Underage Drinking Penalties

Underage Drinking Penalties

You probably know that it is against the law to operate a vehicle if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs—and you’re also probably aware that you must be 21 or older to legally consume alcohol. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that underage drinking and driving is also a big no-no. In fact, if you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and are under 21, you could be charged with two separate offenses: one for DUI and one for underage drinking—and unfortunately, that means you’ll face a number of harsh underage drinking penalties.

Getting Convicted Of Underage Drinking

From a legal standpoint, DUI is defined as driving with an illegal blood alcohol content (BAC). To determine BAC, officers rely on breathalyzers and other chemical testing methods that measure the percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream. If the results of these tests indicate you have a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you are legally impaired and can be arrested for drunk driving.

However, as with most things in life, there’s a catch when it comes to the legal BAC guideline: the 0.08% limit only applies to drivers who are 21 and older (that’s because the law assumes that if you are underage, you shouldn’t be drinking in the first place). As a result, most states have separate BAC limits for underage drivers. While these laws vary from one area to another, most jurisdictions require underage motorists to adhere to a strict 0.02% BAC limit.

Of course, not every state abides by the 0.02% BAC limit. In an effort to prevent underage drinking and driving, many lawmakers have passed a series of “Zero Tolerance Laws,” making it illegal for individuals under 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their bloodstream at all. In such areas, an underage driver can be arrested for DUI if his or her BAC is anything other than 0.00%.

Harsh Penalties To Expect If Found Guilty

Regardless of the specific BAC limit in your state, you can expect to face a number of tough penalties if you are charged with underage DUI. Depending on the laws in your state, even a first-time offender could pay as much as $2,500 in fines, lose his or her driver’s license for 90 days or more, and spend up to a year behind bars. And, depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may face additional charges for underage possession of alcohol or distributing alcohol to minors (if there were underage passengers in your vehicle who were also under the influence of alcohol).