DUIs in Juvenile Court

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DUI in Georgia Juvenile Courts

URGENT:  If you are under 21 and have been arrested for DUI in Georgia, you have only 30 days to appeal the administrative suspension of your driver’s license.  If you fail to act, your license will be suspended.  No work permits are available for drivers under 21, so you will not be able to drive if you do not appeal the suspension.  Call me today.

In many ways, Georgia Juvenile Courts operate similarly to courts that deal primarily with adults.  Juveniles have rights, including the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, and the right to have guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  However, whereas the adult criminal system concerns itself largely with punishing people for their actions, the juvenile court system (at least in theory) concerns itself with rehabilitation.  As such, every decision made by a juvenile court is supposed to be made with the best interests of the child in mind.

With a few exceptions for very serious offenses, most cases involving people under the age of 17 will be heard in a Georgia Juvenile Court, and they are called delinquency cases rather than criminal cases.  This includes DUI cases.  Juvenile courts do still use the misdemeanor/felony classifications to indicate the seriousness of the charges.  Although there are a few additional classifications that are specific to juvenile court, they do not apply to DUI cases.

Juvenile DUI vs. Adult DUI

The major difference between a juvenile DUI and an adult DUI is the per se legal limit is different.  The Georgia legislature has determined that, for adults, the per se legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is 0.08.  For juveniles, however, the per se legal limit is 0.02.  When a person under 21 is stopped under suspicion for DUI, the police will read a different implied consent warning than they would for an adult.  It reads:

“Georgia law requires you to submit to state administered chemical tests of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances for the purpose of determining if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse this testing, your Georgia driver’s license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state will be suspended for a minimum period of one year. Your refusal to submit to the required testing may be offered into evidence against you at trial. If you submit to testing and the results indicate an alcohol concentration of 0.02 grams or more, your Georgia driver’s license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state may be suspended for a minimum period of one year. After first submitting to the required state tests, you are entitled to additional chemical tests of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances at your own expense and from qualified personnel of your own choosing. Will you submit to the state administered chemical tests of your blood/breath/urine under the implied consent law?”

Because the legal limit is so low, it is very easy to meet this per se threshold, and very easy for juveniles to get DUI charges after one drink (or even less) of alcohol.

Possible Outcomes in a Juvenile DUI Case

Just as in adult DUI cases, a first, second, or third DUI would be classified as a misdemeanor offense.  A fourth offense would be a felony.

For juvenile misdemeanor DUI cases, possible outcomes include:

  • Counseling (for the child and/or the parent),
  • Probation (which may be supervised or unsupervised),
  • A requirement the child complete high school or obtain a GED diploma,
  • Community service,
  • Restitution (if applicable), and/or
  • A fine of up to $1,000.

If the child has a substantial juvenile history (at least four prior adjudications, at least one of which must be a felony offense), the court may also order:

  • Placement in an institution, camp, or other facility for delinquent children,
  • Commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice, or
  • Up to 30 days in a juvenile detention facility.

Georgia Juvenile Courts also have the authority to order parents to meet certain obligations.  This may include, for example, participation in counseling or a substance abuse program and ensuring that the child meets with his/her probation officer.

For a Juvenile Felony DUI, the juvenile court may impose all of the same punishments as in a misdemeanor case.  The difference is that, as with any juvenile felony case, the court may immediately, regardless of the child’s record, impose:

  • Placement in an institution, camp, or other facility for delinquent children,
  • Commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice, or
  • Up to 30 days in a juvenile detention facility.

License Implications of a Juvenile Court DUI

An adjudication for DUI in a Georgia Juvenile Court can be devastating for a juvenile’s license.

License Penalties for Juvenile DUIs

Offense License Penalty
1st DUI in 5 years IF BAC was UNDER 0.08 grams 6-month suspension
1st DUI in 5 years IF test results were suppressed 6-month suspension
1st DUI in 5 years IF there was a prior suspension for a serious traffic charge 12-month suspension
2nd DUI in 5 years 18-month suspension
3rd DUI in 5 years License revocation

All reinstatements require completion of a Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Program and payment of a reinstatement fee.  For a first offense, the reinstatement fee is $210 if paid in person and $200 if paid by mail.  For a second or subsequent offense, the reinstatement fee is $310 if paid in person and $300 if paid by mail.

An important note:  No limited permits are available for drivers under 21 whose licenses have been suspended due to a DUI adjudication or conviction.

Record Sealing of Juvenile Delinquency Cases

The second major difference between adult DUI cases and juvenile DUI cases is that juvenile delinquency records may be sealed under O.C.G.A. § 15-11-701.  In contrast, adult DUI convictions may never be sealed or restricted.  Sealing records means that only a limited number of people can access the records.  In order to seal a juvenile record, a person must apply for record sealing with the original adjudicating court.  The court must then find that:

  • Two years must elapse since the final discharge of the person,
  • Since the final discharge of the person, he or she has not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or adjudicated for committing a delinquent act or as a child in need of services,
  • No charges are pending against the person, AND
  • The person has been rehabilitated.

While record sealing of juvenile records can be incredibly helpful for young people seeking employment or trying to get into college, there is one major caveat:  It does not apply to the Department of Driver Services.  For purposes of calculating prior offenses, DDS keeps separate records, which are not sealed when a person’s juvenile court records are sealed.  That means that a person who gets a person who gets his/her first DUI at 16, serves a 12-month probation term, seals his/her record at 19, then gets a second DUI at 20 will serve a license suspension as though it was a 2nd DUI in 5 years, even though the first DUI case is sealed.

Defenses in Georgia Juvenile Court DUI Cases

As stated above, juveniles have the same rights that adults have.  Because of this, a juvenile court DUI may be challenged for the same reasons that an adult DUI case may.  For example, if the officer failed to properly conduct the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, the results of the tests may be challenged.  If the police officer failed to properly read the Implied Consent warning, the test results may be suppressed.  Both of these things may jeopardize the State’s case against a juvenile in a DUI case.

For these reasons, it is imperative to hire a Georgia Juvenile Court Attorney who understands DUI law as well as the implications in juvenile court.  Call me today.