For parents, the day their children pass the DMV driving test is often one that is filled with mixed emotions.
Parents will always be happy about their kids getting a driver’s license. After all, a license to drive is another step toward becoming a responsible adult. However, they also can’t help but worry about them, especially when there are real issues like teen drinking and driving that could get them in trouble.
In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21. However, we all know that many teenagers already consume alcohol in one form or another, and some drink and drive.
As parents, the best thing we can do is educate our kids about the dangers of drunk driving and hope they heed every word. Our teenagers need to know that drunk driving has claimed thousands of lives over the decades. You must also tell them about the legal consequences of an underage DUI, which is what they will face if authorities catch them drunk behind the wheel.
Here are some facts about underage DUI that parents can use to warn their kids.
Underage Laws Are Stricter
All states have zero-tolerance laws, which cover underage DUI offenses. Applicable to drivers under 21, zero-tolerance laws are often stricter, especially with regards to the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit, which is usually the basis for a DUI arrest.
Adults aged 21 and above can be arrested for suspicion of DUI if their BAC is at or above 0.08%. For drivers under 21, however, the BAC limit is significantly lower. In some states, zero-tolerance laws set the BAC limit at 0.02. Other states arrest minors with a BAC of over 0.00%. That means teenage drivers caught with the tiniest amount of alcohol in their system will be arrested and criminally prosecuted.
Underage DUI Penalties
The penalties for underage DUI vary from state to state. Once convicted, offenders face consequences that may include:
- Possible jail time of one day up to one year
- A few hundred to several thousand dollars in fines
- Community service
- Impoundment of motor vehicle
- Driver’s license suspension
- DUI school
- Juvenile detention
Aggravating Circumstances Can Make Penalties Worse
The penalties listed above are the typical consequences for a standard underage DUI conviction. If your teenager had a BAC of 0.08 at the time of arrest, he or she could be charged with a regular DUI. Driving on a suspended license or multiple DUI offenses can also make things worse.
The worst-case scenario is if your teenager causes a drunk driving accident that leads to injury or death. Your teenager will be facing a felony DUI charge, which carries more severe criminal and civil penalties.
An Underage DUI Conviction Will Be on Your Child’s Record
The penalties that come with an underage DUI conviction are bad enough, but the consequences don’t stop there. Your teenager will have an underage DUI on his or her record, which could pose problems in the future.
Getting scholarships, for one, is going to be tough. After all, most colleges and universities ask applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime. While an underage DUI conviction does not necessarily mean you’re automatically out of the running, it’s a factor that school boards and officials will definitely consider.
Employers do the same thing. They will perform background checks on applicants, and an underage DUI offense will likely diminish anyone’s chances of getting hired for any job.
You Can Expunge Underage DUI
Fortunately, people can get underage DUI convictions expunged from their record. If your teenager is an underage DUI offender, expungement offers the best possible chance of clearing your child’s offense from the public record. It would be as if the conviction never happened.
So, find out if your state allows the expungement of an underage DUI conviction. If it does, then do what you can to meet all the conditions the laws of your state require for expungement.
Dealing with an underage DUI is not the easiest thing to do. Should your teenager get involved in one, the best thing to do is to get the services of an experienced DUI lawyer.
Victoria Brown currently works as the Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Law Offices of Brian D. Sloan. Her experiences with DUI cases in the past have inspired her to spread awareness about DUI laws in the United States.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.