months. Unfortunately for teens and young adults, there are absolutely no suspension exceptions for work or school, meaning those charged often have to find different means to get to high school, college or work, placing an additional burden on the family.   

Lasting consequences of a teen or 20 year-old DUI

Because of Georgia’s low legal limit for under 21 drivers, there’s very little wiggle room when it comes to DUIs. A small amount of alcohol can trigger a scenario that will affect the young driver for life. In addition to the financial consequences, time lost and the invasiveness of the probation period, a DUI goes on the record right away. This means a driver will have to disclose it to employers or colleges, jeopardizing scholarships, college, and employment. 

One of the biggest mistakes families make is accepting the outcome of an under 21 DUI, when the truth is, you and your family have options. DUIs are some of the most technically complex misdemeanors.  While it may appear that the prosecution has an open and shut case, there can be many areas of a DUI case that can be challenged.  With help from a proactive DUI defense lawyer, your case can be investigated to determine if there are legal challenges which could save you or your loved one from the lifelong consequences and stigma of a DUI. 

Speak with a DUI defense attorney today

An experienced DUI defense lawyer can look for ways to try to lessen or fight the charges, which can protect him or her from the life long impacts of a DUI conviction. Call 770-720-6336 today or contact us for a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.

If you aren’t ready to schedule your meeting, then click here to download our complimentary ebook, 5 Things Not to Do When You’ve Been Charged with a Crime, to learn what you need to know to start protecting your future immediately.