For the purpose of counting DUIs, the Department of Driver Services and the courts in Georgia consider all DUIs to be equal. Georgia does not have a lesser DWI offense. They do have slightly different penalties based on which substance a person was using and how old they are, but otherwise they are the same. Just as an adult facing a DUI charge should consult an Atlanta lawyer for these charges, anyone under the age of 21 facing these charges should consult with an Atlanta underage DUI lawyer for advise and assistance.
Any driver in Georgia regardless of age, who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or higher, is considered to be DUI per se. (DUI per se means DUI as a matter of law, regardless of impairment). If any driver is driving a commercial vehicle and their blood alcohol concentration is 0.04 grams or higher, it is DUI per se. On top of that, if a person is under the age of 21 and their blood alcohol concentration is higher than 0.02 grams, that is considered DUI per se.
A person who is under 21 in Georgia is at risk for DUI if they have even an odor of alcohol on their breath. If they consumed even one beer, their BAC level result will be above 0.02 in most situations.
In these cases, one of the things that an experienced underage DUI lawyer in Atlanta will do if they have a driver who has been charged with DUI while under 21, is if possible, delay any trial or guilty plea in that case until the person has turned 21. This is because at age 21 or older, for a first-time DUI, if the person pleads guilty or is found guilty in trial, they can get a driving permit in most cases. However, if they are under 21 when they plead guilty or are found guilty at trial, they cannot get a driving permit. It is a hard suspension.
Anyone facing DUI charges, regardless of age, should consult an experienced underage DUI lawyer in Atlanta. There are ways in which even a person who is going to plead guilty can get better treatment and have better results, if they have an experienced Atlanta underage DUI attorney. For example. if they are going to plead guilty they should still try to wait until they turn 21. An inexperienced attorney might not know to put off the trial until the defendant has turned 21, and so might cost them their driving privileges.
Another example is when an under-21 driver submits and gives a breath sample with a result of 0.08 grams or higher. In that case they face a 12-month suspension. If it is 0.02 to 0.079, it is going to be a six-month suspension. However, it is only a six-month suspension if there is no breath test. If the person tests 0.08 or higher, an experienced attorney can ask the prosecutor if they will agree to a consent order to be signed by the judge, suppressing that breath test from evidence. Sometimes they will agree to do that in exchange for the guilty plea. That reduces the person’s suspension time for 12 months down to six months. This is another advantage that an experienced Atlanta underage DUI attorney might present.
Under Georgia law, if a person is aged 17 or higher when arrested for DUI, the case is held in the same courts to which adults go. Therefore, people 17 years and above all go to adult courts. If the person is 16 years old or younger, the case is heard in juvenile court. This holds true even if the case continues until they have turned 17 or 18, it stays in juvenile court. The benefit of that is that the conviction, if there is one, will not show up on their criminal record. Unfortunately, it will still show up in their driving record.
Atlanta prosecutors take DUI cases very seriously. They are very reluctant to reduce the DUI to a lesser offense, such as reckless driving or some other charge. However, the penalties for conviction usually are not as severe as they are for adults. Specifically if the driver is 16 or under and their case is being heard in juvenile court. Juvenile courts will typically not impose a fine, because they understand that means the parents will probably have to pay it. Also, for a first offense, the juvenile will probably not be sent back to jail unless there is some kind of aggravating circumstance.
Typically, the juvenile courts in Georgia focus more on doing what is in the best interest of the child, which is the term used for a person in juvenile court, even if they are 16 years old. Juvenile courts always use the standard of what is in the best interest of the child, as opposed to the adult courts, which are much more concerned with just punishment.