Underage DUI Penalties

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Driving under the influence (DUI), which is sometimes called driving while intoxicated, is a serious and common offense, especially, underage drunk driving. DUI is defined as operating a means of conveyance while excessive amounts of alcohol, or any kind of controlled substance, are present in the body. Currently, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have laws on the books that make it a crime for anyone to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent. For those under the age of 21, however, that percentage is much lower and the underage drinking and driving laws and underage dui consequences are less consistent across the each state.

Underage BAC and Sentencing Guidelines

In many states, anyone under 21-years-old caught driving with a BAC level of .02% or higher can be cited for an underage DUI. Although the punishments for underage DUI varies by state, the sentencing guidelines typically involve the following:

  • Paying fines ranging from $100 to $2,500
  • Impounding the car involved
  • Attending drug/alcohol and driver’s education classes
  • Completing between 30-60 days of community service
  • Revocation of driving privileges for anywhere from 90 days to 3 years
  • Paying any and all fees associated with the punishments
  • Jail time, ranging from 2 days to a year
  • Probation for a period of 3 to 5 years

Unlike their of-age counterparts, people cited for underage DUI usually face the consequences associated with two crimes: underage drinking and DUI. Without the help of a DUI lawyer, it can be easy for these two charges, as well as other underage consumption of alcohol charges to pile up, particularly if bodily harm or property damage is involved.

Other charges often added to a typical underage DUI arrest include:

Ramifications of Underage DUI

Currently, motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 20. In 2005, there were 7,460 youth deaths that fell into this category, including passengers and drivers. Other drunk driving statistics related to underage DUI include:

  • 28 percent of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who died in car accidents had been drinking
  • Underage DUI seems to be a bigger problem for the males in that age category, as 24 percent of young male drivers involved in fatal accidents had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. 12 percent of young female drivers were involved in fatal crashes while drunk.
  • When polled, 28.5 percent of high school students nationwide admitted to riding in a car at least once while the driver was under the influence of alcohol
  • Teens are less likely to wear seatbelts when alcohol is in their systems. 74 percent of the young drivers who were involved in fatal accidents were unrestrained at the point of impact.

Underage Drinking Statistics

While these statistics are certainly staggering, it is a vast improvement on past numbers. Since minimum drinking age laws have been established, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 24,560 lives have been saved. In the year 2005 alone, the same agency estimates that nearly 1,000 lives were saved. Still, underage drinking statistics overall have a long way to go, considering the 2005 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

  • 41 percent of students have consumed more than a few sips of alcohol by the 8th grade. 20 percent of 8th graders overall have admitted to being drunk at least once
  • 75 percent of seniors admit to consuming more than a few sips of alcohol by the time they graduated high school
  • 58 percent of 12th grade students admit to drinking to the point of drunkenness at least once
  • 28.2 percent (approximately 10.8 million) of people between the ages of 15- and 20-years-old have reported drinking alcohol in the last month
  • 18.8 percent (approximately 7.2 million) reported binge drinking
  • 6 percent (approximately 2.3 million) reported being heavy drinkers
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