Drinking and driving underage is a serious crime, just like it is for someone over the legal drinking age. However, the same rules do not apply to those under 21. Getting behind the wheel after drinking at any age is not advised. If you are a minor or have children, there are some important laws that you should know.
Drinking and Driving Underage: Zero Tolerance
Many states have a zero tolerance policy.But what does zero tolerance mean? Zero tolerance essentially means that there is no flexibility in the law. If a minor was found to be drinking and driving underage, there would be no leniency whatsoever in an arrest, charges or sentencing.
Zero tolerance laws apply to drivers under the age of 21. This is also the case in Massachusetts. While the legal blood alcohol content limit is usually .08% BAC, for minors it is much lower. The zero tolerance policy decreases the legal BAC limit to .02% in the case of drinking and driving underage. Having a .02% BAC usually means that the driver has only had one drink. Drinking and driving underage after only one drink is enough to receive an OUI (operating under the influence) charge. Hence the name zero tolerance.
If you are under 21, or your child is arrested for an OUI, you will want to seek a DUI lawyer immediately. Becuase of the zero tolerance policies in most states, the penalties for drinking and driving underage are more severe.
The Penalties of Drinking and Driving Underage
As previously reported, the penalties for minors charged with an OUI or a DUI are more serious than someone over the legal drinking age. An Underage OUI in Massachusetts carries with it, up to two and a half years of house arrest, a $500-$5,000 fine and a suspension of driving privileges for one year, and that is just for the first offense. These may sound like steep consequences for drinking and driving underage, and they are. The idea behind zero tolerance policies is to prevent an underage person from repeating their mistakes. Zero tolerance laws often make certain that the offender receives criminal charges.
A second or third DUI offense in Massachusetts carries stiffer penalties. With a second or third offense comes the possibility of jail time, an increase in fines, and an additional length of license suspension. All of this should be enough to scare anyone thinking about getting behind the wheel after drinking. However, everyone makes mistakes.
In recent years states zero tolerance policies have come under fire by their residents. Opponents of such policies argue that not only are they not effective, but they also do more harm than good. Having no leniency means that the minor will have a criminal record for the rest of their lives.
What to Do If Your Child Drives Drunk
The first thing you need to do if you child receives a DUI charge is to hire a lawyer. An attorney can guide you in the right direction and help you to determine the best course of action for your child. All of the same defenses that an attorney can make in a traditional DUI case apply to a minor. Therefore, finding proper legal counsel is imperative.
- Find a lawyer that has experience dealing with underage DUI cases.
- Secondly, look for someone that will give you a free consultation on your case.
An attorney will be able to get the case against your child thrown out if the officers didn’t follow proper procedure. If an acquittal isn’t possible, your lawyer can attempt to obtain a plea bargain from the prosecution. While a plea bargain may not be the ideal choice, it is better than a DUI conviction on your son or daughter’s record. Speak to your attorney about a “continuance without a finding” plea. While the penalties for a conviction and “continuing without a finding” are similar, the latter means there is no actual conviction. Not having a conviction on your child’s record means that they can tell prospective employers that they have never been convicted of a crime and not lie. Your lawyer will help you figure out what course of action is best in your case, but it doesn’t hurt to have knowledge about your case.
Secondly, you should teach your child about the consequences of drunk driving. Approximately one in three traffic deaths in America involve a drunk driver. Hundreds of people a year die in alcohol-related crashes in Massachusetts alone every year. Teaching your children the consequences of drinking and driving underage could save their life.