If you are under the age of 21, there are several rules that apply to the possession and consumption of alcohol that can negatively impact your future. While a DWI is one thing you should definitely be worried about if you drink and drive, it is important to realize that there are other negative ways that drinking can impact your right to drive, even if you drank very small amounts or are not driving when you are caught drinking or in possession of alcohol.
The Blood Alcohol Content Limits Are Usually Lower Than You Think
While each state has different Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limits in regards to what constitutes driving under the influence or driving while impaired, the limits for those under the legal drinking age are usually much lower than those for an adult. While the adult limit is usually around .08% BAC, a minor can be charged with a DWI with a much lower BAC. Federal regulations require states to impose a limit of .02%, but many states have a limit of .01% or .00%, meaning a minor can face serious charges if they operate a vehicle after just one drink.
You should also keep in mind that these lower limits apply to anyone under 21, not just those under 18.
Most States Have Use and Lose Laws
Use and lose laws state that you do not have to be operating a vehicle to lose your licence if you have been drinking. This means that if you are the passenger in a vehicle and have been drinking, you can lose your licence. Additionally, if a party you are at is broken up by the police and you have been drinking, or if you are found in possession of alcohol, you can have your license suspended.
The amount of time your license would be suspended depends on your state laws, but is usually between one month to a year. Some states may suspend your license until your 18th birthday.
Penalties Can Include Fines, Community Service, and Jail Time
You may assume that because you are a minor, the penalties for drinking and driving will be less severe. However, they are often comparable to the penalties that adults face and can include fines, community service, and jail time.
Fines for a DUI or DWI are usually between $500 to $2000 and jail time ranges between a few days and a year. However, depending on your history and current circumstances, many minors can agree to longer community service sentences to replace fines or jail time. An experienced lawyer can help you plea for an appropriate sentence.
Required Disclosure Can Affect Your Future
You will generally have to disclose a DUI or DWI on applications for jobs, school, and financial aid, which can affect your future options for employment and education. In some cases, you will be able to have your criminal record either expunged or sealed when you turn 18. However, this is not always an option. Also, keep in mind that many of your college applications may be due before you turn 18, so you will still have to disclose your conviction when you apply.
You May Lose Your License If You Refuse to Submit to a Sobriety Test
All states have implied consent laws. These laws state that if you do not submit to requested sobriety tests when you are stopped by a police officer, your license may be suspended, even if you have not been drinking. The penalty for refusing a test varies by state, but you could lose your license.
As a minor, it is important that you know your rights and consult with a lawyer from a firm like Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP if you are charged with any alcohol-related offenses.