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Athens bars, stores connected with underage possession arrests

According to the Athens-Clarke County Police, several college students and other individuals who are under the legal age to drink alcohol are charged each week with underage possession or other alcohol related charges.

In Georgia, an individual who is under the age of 21 could be arrested for DUI if the individual's blood alcohol reading is 0.02. The legal limit for drivers in Georgia who are of age to drink alcohol is 0.08.

When a student is charged with underage DUI, the individual could have his or her license suspended for six months if the student's alcohol concentration is less than 0.08. If the underage driver's alcohol concentration is 0.08 or higher, the individual could be required to serve time in jail and could face a one-year license suspension.

Although underage drivers will certainly face legal consequences if they are convicted of DUI, bartenders and liquor store owners could also be held accountable for serving or selling alcohol to minors. However, Athens-Clarke County officials recently reported that bars and liquor stores rarely lose their licenses for providing minors with alcohol.

According to Athens-Clarke County police, many underage DUI cases have involved a driver who had previously been drinking downtown. Although, ACC officials said that only one liquor license has been revoked within the past 20 years, many bartenders and liquor stores have been fined.

Beginning in 2000, ACC police started performing annual compliance checks. Currently, about 300 bars and stores are licensed to sell alcohol, but nearly 25 percent are not in compliance.

The Red & Black reported that between January 2010 and October 2011, the paper gathered information from 52 alcohol-related violations in the area. Of those violations, eight different bars were connected with underage possession charges in more than one case. Three of the bars were connected with underage possession charges in at least five cases each.

The county attorney said that owners of stores that are caught selling to minors do face criminal citations as well as the possibility of having their liquor licenses suspended for a minimum of three days. They could also be fined $500 for a violation and may be required to send their employees to alcohol training. Bartenders can be fined up to $1,000 for serving alcohol to a minor.

Source: The Red and Black, "Alcohol in Athens: Several Athens bars linked to underage sale," Tiffany Stevens, Oct. 30, 2011