Under 21 DUI
Under 21 DUI
In Georgia, teens and 20-year-olds driving under the influence of alcohol face particularly steep consequences—even when they’re not impaired. That’s because an under-21 driver in Georgia can be arrested for DUI with only a small amount of alcohol in his or her system: a blood alcohol concentration of .02 grams or higher. If convicted, the driver may receive jail time, probation and community service, as well as a suspended license and a potential long-term record.
It’s critical to take the right steps after a DUI arrest. A DUI defense lawyer can help with your situation if you are facing underage DUI or any of the following charges:
- DUI per se
- DUI less safe
- DUI drugs
- DUI marijuana
- DUI combination drugs and alcohol
Handling your DUI case the right way gives you the chance to get back on track and move forward with your life, all without the stigma and negative consequences of a DUI conviction holding you back.
Your Cobb County and Cherokee County under-21 DUI defense lawyer
At Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, we have experience handling under-21 DUI cases throughout the state of Georgia. Our focus, however, is on representing people who are charged with Cobb County DUIs, Cherokee County DUIs, and DUIs in the cities of Marietta, Woodstock, Kennesaw, Canton, Holly Springs, Acworth and Smyrna. We know how these courts work, and we’ve helped many clients find the best solution possible for their situation.
“I received services from Mr. Ghanouni for a DUI I had obtained in the city of Woodstock. I thought to myself, “How can even an attorney help me with such a stuck situation?” He managed to point out things and ways that made the evidence against me dismissible as certain tests were inaccurately performed and administered inappropriately by a veteran of the police force. I will from now on highly recommend him to anyone I hear needing help in any court case.” – A.M., Client
Georgia’s DUI laws for under-21 drivers
For an adult driver (one who is 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 a chemical test of a driver’s breath, blood, urine, or other bodily substances. 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 administrative 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.
Drivers under 21 can be found guilty of a DUI in Georgia simply due to their BAC, regardless of 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 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.
- 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.
For any DUI conviction, the driver is also required to complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program (DUI school), submit to a substance abuse evaluation and, if recommended, attend any treatment. Remember: These are the minimum punishments. Some courts will require other courses or harsher penalties.
The calculations for what number DUI an individual is facing within a 10 year prior is based on arrest date to arrest date, not conviction date.
DUI license suspension
After a first DUI conviction, an under-21 Georgia driver will 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.
While license suspension occurs automatically after a DUI conviction, an officer may also initiate a license suspension immediately upon arrest, something known as Administrative License Suspension, or ALS. When this occurs, the officer is supposed confiscate the driver’s license and serve the individual with form DDS 1205.
The driver has several options after ALS, including appealing the suspension, requesting an ignition interlock device or accepting the suspension. There is a short window to make appeals, but it’s always smart to first speak with a lawyer specializing in underage DUI. Choosing which path to take is a tactical decision—one that needs to work well in your overall under-21 DUI defense strategy.
Some strategies with the ALS can actually allow you to get a permit with an under 21 DUI charge, where you will get credit towards a license suspension upon a conviction. This is why you shouldn’t rush to assume an appeal is always the best course of action.
You can learn more about how to contest your suspension in this video from Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm. If you do decide to pursue an ALS hearing, you’ll also want to understand which issues you can raise, including:
- Whether the officer lawfully arrested you
- Whether the officer properly informed you of your Georgia implied consent rights
- Whether there are concerns over the testing
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 flexibility 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 conviction goes on the record right away. This means a convicted driver will have to disclose it to employers or colleges, jeopardizing scholarships, admissions and employment.
One of the biggest mistakes families make is accepting the outcome of an under-21 DUI. 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 are many areas of a DUI case that can be challenged. A proactive DUI defense lawyer will investigate your case, looking for potential legal challenges.
Even in scenarios where there isn’t a strong legal challenge, a DUI defense lawyer can determine the best ways to minimize the impacts on an individual’s life.
Our multistep DUI defense
No matter what type of DUI you’re facing, we start with a five-step process for representing our clients:
- Conduct an initial DUI Defense Strategy Meeting
- Determine if requesting an Administrative License Suspension (ALS) hearing makes sense for you
- Conduct a fact-gathering and mitigation planning session
- Investigate your case and the defenses
- Provide you with an analysis of your options and finalize the case strategy
Once we have this strategy in place and you have a full understanding of it, we’ll take the steps necessary to implement the DUI case strategy you approve.
Success stories from our firm
While we know under-21 DUI cases are incredibly stressful for families, we love to share successful outcomes.
One recent client, a student at Kennesaw State University, was charged with several offenses: possessing a false identification to obtain alcohol, minor in possession of alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving and a tail light violation. That’s a serious set of charges for someone who is under 21 years old.
With our DUI defense strategy in play, four of the five counts were dismissed. The young man ultimately pled nolo contendere to only a single count of reckless driving. Because the court records were sealed, once the individual completes his sentence, most people performing a background check won’t be able to access his history.
This young man will now be able to move forward in life in a positive way, without the challenge of a DUI and related charges holding him back.
Speak with a DUI defense attorney today
Call us at 770-720-6336 to schedule your Initial DUI Defense Strategy Meeting.
If you aren’t ready to schedule your Initial DUI Defense Strategy 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.
We are here to help
If you’re facing a criminal charge and are concerned about the impact on your life, contact us today and schedule a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.