If a juvenile (someone under the age of 17) is charged with driving under the influence, they are in a substantially different position than a 21+ adult, or an 18+ underage drinker. In the eyes of the law, a juvenile is a child, not capable of committing a criminal offense - with the exception of certain heinous crimes, for which they may be tried as an adult. Over the age of 17, a DUI case will be heard in municipal, state or superior court. Jurisdictions across the state of Georgia have set up juvenile-specific courts, which handle charges leveled against those under 17 years of age. These courts are considerably protective of juvenile rights; their offenses, even DUI, are not even categorized as “crimes.” No decisions made in juvenile court end up on the minor's permanent record. This does not mean that a juvenile DUI or similar offense go entirely unpenalized. The juvenile court is in place so that the minor may come away with an understanding of the gravity of the offense, with sufficient penalties to ensure the offense will not happen again. If the minor is under 17 at the time of arrest but over 17 at the time of trial, their case will still be heard in juvenile court. They were a minor at the time the offense was committed; this is all that matters in the eyes of the court.
If a juvenile was charged with DUI, they must report to the juvenile court in the county in which they were arrested. They are entitled to legal representation by a skilled Atlanta DUI Attorney. Although the state provides a public defender to those who cannot afford their own legal representation, the difference between an attentive, private DUI attorney and a public defender saddled with multiple cases can be enormous, especially with regard to the caliber of defense and the possible outcome of the case. Your chosen legal representative not only navigates you through the complex waters of DUI charges, but your future is effectively placed in their hands. Although the stakes are substantially less for juveniles, a DUI can still wreak havoc on one's career & education prospects. A juvenile will not receive a mark on their permanent record for a DUI, but as a parent or guardian, you will want to ensure that their case is not mismanaged or harmed by sloppy legal representation. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard Lawson are prepared to offer individualized attention to each case they take on. If your child was charged with juvenile DUI, placing their case in the hands of capable and trustworthy DUI attorneys is the best thing you can do in the aftermath of the charge.
The Juvenile Court Process
The central goal of the juvenile court is the rehabilitation of the child. All decisions are made with their best interest in mind, ideally. If incarcerated, a juvenile may be held at short term Regional Youth Detention Centers or long-term youth detention centers. Wilderness Youth programs are also available for delinquent youth in locations across the state. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) also offers variant options, such as probation, counseling, community service, and classes. In context of a juvenile offense, the court does not render a judgment of guilty or innocence. Rather, the court makes a decision as to whether the child is delinquent or unruly.
If a child is deemed delinquent, they are considered in need of treatment and rehabilitation. Many legal alternatives exist and can be implemented without needing to go to trial. The court could dismiss the charge if the child completes an informal probation period in which they receive no new charges. The juvenile could be put on formal probation for a two year period, in which case they would be assigned a probation officer and abide the terms of the probation. This could include community service work, educational or self-improvement classes, or counseling. In some cases, legal custody of the child may be temporarily granted to the state while treatment and rehabilitation are planned.
The majority of courts offer a pretrial diversion program. This supervisory program is an alternative to formal adjudication. If the child meets the requirements, their records could be sealed or expunged. The program requires the payment of a program fee, community service, alcohol or drug awareness courses, an essay, or a personal development class.
How is a juvenile charged with DUI?
Despite facing a more lenient court than an adult, juveniles are subject to more stringent guidelines surrounding driving and alcohol. If a juvenile's blood alcohol content is .02 or more within three hours of arrest, they could be charged with DUI. The blood alcohol limit for adults is .08, and it is understood that those with a blood alcohol content of .05 or lower are not impaired. Therefore, a juvenile could be charged with DUI even if their ability to drive was not impaired.
If the juvenile's blood alcohol was below .08 or they refused to submit to testing, the license suspension period is 6 months. If their BAC was at or exceeded .08, the suspension period is 8 months. Limited driving permits or early license reinstatement are not available to drivers under 21 years of age. If the juvenile has a prior offense for hit & run, reckless driving or another 4 point or more offense, the suspension period becomes 12 months automatically. In a best case scenario, your DUI attorney can shield your child's record from any black marks and possibly even protect their license. This is no small victory if achieved. Potential employers may very well check your child's driving record, and a clean record can be the difference between obtaining employment or remaining unemployed.
An Atlanta DUI lawyer can work to protect the confidentiality of your child's records so that a DUI arrest will not reflect on their driving record. Richard Lawson will evaluate all of the evidence against your child and determine the best course of action. He will explore every legal means of getting the charge against your child dropped or reduced. Do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Richard Lawson at any time of day, 24/7.