What Georgia laws say about underage drinking

On Behalf of | May 23, 2019 | juvenile crimes |

You may assume underage drinking laws in Georgia are straightforward. Several other states have clear-cut laws that make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol under any circumstances. But that is not the case in the Peach State.

There are nuances to what Georgia statutes consider to be criminal underage drinking. Here are some important facts to know about these interesting laws.

When underage drinking is allowed

While there are minor-in-possession laws in Georgia, there are important exceptions to the rule. The laws do not apply in the following situations:

  • A parent or guardian allowing an underage individual to consume alcohol in the private residence
  • Religious ceremonies, such as communion
  • Medicinal purposes, such as using medications such as Nyquil or Benadryl that may contain alcohol

It is helpful to be aware of when the law allows underage drinking.

Unlawful possession and consumption

 However, it is illegal for minors to possess or drink alcohol in any other circumstance. The maximum criminal penalties for violating these laws include a $300 fine, six months of jail time and a 6-month license suspension for a first offense. Subsequent offenses result in a $1,000 fine, one year of jail time and a one-year license suspension.

Other punishments may include completion of an alcohol educational program, enrollment in a rehabilitation program, placement into a diversion program or probation.

Driving under the influence

The DUI laws for underage motorists are strict. For minors, the BAC limit is 0.02 compared to 0.08 for adults. This is essentially a “zero-tolerance” law. First-time offenders may face the following consequences:

  • One year in jail
  • A $1,000 fine
  • Six-month license suspension
  • Community service
  • License-reinstatement fee

This basically means that any underage person who drinks and drives is immediately going to jail if the police catch it.

It is important for parents and kids alike to understand these laws, as approximately 23.6 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds in Georgia report drinking alcohol, shares The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.