We all know that the laws of every state in the U.S. say that you have to be 21 years old, or older, to drink alcohol. We also know that the reality is quite different. People drink while underage all the time. We're not going to go into whether we're handling this situation correctly in America. We won't point out that most of the other countries in the world have a lower drinking age. Instead, we're interested in two other facts: One, that people under 21 often drink, and two, that people over 18 can drive. Together, these two facts result in the situation we call a minor DUI (driving under the influence).
A minor DUI is very similar to a regular DUI: You can get pulled over by police, asked to take a field sobriety test or breathalyzer, arrested if you fail, and face DUI charges that could lead to fines, jail time, and a license suspension. However, there are several important differences between a DUI and a minor DUI.
First, an arrest for a regular DUI triggers a license suspension by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL), and a conviction results in a criminal license suspension by the courts. A minor DUI, however, only comes with the DOL's license suspension. Therefore, if you're arrested for a minor DUI, your license will automatically be suspended for 90 days, but you won't have another license suspension if your get convicted.
Second, minor DUIs do not come with mandatory jail time or fines. This makes them much less strict than normal DUIs. However, a judge still has the option of levying either fines or jail time, as he or she sees fit, up to the maximum of 90 days in jail, and $1,000 in fines. Typically, however, judges go with community service, work crews, and alcohol evaluation or classes, instead.
Third, the legal standard for minor DUIs is different than for regular DUIs. Adults over 21 can be charged for DUI if they have a blood or breath alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above. Adults under 21, however, can get charged with a BAC of 0.02 or above. Some other states go even further than Washington, and issue minor DUI charges if an underaged driver has any alcohol in his or her blood.
Fourth, minor DUIs are not considered a “prior offense” for later DUI charges. This means that if you are convicted for a DUI as a minor, and are then charged for DUI again, after you've turned 21, your minor DUI will not raise the mandatory penalties. However, a judge can take your minor DUI into consideration during sentencing, if you get convicted for a later DUI charge.
Even though minor DUIs carry lighter penalties than regular DUIs, it's very important to stay away from criminal convictions so early in your life. Having a blemish on your criminal record so early can hurt you for years. Call attorney Kevin Trombold to defend against a minor DUI charge, and protect your present, and your future: 206-971-0067.