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Punishment for Underage DUI

Underage DUI refers to when a motorist under the age of 21 drives a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For this class of drivers, the detection of even a minimal amount of alcohol in their blood can lead to license suspension and other civil and criminal punishments. All fifty states have set the minimum drinking age at 21, although there are some exceptions, such as when a parent is present. All states also set the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) at which a driver can operate a motor vehicle at 0.08 percent. Your BAC must be below this rate to legally drive, although you can be arrested and convicted for impaired driving regardless of your BAC.

Minimum Tolerance Levels

For drivers under 21, many states have either a zero tolerance level or set the level at 0.01 percent or slightly higher, which is essentially the same as zero. A man weighing about 150 pounds can reach a 0.02 percent BAC after consuming only one alcoholic drink over the period of one hour. A woman of average bodyweight can consume less than that and still have a BAC of 0.02 percent over a one-hour period. In such cases, underage motorists can be convicted of DUIs even if their driving conduct was not suspect and no evidence was shown that their driving conduct was impaired by alcohol.

Penalties for Underage DUI

Punishments for underage DUI defendants vary, but the following are typical DUI penalties for most states:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license from 30 days to age 21, or one or more years
  • Impoundment of your motor vehicle
  • Possible jail time of one day to several years for multiple offenders
  • Community service in lieu of jail time or after a short time served in jail
  • Attendance at DUI school
  • Fine of a few hundred to several thousand dollars
  • Probation from three to five years
  • Juvenile detention

Any of these penalties can be enhanced by aggravating circumstances, such as an elevated BAC, driving on a suspended license, or being a multiple offender.

Causing an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death or driving with passengers below a certain age can trigger felony charges or at least greatly increase the criminal and civil penalties for underage DUI defendants.

States vary widely in how they punish underage DUI offenders, so you need to contact a DUI lawyer in your area to learn what your state’s laws are and to explore all of your legal options.