Georgia
law prevents anyone under the age of 21 from possessing or consuming alcoholic
beverages. Violating these Minor in Possession (MIP) laws can lead to
significant consequences, subject to only a few specific exceptions.

The Offense

O.C.G.A. § 3-3-23 prohibits minors from purchasing, attempting to purchase, or knowingly
possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages. The law also makes it a crime for
minors to use a fake identification in order to purchase alcohol. If convicted,
you could be sentenced to:

(First
Offense)

  1. $300 fine
    (maximum)
  2. Up to 6 months in
    jail
  3. 6 month driver’s
    license suspension (no limited permit available)

(Second
or Further Offense)

  1. $1,000 (maximum)
  2. Up to one year in
    jail
  3. 1 year driver’s
    license suspension

A
sentencing judge could also order you to complete certain educational programs
pertaining to alcohol and drug use. If a person under 21 is convicted of using
a fake ID to purchase alcoholic beverages, you will be required to complete a
defensive driving course and pay a $210 reinstatement fee in order to reinstate
your license.

If
found guilty of MIP while driving a motor
vehicle
, your license will be suspended for 120 days. You will have to
submit proof of completion of a Risk Reduction Program along with a $35 fee in
order to reinstate your license. However, a plea of nolo contendere will prevent the conviction from being reported to
DDS. You are eligible to use a nolo contendere
plea once every five years.

It is
also important to note the consequences of a DUI conviction if under the age of 21.

Defenses and Exceptions

The
law does not apply to the sale, purchase, or possession of alcoholic beverages
when the consumption is for religious ceremony, medical purposes pursuant to a
physician’s orders, or with the consent of a parent or guardian when the
possession takes place in the home and the parent or guardian is present.

The
law also permits people under 21 years of age to dispense, serve, sell, or
handle alcoholic beverages as a part of their employment in any licensed
establishment. The law allows people under 21 to be employed in any
establishment in which alcoholic beverages are distilled or manufactured. The
law also allows people under 21 to take orders for and having possession of
alcoholic beverages as a part of employment in a licensed establishment.

If
this is your first offense for MIP and have no prior criminal history relating
to drugs or alcohol, the prosecutor may offer to dismiss your case if you
successfully complete a “pre-trial diversion program.” If you successfully
complete certain conditions (usually a fine, community service, educational
courses, drug and alcohol screens) within a certain period of time, the
prosecutor will agree to not prosecute the case, resulting in the case being
dismissed. If you do not successfully complete the diversion program, your case
will be placed back on the trial calendar. Your case could also be resolved
through a “conditional discharge” which works the same as pre-trial diversion,
except you have to first enter a guilty plea, so that if you do not
successfully complete the terms, your guilty plea will take effect and remain
on your record permanently.

If the
case cannot be resolved through diversion (formal or informal), conditional
discharge, or some other plea negotiation, then you may go to trial on the case
and raise doubt as to whether you were in possession or whether you consumed
alcohol while being under the age of 21. 

Contact Us

If you or someone you know has been
arrested for driving under the influence, contact the law firm of W.
Scott Smith at 404.581.0999
 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI attorney ready to aggressively fight
on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.