Driving under the influence (DUI) is regulated at the state level and most states impose harsher penalties on drivers younger than 21. Since these individuals cannot legally drink and tend to be new drivers, states want to send a strong message that deters repeated illegal behavior during later years.
State penalties for DUI typically include steep fines, driver license suspension, and even jail time. Even though the consequences with new laws for underage DUI drivers are severe and expensive if convicted, legal defenses that work to avoid a suspended license in time still apply for drivers under 21 the same as those of legal drinking age.
Drinking Under 21
All states have a legal drinking age of 21 and consider underage drinking a crime. Penalties for a minor who is legally intoxicated or found in possession of alcohol include fines, revocation of the driver license for at least 30 days, community service, participation in an alcohol education program, and installing an ignition interlock device up to 1 year as a condition to drive again.
Factors determining consequences include the age of the individual, whether the person was legally intoxicated, and existing criminal record or other alcohol-related offenses.
Using Texas as an example, a minor who buys or consumes alcohol is charged with a Class C misdemeanor offense. First-time offenders will lose their driver licenses, pay up to $500, participate in an alcohol awareness program, and do a maximum of 40 hours of community service. Repeat offenders will face harsher consequences and even minors who sell alcohol to other minors can face penalties including automatic suspension of the driver license.
Drinking and Driving Under 21 License Suspension
Minors who drink and drive face even more penalties and higher chance of a mandatory license suspension for an average minimum of 6 months. Most states have a zero tolerance policy for underage DUI offenses, throwing the book at minors during the first offense DUI, DWI conviction. While most states consider 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) the legal intoxication limit, they impose a much lower limit on minors. Currently, DUI consequences for minors are not consistent between states so finding a good DUI lawyer to explain potential penalties is recommended.
Many states use 0.02 percent BAC level as the limit for drivers under age 21. Typical sentences for underage DUI convictions include a fine of $100 to $2,500 and revocation of driving privileges for up to three years. In addition, minors convicted of DUI may have their cars impounded, find themselves on probation for up to five years, and much more.
Being convicted of DUI under age 21 is usually a double whammy. The minor has committed the crimes of both driving under the influence and underage drinking. Additional charges may be imposed on minor drivers with alcohol or drunk passengers in the car. Immediate legal advice from experienced DUI lawyers like those found through FightDUICharges.com can help prevent a suspended license and underage DUI conviction.
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DUI Under 21 License Suspension Defenses, Laws – 2023 Additional Legal References:
Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and DUI law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any driving under the influence arrest charges, get free online assistance in learning how to fight a DUI case for the best possible outcome.