Georgia Alcohol Laws: Always on Your Mind? They Should Be!

This page will help you understand Georgia alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and embarrassment.

Georgia alcohol laws apply to all residents and visitors. It’s easy to think that its laws are the same as in other states. That could be a big mistake. They even differ within Georgia. But not knowing the law is no defense.


           Overview

I.   Alcohol Minimum Ages
II.  More Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV. Get Legal Advice

I. Alcohol Minimum Ages

Many young people want part-time jobs. Hospitality offers many. Often around alcohol. How old must a person be to serve alcohol? To sell it for drinking elsewhere? To tend bar? They need answers. So we provide them.

Georgia alcohol laws permit adults to tend bar. Of course, adults are those 18 or older. They may also serve in venues that sell alcohol for on-site drinking.

No state alcohol law gives any minimum age for selling alcohol for off-site drinking.

Georgia alcohol laws permit some drinking under the age of 21. They may do so for religious purposes. Or when prescribed by a physician. The state also permits them to have alcohol in the home of a parent or guardian in their presence.georgia alcohol laws

For that reason, many parents do this to demystefy alcohol and to teach moderation. They think it’s better for young people to learn to drink in the parents’ house than in a fraternity house.

Buying alcohol with a false ID is a crime. Also it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02.

II. More Georgia Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

In Georgia, package stores sell distilled spirits. That is, bourbon, scotch, gin, vodka, rum, etc. Grocery and convenience stores sell beer and wine.

Because of local option, counties and towns set the days/times for alcohol sales. However, they may not permit sales before 8:00 a.m. or after 11:45 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

If local laws permit Sunday sales, businesses may not sell before 12:30 p.m. Sunday or remain open after 11:45 p.m. In addition, package stores may not sell on Sundays.

It’s a violation of Georgia alcohol laws to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. The penalty is jail for up to one year and a $1,000 fine. Note that Georgia treats non-alcoholic beer and wine as alcoholic beverages.

A business can be held responsible for alcohol-related accidents under certain conditions. One is if the seller did not obtain proper ID. The other is if the business sold alcohol to an intoxicated person.

The penalty for providing alcohol to anyone under 21 is jail for up to one year and a $1,000 fine. In addition, the court typically charges the provider with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor may prevent people from entering certain jobs. They include law, education, social work, law enforcement, among others.

Parents may file a civil suit against a person who provided alcohol to their offspring, including adults, under 21.

Counties with Sunday sales cannot sell alcohol until 12:30 p.m. For a map of Sunday alcohol sales restrictions, see Georgia Counties.

B. Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy, or attempt to buy, any alcoholic beverage. Retailers may confiscate false IDs and report it to law enforcement. It’s also illegal for those under 21 to possess alcohol. However, the cases are so numerous that the Legislature has intervened.

georgia alcohol lawsAs a result, first-time offenders may plead guilty. Then the court may dismiss the charges under certain conditions. These are generally probation, a fine, community service, and an alcohol awareness class. Of course, a judge decides the punishment.

In addition, some prosecutors agree to expunge the record as part of the plea agreement.

It’s also illegal for anyone to possess an unregistered beer keg. The penalty is jail for up to 12 months and a fine up to $1,000. The same penalty applies to destroying the label on a keg.

C. Driving and Alcohol

Georgia alcohol laws prohibit driving under the influence (DUI). For those 21 or older, that’s driving a regular vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. It’s 0.04% for those driving commercial vehicles. And it’s 0.02% for those under 21.

The exact penalties for DUI depend on the judge and the facts of the case. That includes age, type of license, the BAC, any previous convictions, and many other factors. Also, those drivers with a BAC of 0.15% or above receive higher punishments. The law requires some penalties, others are within ranges, and some are up to the judge.

DUI Penalties Age 21 & Older

   First Offense

  • Georgia alcohol lawsLicense suspension for up to one year.
  • Fine of at least $300. However, it could be as high as $1,000.
  • License reinstatement fee of $210.
  • Community service of 40 hours.
  • DUI program. The offender must pay $355 for it.
  • Possible jail for up to one year.

   Second Offense within five years

  • Jail for two to 365 days.
  • License suspension for 18 months to three years.
  • Fine of at least $600. But it could be as high as $1,000.
  • License reinstatement fee of $210.
  • Community service of at least 30 days.
  • DUI program. The offender must pay $355 for it.
  • Possible interlock ignition device (IID) on vehicle. This prevents the car from starting if there’s alcohol on the driver’s breath. It’s expensive and the offender must pay for it.

   Third Offense

  •  Jail or at least 15 days.
  • License revocation for five years.
  • Confiscation of license plate.
  • Fine of at least $1,000. Nevertheless, it could be as high as  $5,000.
  • License reinstatement fee of $410.
  • Community service of at least 30 days.
  • DUI program. Of course, the offender must pay $355 for it.
  • Clinical evaluation and treatment.
  • Status of Habitual Violator.
  • Name, address, and photo published in offender’s local newspaper, for which perpetrator must pay.

DUI Penalties Ages 16-20

   First Offense

  • License suspension for six months for BAC under 0.08.
  • Suspension for one year for BAC 0.08 or over.
  • License reinstatement fee of $210.
  • DUI program. The offender must pay $355 for it.

   Second Offense within Five Years

  • License suspension for 18 months regardless of BAC level.
  • License reinstatement fee of $310.
  • DUI program. Of course, the offender must pay $355 for it.
  • Clinical evaluation and possible treatment.

   Third Offense within Five Years

  • License suspension for five years.
  • License reinstatement fee of $410.
  • DUI program. Again, the offender must pay $355 for it.
  • Clinical evaluation and possible treatment.

DUI Penalties Age 15 and Younger

   First Offense

  • Georgia alcohol lawsLicense suspension until age 17.
  • DUI program. The offender must pay $355 for it.
  • License reinstatement fee of $210.

   Second Offense

  • License suspension until age 18.
  • DUI program. Again, the offender must pay $355 for it.
  • License reinstatement fee of $310.

   Third Offense

  • License suspension until age 18.
  • DUI program. Of course, the offender must pay $355 for it.
  • License reinstatement fee of $410.

Drivers must transport opened alcohol containers in a vehicle’s trunk.

Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test. However, the state punishes those who do so. It’s a license suspension for up to one year. And if a court convicts them of a first DUI, their suspension isn’t for “up to” one year. It’s a required one year suspension. For a second DUI, the license suspension is for three years instead of 18 months to three years.

Field SobrietyTests

But Georgia alcohol laws do not penalize drivers who refuse to take a field sobriety test. These are highly inaccurate. In fact, 30% of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of every three people with a BAC of 0.00% fail to pass!

For this reason, lawyers strongly urge people never, ever to take them. They say to politely refuse. And do so over and over if necessary. So it may be wise to take their advice.

Police have clever ways to talk drivers into taking the tests. They often falsely insist that the law requires it. Not true. In fact, no state in the U.S. requires it.

They may say the test will prove they’re innocent. But police don’t consider passing as proof of sobriety. Therefore, taking the test never helps drivers. It only harms them. Furthermore, people don’t have to prove their innocence. In reality, it’s the state that must prove them guilty.

In addition, learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

D. Boating and Alcohol

georgia alcohol lawsGeorgia alcohol laws prohibit boating under the influence (BUI). That is, operating a boat, personal watercraft (PWC), water skis, sailboard, wakeboard or similar device while intoxicated. Nor may an owner permit anyone else to do so.

Those age 21 or older are guilty of BUI if they operate while their BAC is 0.08 or higher. This is also true if police detect drugs. In addition, those under 21 are guilty if their BAC is 0.02 or higher.

Penalties

Those convicted of BUI face fines of up to $1,000 and/or jail for up to one year. They may not operate a vessel until successfully completing an approved DUI program. Of course, they must pay for it.

If anyone age 13 or younger is onboard, the offender is also guilty of endangering a child. Conviction of this crime can have adverse impact on career choices. For example education, law, law enforcement, social work, etc.

Boaters who use their right to decline BAC test may not operate a vessel for up to one year. The state may argue in court that the use of the right proves guilt. But it’s wrong.

III. Resources on Georgia Alcohol Laws

IV. Legal Advice on Drinking Laws in Georgia

Georgia’s alcohol laws, like those of other states, can change. Courts can their interpretation. They can conflict. Or be vague. So do not rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

And beware. Neighbors may describe incidents. Co-workers may give advice. Friends may express views. Kin may “know it all.” Strangers may chime in. But law is not “do it yourself.” Lawyers spend years studying it. Smile and thank them. Their advice is worth what you paid for it. That is, probably nothing. Moreover, it could be misleading.

georgia alcohol lawsGet information and advice about Georgia alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer holding a license in the state. The state bar (lawyers) association has a free lawyer referral service.

It’s also best to pick a lawyer who specializes in alcohol. Law is very complex. You wouldn’t want your family MD to do brain surgery.

Now you now know much more about Georgia alcohol laws than do most residents of the state. Congratulations! If you think something should be added to this page, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/ In fact many readers have helped improve this site. So thank you for any help!