Getting busted drinking underage can happen, often from teens giving in to peer pressure or just making a dumb choice. Now, you or your college kid could be facing punishment after that fateful ticket for underage drinking.
We know the questions swirling – are there new penalty laws? How bad will sanctions actually be for a first offense?
Finding clear answers feels confusing when consequences might involve fines, court dates, suspended licenses, or more. Here’s everything you need to know about what happens if you’re charged with underage drinking in the Peach State.
Georgia’s Underage Drinking Laws
Georgia law prohibits the possession of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21. The relevant statute is O.C.G.A. 3-3-23 which states:
“It is unlawful for any person knowingly to violate any prohibition contained in Code Section 3-3-21 or 3-3-22, relating to the prohibition of the sale, purchase, or possession of alcoholic beverages by, to, or for persons under 21 years of age.”
This law applies to purchasing, attempting to purchase, and possessing any kind of alcoholic beverage. The only exceptions are for medicinal, religiou, or parental consent for possession at home purposes.
Simply put, it is illegal in Georgia for anyone under 21 to buy, try to buy, or possess any kind of alcohol – period. Violating this law results in a criminal charge known as Minor in Possession (MIP), which is a misdemeanor offense.
Criminal Penalties for Underage Drinking in GA
For a first MIP offense in Georgia, the potential criminal penalties include:
- Up to 12 months in jail – Technically, under Georgia law, a first MIP conviction can result in up to 12 months in jail. However, spending time in jail for a first offense is rare. Fines or community service are much more common.
- Fines up to $300 – The fine for a first MIP conviction can be up to $300 at the judge’s discretion. Subsequent MIP convictions can bring fines up to $1,000.
- Community service – Judges often order community service of 40 hours or more as part of sentencing for underage possession of alcohol charges.
- Probation – Probation may be ordered instead of or in addition to fines. This puts the offender under court supervision.
While the maximum penalties on paper seem harsh, in reality, first-time MIP offenders generally get fines, community service, or probation. Still, a MIP conviction stays on your criminal record permanently if not expunged.
Minor in Possession (MIP) Charges
In Georgia, it is a criminal offense for a person under 21 to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. This is referred to as a “minor in possession” or “MIP” charge.
An underage person can face MIP charges for:
- Purchasing or attempting to buy alcohol
- Possessing alcohol in any public place or vehicle
- Consuming any amount of alcohol in public
- Using a fake ID to obtain alcohol
MIP is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia, punishable by fines up to $300 for a first conviction. Minors charged with MIP require legal representation to mitigate penalties that could derail their futures.
Penalties for a First MIP Conviction
For a first minor in possession offense, the potential criminal penalties in Georgia include:
- Fines up to $300 – The fine for a first MIP conviction can be up to $300 at the court’s discretion. Fines increase to $600 for a second offense and $1,000 for third or subsequent offenses.
- Up to 12 months in jail – A minor convicted of MIP may be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail. While unusual for a first offense, judges have the discretion to impose jail time.
- Community service – Courts often order community service of 40 hours or more as part of sentencing for a MIP conviction.
- Probation – Probation periods of 6 to 12 months are common penalties for underage possession convictions. Probation terms may include alcohol education classes, drug screening, and community service.
While incarceration is unlikely for a first minor in possession case, it remains a possibility in Georgia. Engaging an experienced Under 21 DUI Lawyer is strongly advised to avoid jail time and minimize all penalties.
Collateral Consequences of an MIP Conviction
In addition to the criminal penalties, a first MIP offense also results in non-criminal penalties, including:
- Driver’s license suspension – An underage person convicted of MIP will have their driver’s license suspended for 6 months. This is true even if the offense did not involve driving.
- Increased insurance rates – Car insurance rates for teens and young adults will skyrocket after a MIP conviction. This can make insurance unaffordable.
- School discipline – College students and high school students face academic discipline like suspension or loss of scholarships.
These non-criminal penalties can negatively impact a young person’s education and career prospects. That’s why fighting a MIP charge is so important.
Defending Against an Underage Possession Charge
While Georgia takes underage drinking offenses seriously, there are legal strategies for achieving the best possible outcome:
- Participating in pre-trial intervention or diversion programs, which result in dismissed charges upon completion.
- Challenging improper police conduct led to the charges.
- Negotiating community service and alcohol education in exchange for the avoidance of fines, probation, or license suspension.
- Sealing MIP records to prevent impact on future background checks for employment, housing or military service.
With an experienced criminal justice lawyer negotiating for them, many underage defendants can plea bargain for very favorable resolutions of their MIP cases. This avoids harsh penalties that might follow them for years.
Protect Your Child’s Future With a Defense Lawyer
Any criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor, can derail a young person’s future success. If your son or daughter faces minor in possession charges, take action quickly. The defense attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm focused on protecting the futures of young Georgians caught making youthful mistakes.
They have successfully defended hundreds of underage drinking cases. Contact their offices online at https://www.pglawoffice.com/ today. They can evaluate your child’s case and develop an aggressive defense strategy.