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Legal Advice for Students from Criminal Defense Attorney Kim T. Stephens



Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes University of Georgia, University of North Georgia, Athens Technical College, and Piedmont College students back to Athens, Georgia. The fall is an exciting time in Athens, with students returning to the city, and football season just around the corner. Former Bulldog All-American and criminal defense attorney Kim Stephens encourages incoming students to study, work hard, have fun, and be careful to avoid being arrested and forever branded as a criminal.

State laws and local ordinances:

  1. Athens, Georgia has an open container ordinance, meaning it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages outside in public spaces, even just outside of some bars and restaurants. The local police enforce the open container law year round, even on football game days on and off campus.
  2. Athens, Georgia has a noise ordinance and excessive noise at any residence may result in police coming to your residence and attempting to question everyone who is there. If the police show up at your home because of a noise complaint, have someone who has not been drinking and/or is over 21 years of age meet the officers at the door and, above all else, be polite, cooperate and turn the noise down, i.e. lower the decibel level.
  3. Littering violates state law and local ordinances and makes the community an uglier place. Instead of dropping cans, bottles or other trash on the ground or throwing them out the car window, pick up any trash you see and put it in the closest recycle or trash bin. You will feel good about yourself and will avoid unnecessary attention from the police.
  4. If you drink alcohol and are under the age of twenty-one, you may be charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol, i.e. MIP, even if the police don’t perform any test to determine if you have been drinking. Local police departments in Athens recently changed their policy of arresting first time underage drinkers and branding them as criminals, instead issuing citations to the alleged offender; but, the penalties and sentences in MIP cases can still be unduly harsh and burdensome and can result in you having a criminal record. Please don’t trust your friend’s expert advice just because he or she already had an MIP in Athens or somewhere else. You should always consult with an attorney before you go to court.
  5. If you are under the age of twenty-one and drive any vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, you may be charged with DUI. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a DUI charge, your driver’s license would likely be suspended if you are charged with MIP while driving. Don’t put yourself or others at risk. Walk (preferably with a friend so that you won’t be a good candidate for being robbed or mugged), call a sober friend, have a designated driver, take a cab, or let Uber help you.
  6. If you are over the age of twenty-one and drive a vehicle (including bicycles, scooters, Segways, golf carts, horses, or any moving vehicle) with a blood alcohol level of .08, you will be charged with DUI in Athens. While television, radio and billboard advertisements call a DUI a $10,000.00 mistake, I know of a DUI conviction costing a person more than $200,000.00 because he lost his job, lost his company car, couldn’t find other work for over a year, almost lost his home, along with suffering the more typical DUI penalties. I’ve also seen commercial drivers lose their licenses for a year or, for a second DUI permanently taking away their ability to work. These cases demonstrate the severe impact a DUI can have whether you are a college student or a working adult.
  7. If you drive a vehicle improperly (speeding, failure to maintain lane, etc.) after consuming alcohol or using drugs, you may be charged with DUI less safe even if you refuse the breath or blood test. Often police officers will request that you take “a few tests” called field sobriety tests (these are not the same as the breathalyzer test that they will ask you to take after they arrest you) to determine if you are impaired. You are not required to take these field sobriety tests. Understand that police officers use the test to gather evidence against you, not to help you. So, in almost every circumstance, you should refuse to do these voluntary field sobriety tests at the scene of your stop.
  8. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor reckless driving to felony vehicular homicide. A conviction for vehicular homicide almost always results in many years of prison time though Stephens & Brown has successfully kept a person out of jail in the last few months who caused the death of two elderly people after smoking marijuana. Don’t take a chance of killing someone, ruining your life, and devastating the lives of family members for you and the person you might injure or kill.
  9. If you buy alcohol and provide it to someone under the age of twenty-one, you can be charged with providing alcohol to a minor. In addition to criminal sanctions, your driver’s license will be suspended if you are convicted of providing alcohol to a minor.
  10. If you have sex with an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, and other serious criminal offenses, even if you were also intoxicated. Even more worrisome, students, particularly male students, are being expelled by UGA and other colleges and universities based upon accusations of sexual misconduct where both students involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, WITHOUT A HEARING to determine the truth of the accusation. Don’t risk the rest of your life by even kissing someone who is under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged violations of the Honor Code or EOO Policies, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future. Kim Stephens defends students every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing these incidents from impacting students’ education and lives beyond college.



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