Underage DUI Lawyer
Helping Under-21 Drivers Fight Drunk Driving Charges
)If you are under 21 & are charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), you could be facing serious consequences. These consequences include a criminal record, license suspension, skyrocketing insurance rates and ineligibility for certain types of school financial aid, scholarships, grants & work study programs. etc.
The George McCranie Law Firm has offices in Valdosta & Douglas, GA with attorneys serving clients throughout southeast Georgia. Having practiced criminal law — both as prosecutors and as a defense lawyers — We have the experience to fight your underage DUI charges.
Underage DUI Consequences in Georgia
Noncommercial drivers aged 21 and older proven to be driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above are guilty of DUI. For drivers under 21, however, the cutoff is .02 BAC — a level that most people will exceed after just one mixed drink or beer.
If you are under 21 and were pulled over and tested for DUI with a result of .02 or higher, the state will almost certainly try to suspend your license and charge you with DUI.
The state of Georgia considers a DUI to be a misdemeanor, but it is also considered to be a criminal charge NOT a traffic charge. This means a conviction for a DUI will never come off your GA criminal history. A DUI conviction can ruin your chances for a scholarship, grants/loans, & work study programs.
Drivers under 21 who are charged with DUI are often also charged with underage possession of alcohol. We are experienced at defending clients against these charges as well.
DUI Less Safe Charges
DUI Less Safe is defined in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(1). It, essentially, prohibits driving under any condition that makes you less safe to be on the road.
In cases where an underage driver is caught driving with a BAC of less than .02 or refuses a blood test to check for the presence of illegal drugs, they may face, on top of a license suspension, charges for DUI Less Safe.
Georgia takes intoxicated operation of a motor vehicle very seriously. In most states, there is a threshold that must be met or exceeded in order to be charged with DUI. But Georgia can charge you if your BAC is less than the legal limit. This is a charge known as DUI Less Safe.
In addition, you can be charged with DUI if you are under the influence of drugs — even those that have been prescribed by a doctor. If you, by no fault of your own, breathed in toxic fumes that impaired your ability, you can be charged with DUI Less Safe.
The law is set out to curb driving under the influence under any circumstances. It’s true that different quantities of alcohol will affect different people in different ways. However, it is also true that one person can be drunk with a BAC .08 while another can be unimpaired. Issues such as frequency of use, body weight, and more can impact an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. The state does not need a breathalyzer or blood test to support such a charge.
Penalties for DUI Less Safe
Regardless of what you may have heard, DUI Less Safe is not a “lesser” charge to DUI. The State of Georgia gives you 30 days to either request an administrative hearing or have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle. If you do neither, your license will be suspended for up to a year. This is also true in cases where you refused a breathalyzer or a blood test.
Administration of the Breathalyzer
Law enforcement officers are required to read those to whom they administer a breathalyzer some form an implied consent notice. This notice basically states that refusal to take the blood test will be used as evidence against you in court. In other words, the state will infer from your refusal that you would have failed the test. If you have refused a blood alcohol test, your attorney has some options for defending you.
Defense Against Underage DUI in Georgia
Georgia is a “zero tolerance” state when it comes to DUI charges. Additionally, there is no option to “plead down” your case to a wet reckless or some other lesser charge. Chances are, if you’ve been pulled over with any amount of alcohol in your system, you will be charged with (at the very minimum) DUI Less Safe. While the legal threshold is .02 BAC, DUI Less Safe does not require a driver to be over the legal threshold. In addition, it is every bit as serious as a charge as DUI.
However, the reason why the legal limit for underage drivers is .02 when Georgia has a “zero tolerance” policy for underage is drinking, is due to the fact that the breathalyzer machines have a .02 margin for error.
In cases where the chemical testing evidence cannot be used, the state will likely still try to use it to leverage you into a confession. They will then likely charge you with DUI and unlawful possession of alcohol. Before this happens, you should enlist the aid of an attorney to preserve your chances for getting a fair shot at a decent defense.
Good people sometimes make serious errors in judgment. They may not deserve to have a permanent blemish on their criminal or driving record. If the chemical testing cannot be relied upon than our attorneys can investigate the circumstances involving the arrest to prepare your defense in court.
Standard of Proof in Georgia DUI Cases
While DUI isn’t exactly difficult for prosecutors to prove, prosecutors must prove that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle under the influence in order for the charges to stick. In this case, your DUI defense attorney must establish that there is reasonable doubt. This can be done in a number of different ways. This includes investigating how the breathalyzer test was administered and the reason why you were pulled over in the first place.
In cases where a police officer does not have probable cause to pull you over, the stop itself can be deemed illegal by the court. If the court rules that the stop was illegal, all evidence acquired after the stop is inadmissible. This is to protect your rights to privacy and from illegal searches and seizures.
Don’t Submit to Roadside Breathalyzers
While Georgia has harsh laws for driving under the influence, roadside breathalyzers do not prove inebriation to a scientific certainty. Evidence can be entered that you refused to take the test, but evidence will be entered anyway if you fail. Roadside sobriety tests are likewise nonsense. You can (and should) refuse them.
Lastly, breath tests administered in a police station are different than those administered roadside. These you cannot refuse. However, you have a right to have an attorney present. You also have a right to request a third party administer a test of their own. These rights both have protection under the implied consent statute that also forces you to take the test.
The earlier you involve an attorney in the process, the better off you’ll be.
Call a DUI/Criminal Driving Defense Attorney in South Georgia
If you or a family member is facing underage DUI charges, we would encourage you to learn more about your legal options. To schedule a free consultation, please contact our office today at 912-384-2889 or by e-mail.