Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are a driver under the age of 21 then you may face a different set of rules regarding driving under the influence in Fairfax. The following is what you should know, and how it could potentially impact your driving privileges. To learn more call and schedule a consultation with a Fairfax DUI lawyer today.
The laws in Fairfax that apply to people under 18 years of age are the same laws that apply to people who are under 21 years of age. A person can be charged with a regular DUI if their blood alcohol content is a 0.08 or higher, or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the extent that it impairs their ability to drive.
A person can also be charged because they are not supposed to be drinking at all if they are under 21 or under 18. For the Commonwealth to prove a DUI underage under the age of 21, it needs to show a person had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02. This is almost a zero tolerance standard because if someone has any alcohol in their system and they are under 21 years of age, they can be convicted of underage DUI.
Prosecutors and judges treat cases of minor DUI or underage DUI very seriously. If a person under 21 consumes alcohol, gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, and is apprehended, the authorities try to stop the person from having more offenses in the future. These kinds of offenses are worrisome to judges and prosecutors and as a result the courts try to prevent any similar conduct in the future from the same individual. The cases are prosecuted vigorously and the punishments are given out accordingly to deter a person from committing similar offenses in the future.
The blood alcohol concentration or BAC required for someone under 21 to be convicted of underage DUI is 0.02 or higher measurement by volume of alcohol in a blood or breath sample. A 0.02 BAC is sufficient to convict someone of underage DUI. It is low because someone under 21 years of age should not be consuming alcohol. It is illegal to do so and is punished severely for anyone driving a vehicle under the age of 21 with any alcohol in their system. A 0.02 BAC is much lower than the standard for adult which is 0.08. It is often not enough to impair a person’s ability; but it is enough to be convicted of underage DUI in Virginia.
It is the same for anyone under 18. There is no specific age level for under 18 in Fairfax. Underage DUI applies to anyone under 21 whether they are 5, 10, 15, or 20 years old.
A DUI case is handled differently when a person is under 18. Someone under 18 is a juvenile, and therefore their case is handled in the juvenile and domestic relations court instead of the general district court. The general district court handles everyone 18 and older, the juvenile and domestic relations court handles everyone 17 and younger. The manner in which the case in the juvenile and domestic relations court is handled is not much different. The state still has the burden of proof, they need to prove the DUI beyond a reasonable doubt, and must prove the person’s age.
The courts attempt to have the same punishment apply, punishments are similar to those who are 18 to 21 years old charged with the same offense. There are different judges in juvenile court but ultimately the case is prosecuted in a similar manner. It is just in a different court room and the person under 18 might have more probation with this type of sentence. Juvenile court has many juvenile probation officers; a juvenile convicted of any offense will be sentenced to probation. The probation officers monitor the juvenile’s progress while they are on probation.
The sentences for underage DUI tend to be a little less severe than a regular DUI only because the code section that covers underage DUI made it a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is a crime and stays on a person’s record for the rest of their life. The punishment required by the code for underage DUI is that the punishment shall be a forfeiture of the person’s license to operate a vehicle for a period of one year from the date of conviction, and a mandatory minimum of $500 fine, or the performance of a mandatory minimum of 50 hours community service.
If a person is convicted of underage DUI; they lose their driver’s license for one year and are fined at least $500, or have community service of 50 hours. If there are aggravating factors involved such as an accident or repeat offender, the judge can impose jail time up to one year with a fine up to $2,500. The judge can impose more community service, probation, and an alcohol program. The punishment can be more severe. The standard is a little less severe than an average DUI where a person is actually under the influence of alcohol; their BAC was determined to be at a 0.08 or greater.
Parents should understand this is a serious charge and that it will be treated accordingly. Accordingly, they should contact a Fairfax DUI lawyer as soon as they can for their child’s defense. They should not expect the prosecutor or judge to show much leniency. Just because their child is a good person with a great future ahead of them doesn’t mean the prosecutor will not prosecute this vigorously and try to obtain a conviction. Any conviction could have severe impact on their child’s life. The parents should therefore take it seriously and not expect too many breakdowns from the prosecutor or judge. There are long-term consequences to a conviction.