No one wants their teen to begin their years of driving with a DUI. However, that happens to all-too-many newly minted drivers.
It’s important for them (and you) to remember that it’s illegal for anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of even .02% if they’re driving or even in physical control of a vehicle. That means even if they get in the car and then decide to wait a bit before driving just to be on the “safe side,” they can still face a DUI charge if they’re in the car and have access to their keys.
States across the country have this .02% limit for underage drivers (compared to .08% for adults) for good reason. According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, car crashes are the leading killer of teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an impaired driver. Further, drivers under 25 make up some 40% of those in fatal crashes involving alcohol.
The potential consequences of an underage DUI
A driver can be convicted of an underage DUI, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor, if they’re determined to have at least a .02% BAC and/or have consumed any controlled substance or marijuana.
A first underage DUI can potentially result in up to 30 days in jail as well as a fine of as much as $500 and a license suspension of 30 days. If there are subsequent DUI convictions, the consequences increase.
While certainly no one wants their child to get a DUI, if that’s the only consequence of driving impaired, you and they should consider yourselves lucky. If they weren’t involved in a crash that injured anyone, or worse, this is an important lesson to learn early.
Nonetheless, if your child wasn’t actually under the influence or there were issues with the arrest or evidence, they can and should fight the charges. Even if the arrest and the charge are warranted, you can work to mitigate the consequences on their life. With sound legal guidance, you can get a better understanding all your options.