Georgia Underage Drinking Laws – Under 21 Alcohol Possession / Underage Consumption of Alcohol / Minor in Possession of Alcohol: Gainesville, GA Criminal Defense Attorney ExplainsAugust 14, 2010
Under Georgia Law, OCGA § 3-3-23, it is illegal for someone Under 21 to possess alcohol. The courts have interpreted this law very broadly and, as a result, internal possession of alcohol by someone under 21 can be a crime.
The defendant having beer in his/ her blood or on the breath can be sufficient enough to be found guilty.
Even without alcohol being physically present, law enforcement will attempt to determine whether the defendant has any manifestations of consumption (odor of alcohol, blood shot eyes, slurred speech, coordination issues, etc.) Most cases have an admission of consumption by the defendant and / or a positive reading on a portable breath test (PBT).
It is almost never advisable to admit to consumption (everyone has a Constitutional Right to remain silent). Also, it is generally not advisable to consent to a portable breath test. PBT’s are unreliable for a numeric reading and are only good for a positive or a negative indication. Additionally, there are many factors that could lead to a false positive (mouth wash, bread, certain medications, etc.).
Related License Suspensions:
Generally, a standard Under 21 alcohol charge (according to the Georgia Under Age Drinking Laws) will not result in a license suspension, but the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) will suspend for the following Under 21 Alcohol violations:
1. Purchasing an alcoholic beverage.
2. Misrepresenting age for purpose of illegally obtaining any alcoholic beverage.
3. Misrepresenting identity or using false identification for purpose of purchasing or obtaining any alcoholic beverage.
Legal Exceptions to Under 21 Possession:
There are a few exceptions in which a person under 21 can possess / consume alcohol without criminal liability:
1. For medical purposes pursuant to a prescription.
2. At a religious ceremony.
3. When the parent or guardian of the person under 21 years of age gives the alcoholic beverage to the person and when possession is in the home of the parent or guardian and such parent or guardian is present.
Under Age Drinking Laws - Pretrial Diversion / Conditional Discharge / First Offense:
Due to the prevalence of Under 21 Alcohol cases, the Georgia Legislature has allowed those accused of Possession of Alcohol, for the first time, to plead guilty, but latter have the charges dismissed if certain conditions are met. (This is different than a First Offender Plea.)
Generally, the terms are probation, a fine, completing an alcohol awareness class, performing community service and other terms and conditions. Please note that, legally, one is not entitled to an expungement on a conditional discharge. However, some prosecutors will agree to sign-off on an expungement as part of the plea deal.
At Breakfield & Associates, Attorneys, Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, John Breakfield welcomes anyone with any minor / under 21 alcohol or criminal defense questions to Call or Email him. Please remember that all criminal defense initial consultations are free of charge.
About the author: John Breakfield is a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney with Breakfield & Associates, Attorneys in Gainesville, Georgia and handles matters regarding underage possession and criminal defense. The Georgia Defense Attorneys at Breakfield & Associates, Attorneys can assist clients throughout Georgia including: Hall County (Gainesville, Oakwood, Flowery Branch), White County (Cleveland), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Gwinnett County (Buford, Duluth, Sugar Hill, Lawrenceville), Dawson County (Dawsonville), Habersham County (Demorest, Cornelia), and all of Northeast Georgia.
This article should not be considered nor relied upon as legal advice since it is only intended for general overview and informational purposes. Please consult with a Georgia criminal defense attorney on your specific situation in order to determine an appropriate legal course of action.