If you’re between 18 and 21 years of age, your case will be handled very much like a regular DUI case in the general district court. If you’re unable to come to a resolution or agreement with the prosecutor, it will go to trial in the general district court.
If you’re under the age of 18, your case will be likely handled in the juvenile and domestic relations court instead of in the general district court. The juvenile process has its own unique punishments and potential effects on your future, and those can vary depending upon your age. In many ways, however, the case is handled like any other case and therefore warrants attention from a Fairfax underage DUI lawyer.
There is a separate charge for individuals under the age of 21 who are suspected of DUI. Since the drinking age in Virginia is 21, you do not have to be under the influence if you are under 21—like you would as a full adult—to be charged with underage DUI in Virginia.
To be considered underage DUI in Fairfax, the requirement is a 0.02 or higher on a blood alcohol test. For an adult, it’s 0.08 or higher, so underage DUI comes with a much lower standard. It’s basically zero tolerance because a 0.02 is generally no more than one beer. And that’s why underage DUI is a completely separate charge. As a result, it’s possible be charged with both DUI and underage DUI at the same time because they’re separate offenses and have different elements.
Where the case is heard depends on how old you are. If you’re between 18 and 21 years old and charged with underage DUI, your case will be heard in the same place as every other adult charged with DUI. If you’re under the age of 18, your case will be heard in the juvenile domestic relations court, which may be in the same courthouse or a different courthouse. Either way, it is a different court with different punishments and different effects on your future.
Underage DUI cases are prosecuted very strongly. The courts treat them very seriously because you’re not supposed to be drinking at all when you’re under 21 in Fairfax. That means you’ve already broken the law just by having alcohol in your system. On top of that, the fact that you apparently have a BAC of 0.02 or above is very important to prosecutors and judges for the following reasons:
As a result, underage drinking and driving is taken very seriously by judges and prosecutors. These cases are prosecuted vigorously and they are unlikely to be broken down or reduced to other charges unless there’s a serious problem involving the case.
Parents of a child charged with underage DUI should expect no leniency from prosecutors. Oftentimes, parents expect that the prosecutor will be quick to break down the charges because they see their kid as a good kid, and they assume the prosecutor will, too.
As a parent, you can expect that the court systems will treat your son or daughter like any other defendant who comes through the system. You may perceive a lack of care about the specific circumstances of your son or daughter because the prosecutor has decided that he or she has committed an offense and should be punished for it. So don’t expect the prosecutor to treat your son or daughter any differently than any other defendant, and be realistic about the possible outcomes and the goals of the defense. Looking back to what your son or daughter may or may not have done to get into this position can sometimes help parents get through this process.