What Should I Do if My Teen Driver is Charged with a DUI?

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Parents of newly licensed teen drivers face a whole new world of worry and stress every time their child gets behind the wheel. Parents hope that their teen drivers will make smart choices and avoid unsafe driving behavior such as distracted driving and reckless driving. Drunk driving is also at the top of the list of worries, despite the fact that teen drivers are minors and are not legally allowed to drink alcohol. Unfortunately, teens are exposed to alcohol in a wide range of situations. If they make the irresponsible choice to drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car, it can have devastating consequences. Parents of teen drivers who have been charged with a DUI are strongly urged to contact a highly skilled DUI lawyer who has a proven track record of reaching favorable outcomes in these types of cases.

When a teen driver is facing a DUI charge, it is important for the parents to understand that Georgia imposes very harsh penalties for underage drunk driving. The zero-tolerance law is very strictly enforced. For example, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. For teen drivers, the legal limit drops to 0.02 percent. This is due to the fact that teens should not be drinking alcohol at all, and Georgia’s breath testing machines are not accurate enough to detect a BAC lower than the 0.02 threshold. 

Parents should also understand that a DUI arrest will immediately show up on the teen driver’s record. This could jeopardize the college application process or prevent the teen from getting a job if a prospective employer sees the DUI charge on the application. A DUI charge also comes with a 12-month probation period, which means that the teen must report to their probation officer once a month, regardless of whether they have a job or go to school. In addition, a DUI charge remains on the individual’s criminal record permanently. Therefore, it is something that the teen driver will have to explain to future employers and hope that they can overlook it. 

What are the Different DUI Charges?

In Georgia, there are two ways that police can charge motorists with a DUI, including the following:

  • DUI per se: This applies when the motorist’s BAC is over the legal limit. The BAC alone is enough to convict the driver. In Georgia, a motorist is considered legally drunk under the following circumstances:
    – BAC of 0.02 percent or higher if the motorist is under the age of 21
    – BAC of 0.04 percent or higher if the motorist is operating a commercial vehicle
    – BAC of 0.08 percent or higher if the motorist is over the age of 21 and driving a passenger vehicle
  • Impairment DUI: This applies if the officer finds the driver to be impaired, regardless of the driver’s BAC. If the teen driver is charged with an impairment DUI, the prosecution must be able to show evidence of impairment, including slurred speech, erratic behavior, and other unsafe driving behavior.

What are the Criminal Penalties of an Underage DUI Charge?

Just because a teen driver is a minor does not mean that they will not face serious penalties. In fact, Georgia laws are very strict when it comes to underage drinking and driving. When a minor is charged with a DUI, they may face the following penalties:

  • A minimum of 24 hours of jail time.
  • Forty hours of community service.
  • Twelve months of probation in which the teen must report at least once a month to his or her probation officer.
  • Subject to random drug and alcohol screening for the entire probation period.
  • Must avoid using any drugs or alcohol for the probation period.
  • Must attend a 20-hour Georgia Risk Reduction Program class.
  • Pay a minimum of $300 in fines, as well as additional costs and surcharges, which can add up to approximately $1,500. Additional fines may include probation fees, license suspension fees, and the costs associated with the required programs and testing.

What are the Driver’s License Penalties for a DUI Charge?

A DUI conviction will certainly have an impact on a teen driver’s license. For drivers ages 16 to 20, a first offense will result in a six-month license suspension if his or her BAC was under 0.08 percent. If the BAC was over 0.08 percent, a teen driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months. In addition, younger drivers will be required to attend the Risk Reduction Program and pay the associated fees, including the license reinstatement fee.

Parents must also understand that there are two different court hearings that may impact a DUI charge, both of which can affect a teen’s driver’s license.

  • Administrative License Hearing (ALH): This is requested by the motorist’s DUI lawyer, who has 30 days from the date of the arrest to file an appeal of the motorist’s driver’s license. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the defendant’s driving privileges should be suspended prior to a DUI conviction in criminal court. An ALH covers the following issues:
    – Did the officer have reasonable grounds to place the motorist under arrest for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol?
    – Did the motorist involved in the accident cause serious injuries or fatalities?
    – Did the officer inform the driver of his or her implied consent rights when the test was requested?
    – Did the motorist refuse the test?
    – Did the test results indicate a BAC of 0.02 or more if the driver was under the age of 21?
    – Was the test administered properly?
  • Criminal proceeding: This will also have an impact on whether the teen driver will lose his or her driver’s license. However, a criminal proceeding may also result in additional punishments, including jail time, community service, fines, alcohol treatment, and additional license suspension.

What Steps Do I Take after My Teen Driver has Been Charged for a DUI?

A DUI charge should be taken very seriously. Therefore, it is imperative that the parents of the teen driver contact an experienced DUI lawyer who can determine whether there is a valid case against the driver. For example, if the following factors can be proved, the lawyer may be able to arrange for the charges to be thrown out:

  • The DUI stop was improper.
  • The sobriety test was improperly administered.
  • The sobriety tests were not accurate.
  • The evidence was mishandled.

However, if there is a valid case against the teen driver, a DUI lawyer will either fight the conviction or argue for a reduced sentence. Throughout the entire legal process, the teen driver is strongly urged to follow the advice of his or her lawyer and to always be respectful and tell the truth. If the teen driver is convicted of a DUI, the parents or the teen driver must pay all of the fines as soon as possible and complete all court-ordered community service programs, as well as any other programs that were ordered by the court.

What if My Teen Driver was Not Actually Impaired?

Teen drivers who have a BAC of 0.02 are considered legally impaired. Although this is meant to deter underage drivers from drinking and driving, it presents a challenge when it comes to DUI cases. There have been many cases in which an under-21 motorist had a 0.02 BAC and was charged with a DUI, despite being completely sober. To make matters worse, this charge stays on the driver’s record permanently. Motorists who are just shy of turning 21 may be charged with a violation that they would not be charged with had they been a few weeks or months older. In extreme cases, an underage driver may be charged with Felony Vehicular Homicide or Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle, which can completely derail a young person’s education or career plans. It can even prevent individuals from being approved for mortgages later in life. Oftentimes, when an underage driver has a BAC of 0.02 percent, the more fair and reasonable charge would be minor in possession of alcohol (MIP) as opposed to the much more serious charge. A skilled and experienced DUI lawyer will examine the charges brought against a teen driver, guide the client and his or her family through the complex legal system, and recommend the course of action that will have the best possible outcome.

Effingham County DUI Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Advocate for Teen Drivers Charged with a DUI

If your teen driver was charged with a DUI, reach out to the Effingham County DUI lawyers at Kicklighter Law. We have a proven track record of navigating the complex court system and will work tirelessly to protect your child’s legal rights, whether that means having the charges dropped or securing a reduced sentence. We understand the impact that a DUI charge can have on your child, and we will work tirelessly to build a strong case and protect your child’s future. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. We are located in Springfield, Georgia, and we proudly serve clients in Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.