If you are under 21, you can be charged with a regular DUI if you blow above a .08 on a blood alcohol test or if you’re impaired to the extent that it affects your ability to drive. Basically, you can be charged with a regular DUI even though you’re under 21.
However, if you are charged with underage DUI—meaning that you’ve allegedly consumed enough alcohol to be impaired, are under the age of 21 and pulled over for DUI—certain laws do apply to you that don’t apply to other people. Because you’re not supposed to be drinking at all if you’re under 21 in Virginia, there’s a severe zero-tolerance policy in place. Therefore, if you blow a .02 or above, which is a very low standard, that can lead to a conviction for an underage DUI charge in Arlington.
If you’re under 21 and are convicted for the first time of driving with a .02 blood alcohol content or higher, you could be facing up to ten days in jail, at least a $500 fine and a one-year loss of license in Virginia. These are significant penalties at a very low threshold. Furthermore, you can be convicted of both underage DUI and regular DUI at the same time.
If you blow above a .08 or if you’re under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it impairs your ability to drive, then you can be convicted of DUI whether you’re over 21 or not.
However, if you’re under 21, the BAC level drops down to .02 to qualify for underage DUI, which is a separate, unique charge. If you blow a .02 and you’re under 21, you can be convicted of underage DUI, which is a misdemeanor. If you blow above a .08 and you’re under 21, you can be convicted of two offenses: regular DUI and underage DUI. Both charges are serious and can have a long-lasting impact on someone’s record and future. Thus, it is very beneficial to seek out the guidance of an Arlington underage DUI attorney to help you fight the charges.
For adults, regular DUI and underage DUI cases are heard in the same court. If you’re 18 or older but not older than 21, your underage DUI case will be heard in the general district court, which is the same court that handles all adult DUIs. The only difference is you’re dealing with a different charge than someone who’s over 21.
If you’re under 18, your case will be heard in the juvenile and domestic relations court instead. That court handles all cases involving juveniles.
DUIs are prosecuted very severely by prosecutors no matter how old you are. Judges are not likely to give someone a break because he or she is under 21; a judge is likely to treat someone who is under 21 the same as somebody who’s over 21, and the penalties can be much the same. After all, both regular DUI and underage DUI are Class 1 misdemeanors. However, the penalties for underage DUI alone—meaning that the individual blew above a .02 but not above a .08—are generally less severe than if someone is an adult and blows above a .08.
Although the penalties for underage DUI are generally less serious than an adult DUI, it does not mean that a person should risk fighting the charges without the help of an Arlington lawyer. A lawyer still has the experience and education to provide valuable assistance.