Understanding the law and penalties for underage DUI

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2021 | DUI |

In Alabama, driving under the influence is taken very seriously. Because it is perceived as one of the most dangerous problems on the road, law enforcement is vigilant in its attempts to catch drivers who might be committing a DUI and arrest them. This can happen to anyone at any age, but it is especially worrisome for people under the age of 21. The laws are different for those who are not of legal drinking age to begin with and a conviction can have a far-reaching impact on the person’s life. Knowing the law and how to combat these charges is a fundamental necessity after an arrest.

Blood alcohol concentration and “zero tolerance” DUI

In general, people who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher will be charged with DUI. For those who are under the age of 21, it is 0.02%. This is part of the nationwide zero tolerance policy that tries to dissuade those who are not of legal age to drink from doing so and getting behind the wheel. The key to a case is if the person is in physical control of the vehicle at the time. Once it is established that the underage person was in control of the vehicle and registers at least 0.02%, the driver’s license will be suspended or revoked for the first violation. The suspension will last for 30 days.

When there is a conviction for a first offense, there can be up to one year incarceration, a fine of at least $600 and as much as $2,100 or both. The driver’s license can be suspended for 90 days. This can be stayed if the person agrees to have an ignition interlock device placed on their vehicle. There are more significant penalties if, for example, the driver refuses to take part in testing procedures to determine the BAC or if there was a child under 14 in the vehicle at the time. The penalties will escalate for a second, third and subsequent conviction.

Those under 21 should know the penalties for DUI and consider options

With schools reopening and the college football season underway, it is likely that younger people will be tempted to attend parties and drink when they are underage. This is illegal on its face and when it is compounded by that person getting behind the wheel, there can be a litany of problems for them if they are caught and arrested. An arrest can have long-term ramifications on a young person and hinder them as they seek to get certain jobs, be admitted to schools or enter the military. This makes comprehensive criminal defense even more critical.

It is wise to understand what law enforcement is obligated to do when it makes a traffic stop and investigates a DUI. For example, assessing the case can determine whether the initial stop was justified. The evidence might be lacking or the driver could have a legitimate reason for appearing to be under the influence when he or she was not. The entire situation should be scrutinized to decide how to proceed. Simply because there was an arrest does not mean there will be an automatic conviction and preparing a defense is a wise first step.