Underage Drunk Driving Laws

Underage Drunk Driving Laws

Whether you are 18 or 80, it is against the law for any driver to operate a vehicle if he or she is under the influence of alcohol. However, because you must be 21 or older in order to legally purchase or consume alcohol, underage drivers face particularly harsh penalties for driving under the influence (DUI). As a result, it is especially important for these drivers to familiarize themselves with the underage drunk driving laws in their area.    

Zero Tolerance For Underage Drinking And Driving

Under federal law, a person’s ability to drive is deemed impaired once the amount of alcohol in his or her bloodstream reaches 0.08% or higher—a percentage known as blood alcohol content , or BAC. Since the law assumes the driver has reached the legal drinking age, the federal BAC limit only applies to individuals who are 21 or older. In other words, an underage driver can be considered intoxicated long before his or her BAC reaches 0.08%.

In most states, a person under 21 can be arrested for drunk driving if he or she has a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or more. However, if you live in a state with “Zero Tolerance Laws,” an underage driver can be charged with DUI for having any amount of alcohol in his or her bloodstream at all (a BAC above 0.00%).

Underage Drunk Driving Charges

Regardless of the BAC limit in your state, underage drinking and driving is a serious criminal act. In fact, if you are arrested for the offense, you will most likely face two separate charges—one for driving under the influence and another for underage drinking.

Although the exact penalties for underage drunk driving vary from state to state, some of the most common punishments include vehicle impoundment, license suspension, community service, and probation. In some areas, you may also face up to a $2,000 fine and/or a maximum one-year jail sentence.