Responsible for around 3,000 deaths annually, underage drinking and driving has been, and continues to be, a big problem in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because of this, laws regarding underage DUIs are strongly enforced.
If you are arrested for driving under the influence and are below the legal U.S. drinking age of 21, your penalties will be different than if you were 21 years of age or older. Typical DUI penalties for underage defendants can include:
The severity of these penalties varies by state and the circumstances of each individual case.
A standard DUI charge is given if a motorist exceeds the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of .08 (.05 in Utah). However, motorists under the age of 21 are subject to zero-tolerance violations, which make it illegal for younger motorists to operate a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. The limit for the zero-tolerance laws varies by state, but can include any measurable BAC. There are two possible classifications of underage DUI penalties: administrative and criminal.
- In many cases, zero tolerance violations will result in administrative penalties and will fall under the purview of the DMV instead of a criminal court. Administrative penalties are not classified as a crime, and include DMV-sanctioned driver’s license suspension for a set period of time. If an underage driver wishes to challenge an administrative license suspension, they will need to contact the DMV instead of the court.
- Receiving an administrative suspension penalty is more favorable than a criminal infraction, as it will not show up on criminal background checks performed by a school or place of employment.
- Some states carry criminal charges for underage drinking and driving. The penalties if you’re convicted of an underage DUI are often less severe than if you’re of legal drinking age and are officially classified as a misdemeanor or infraction. Infractions rarely carry more severe punishments than fines.
- If your BAC is over your state’s legal limit, you will most likely be convicted of a misdemeanor, and will then be subjected to more severe penalties depending on the state where you were arrested.
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How does this affect minors?
If you’re a minor convicted of a criminal DUI charge, you may encounter setbacks when applicating for colleges or jobs, as any criminal offense will show up on a routine background check. You might even be asked to provide details of your arrest to a potential employer. While it may be embarrassing, it is important to not hide your DUI from your employer. Falsifying your information on a job application is strongly frowned upon and can provide the employer with grounds for termination.
Preparing for court
If you are a minor facing a criminal underage drinking and driving charge, you will need to prepare for court. Be sure to review all the details of your arrest and have all documentation, forms, photos and declarations submitted on time.
You do not need to face the courts alone. Get in touch with a local attorney who specializes in DUI law. While it may seem unnecessary to hire a reputable DUI attorney, they can help you substantially mitigate penalties. A drinking and driving offense as a minor may affect career or education opportunities, so be sure to defend yourself to your best ability.
Do you have more questions about underage DUI charges? Let DUI.org help. DUICare experts are standing by to help you get through this.