Thursday evening, an unlicensed 16-year-old driver in Santa Ana, CA was arrested on suspicion of DUI in his mother's vehicle. The teen allegedly struck two pedestrians, ultimately injuring a total of five people including the three passengers in tow. According to Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department, the silver sedan jumped a curb and collided with the unidentified pedestrians at approximately 11 am in the 1600 block of Greenville Street. The vehicle then struck a light pole. The five patients were transported to a hospital; none are reported to have life-threatening injuries. The teen driver was arrested on scene and at some point was taken to the hospital. After being discharged, he was released to his parents - for unknown reasons, a juvenile detention facility refused to take him in. The boy's name is not being released due to his age. His family has apologized to the families of the victims, with his uncle telling the press “I tried to turn him around several times.” Had this case been in Georgia, he would have been charged as a Georgia Juvenile DUI.
Zero Tolerance Policy for Underage Drivers
Unlicensed and underage drivers present unique cases in the courts which handle their DUIs. Different penalties apply depending on the age of the driver and the type of license they hold. Minors are subject to a zero tolerance blood alcohol policy. The state does not allow minor drivers (or adult drivers under the age of 21) to have any alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle, regardless of whether or not they are actually impaired. This stands in contrast to the .08 blood alcohol limit for 21+ drivers. The state imposes a .02 limit for the zero tolerance policy, only to allow for the .02 margin of error for breathalyzers.
DUI Charges in Juvenile Court
If a minor is charged with DUI, he or she is potentially in a better position than an adult charged because they will answer their charge in a juvenile court. Georgia Juvenile Courts do not render guilty or not guilty verdicts - rather they find whether the minor is delinquent or unruly. A delinquent child is in need of treatment and rehabilitation, which they will receive under the guidance of the court. If the Santa Ana teen's case were in Georgia, he would be fortunate that the incident occurred when he was 16 and not 17. At 17 he would not be eligible for the considerably less heavy-handed juvenile court.
This is not to say that underage DUIs in juvenile courts are without sanctions. Depending on what the child's lawyer achieves, the offense may or not stay on his driver's record (MVR.) Normally, a license suspension between 6 to 12 months would apply to underage drivers, the length of which would depend on the amount of alcohol in their blood. He would not be eligible for early reinstatement or a limited use driving permit. Probation, formal or informal, is an available option for juveniles charged with DUI, as are self-improvement classes, counseling, and community service work. The greatest benefit to those accused is that the offenses for which they are charged will not go on their criminal record. In this teen's case, there is no license or permit to suspend. Had the case been handled in Georgia, it is possible that the DUI would reflect on his future driving record. Potential employers screening his driving record would be able to see the offense.
If your minor child has been charged with driving under the influence in Georgia, it is imperative to your child's future that you contact a devoted Georgia DUI attorney to handle their case and protect the confidentiality of their records. Call the Law Offices of Richard Lawson today to see how he can help your case, or contact him online.
For an overview of the Georgia Juvenile Justice System, check out the rest of our website.