Being accused of a crime is frightening regardless of one’s age, but an underage DUI charge may be particularly unsettling because of the relative youth of the accused and the severity of the consequences of a conviction. At Baker & Slider, we have experience handling a wide array of criminal charges, including possession of alcohol by a minor, possession of a fake ID, and underage driving under the influence. As a former prosecutor, Athens DUI lawyer Jason Slider understands the strategies that the other side may use and can use this knowledge to protect your rights.
Due to federal laws passed in the 1980s to establish a national minimum drinking age, Georgia currently requires that a person be at least 21 years old in order to legally purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. While any form of underage alcohol consumption may result in considerable legal difficulties, the offense of underage DUI is especially problematic because of the strict laws and harsh penalties involved.Fighting an Underage DUI Charge Under Georgia Law
Generally, a person may be convicted of DUI in Georgia if he or she is in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other substances that make it less safe to drive, if his or her blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or greater, or if there is any amount of a certain controlled substance in his or her blood, breath, or urine. For people under 21, however, the elements of the crime that the prosecution must prove and the possible consequences of a conviction may be significantly different than for adults. The driver’s license suspension process that the defendant might face is also different.
One of the most significant differences between a standard DUI charge and an underage DUI charge is that a person under 21 may be convicted of driving under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is just 0.02 or greater. Depending on the defendant’s body weight and gender, it may be possible to have a BAC of 0.02 without even consuming a full bottle of beer or glass of wine. Still, the law presumes that underage drivers may experience impaired judgment or lack of coordination even at this very low BAC level, and it provides for very harsh punishments, such as mandatory jail time, heavy fines, community service, and probation.
However, it is important to remember that an arrest for underage DUI is not an automatic conviction. The State always has the burden of proving guilt in a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. In many cases, possible defenses may arise from issues concerning the traffic stop that led to the arrest, the procedure for obtaining the blood or breath test, and more. Even underage drivers are entitled to basic constitutional rights, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to due process of law, and the right to refrain from self-incrimination. An assertive and thorough DUI attorney may be able to assist a defendant in reducing or defeating the charges.Consult an Experienced DUI Lawyer in Athens
A conviction of underage DUI may result in not only short-term punishments, such as fines, incarceration, and the loss of driving privileges, but also long-term consequences, such as higher insurance premiums, difficulty finding employment or securing credit, and the general stigma of a criminal record. Since so much is at stake, it is important to talk to an Athens DUI attorney in order to explore and assert any and all defenses that may be available to you under the circumstances of your arrest. To schedule a confidential appointment to discuss your case with a drunk driving attorney, call Baker & Slider at (706) 208-1514 or contact us online. We represent people throughout Clarke County, as well as in Jefferson, Watkinsville, Danielsville, and other communities in Jackson, Madison, Oconee, and surrounding Counties.