Defending Charges of Driving Under the Influence as a Minor in GA
Underage DUIs usually have the same defenses as other DUIs.
Underage DUIs are more difficult to defend in Georgia than other DUIs, mostly because the BAC requirement, .02, is much lower. 0.02 is the Breathalyzer’s margin of error, assuming the gadget is properly calibrated. So, in effect, Georgia is a zero-tolerance state for underage DUI offenders.
As outlined below, improper calibration is just one of the many defenses an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer can use in court. Attorneys use these defenses to reduce or eliminate the harsh direct and indirect consequences of an underage DUI. The direct consequences include license suspension, extended court supervision, and high fines. The indirect consequences include higher auto insurance rates and employment issues. These consequences are particularly brutal for individuals whose adult lives are just beginning.
Jurisdictional issues are not legal defenses. However, these issues delay the process and often convince prosecutors to drop these cases, especially if the evidence is otherwise weak.
Many parts of Gwinnett County are partially in one county and partially in another one. If the state files charges in the wrong county, prosecutors must dismiss the case and refile in the proper county. Gwinnett County judges only have jurisdiction over criminal cases in Gwinnett County.
On a related note, DUI charges usually only hold up in court if the defendant was driving or operating the vehicle in a public place. Locales such as large apartment complexes generally are not public places, even if they are publicly accessible and even if their streets have street names.
The “driving” element of a DUI is often a question mark as well. In Georgia, driving is basically synonymous with operating, at least in this context. In fact, even if the defendant was literally asleep at the wheel, the defendant could be guilty of DUI. However, even though the definition is still broad, proof problems persist.
In a non-driving DUI, the state must prove the vehicle had gas and was otherwise in operable condition. Frequently, there is little or no evidence on this point. Officers usually do not look at the gas gauge or assess the car’s mechanical condition when they make an arrest.
About 80% of DUI defendants submit to chemical tests. Blood tests are more reliable than breath tests, but blood tests require search warrants, and most officers do not want to make that effort. Some specific Breathalyzer reliability issues include:
- Calibration: Witnesses for the state love to crow about the modern Breathalyzer’s advanced features. The more bells and whistles a gadget has, the more important maintenance is. If prosecutors cannot provide sufficient evidence on this point, the judge may throw the results out of court.
- Mouth Alcohol: State law requires a pre-breathalyzer monitoring period, but this provision isn’t strictly enforced. So, the defendant probably burped or belched before the breath test. If that happens, alcohol particles from the stomach flood into the mouth and skew the results.
- Ketones: Many people, like smokers and diabetics, have abnormally high ketone levels. These particles are acids that break down fat and transform it into energy. These particles are also very similar to ethanol (alcohol). The similarity is so great that Breathalyzers cannot distinguish between the two.
Issues such as these could easily push the margin of error above 0.02. As a result, prosecutors are hard-pressed to establish intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt.
Speak With a Tough-Minded Gwinnett County Lawyer
Underage DUIs have serious consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta, contact Zimmerman & Associates, Attorneys at Law. We routinely handle matters in Fulton County and nearby jurisdictions.