DUI, or driving under the influence, is an extremely dangerous act that endangers everyone near the intoxicated driver. DUI charges can result in heavy fines, suspension or loss of one’s driver’s license, and jail time for repeat offenders. What happens if the intoxicated driver is under the legal minimum age to consume alcohol?
Drivers under 21 years old are responsible for 17% of all alcohol-related vehicle crashes. One particularly distressing factor in underage drinking that makes this statistic even more frightening: Underage drinkers tend to consume much more alcohol when they drink compared with drinkers who are 21 or older. Additionally, younger drivers tend to engage in more reckless and aggressive driving tactics, and neglect to wear their seatbelts while driving more frequently than older drivers. These additional concerns make underage DUI a very serious issue.
Differences for Underage DUI
Most states consider a 0.08% blood-alcohol content (BAC) to be the legal limit for a DUI. Any driver older than 21 years found with a BAC higher than 0.08% faces DUI charges. In most states, anyone under 21 with a BAC of 0.02% or more can face DUI charges, because those individuals are not legally permitted to consume alcohol. Some states, including North Carolina and Arizona, have a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI, and these states consider any BAC over 0% to be DUI for underage drivers.
Many punishments for underage DUI mirror those for regular DUI cases, with a few exceptions. Underage drivers charged with a DUI can face:
- Heavy fines, which typically range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
- License suspension for one year or more.
- Vehicle impoundment.
- Community service requirements, usually for at least one month.
- Requirement to attend drug- and alcohol-education courses, and driving education classes.
- Jail time, which can range from one 24-hour stay to up to one year, depending on the specific details of the incident.
- Probation, typically lasting for three to five years.
First-time offenders typically may face lighter penalties unless they cause severe injuries or property damage. If the offender was engaged in any other criminal activity at the time, he or she can face charges for those offenses, as well.
It’s important for drivers younger the age of 21 to understand that the effects of an underage DUI charge extend far beyond the immediate legal entanglements. If the court convicts an underage driver, he or she may need to disclose the conviction on applications for employment or universities. An underage DUI charge can hurt the chances of landing a job, being accepted to college, or obtaining financial aid necessary to pay for tuition. If a person fails to disclose this information when required, he or she can face severe legal penalties later. Some states even revoke the drivers’ licenses of underage individuals found using alcohol or drugs, regardless of whether they were driving at the time.
PA Underage DUI Laws
In Pennsylvania, drivers younger than the age of 21 comprise less than 10% of all licensed drivers, but account for 12% of DUI-related fatal crashes. A BAC over 0.02% counts as a DUI for drivers under 21, and any drivers under 21 face up to 90 days in jail, a fine of $300 to $500, and a license suspension if his or her BAC was 0.10% or higher.
A second offense incurs stiffer penalties – five days to six months of jail time, fines as much as $2,500, and a one-year license suspension. Drivers under 21 found guilty of DUI also may face several additional charges depending upon the circumstances of their offense, including underage drinking charges, underage possession of alcohol and child endangerment.
After an underage DUI charge, offenders will also likely face much higher automobile insurance premiums. It’s vital for Philadelphia residents to remember these laws and avoid driving under the influence at all costs.