All too often, a teenager or group of teenagers will engage in dangerous activities on the false concept that being under 18 means that they face minimum legal consequences. Combined with raging hormones and a heightened sense of invulnerability, it’s easy for teens to convince themselves that things like vandalism or drinking and driving are ‘no big deal’ and that even getting caught won’t result in that much trouble. Even worse, often these patterns of behavior are set and kids who have recently turned 18 will continue to engage in them after they are no longer legal minors. If you, your child, or someone you know has recently been charged with underaged DWI, it’s important to hire a lawyer quickly to ensure that the legal consequences don’t have long-term negative effects.
Blood Alcohol Level
Minnesota maintains a “Zero Tolerance” policy on underaged drinking and driving. This isn’t just PSA posturing, it means that anyone under the age of 21 who is suspected of consuming any alcohol at all while in control of a vehicle is subject to a legitimate DWI charge. It doesn’t matter if their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of 0.08%, only whether or not alcohol was consumed. A minuscule amount of detected alcohol will qualify someone under 21 for a DWI. An underaged DWI can also be charged for any kind of intoxication, not just alcohol, with the same penalties applied.
Control of the Vehicle
It’s important to understand that you don’t have to have been driving to get an underaged DWI. Kids (or adults) sitting in a stopped car drinking can be charged. This law allows cops to discourage all underaged drinking but spells trouble for teens who thought they were safe from legal consequences by remaining stationary. The reason for this is because the law is written as “operating or in control of the vehicle” and being in the car may count as being in control.
While you may consider your birthday to start and end at midnight, the Minnesota state court does not. Legally, a person’s important birthdays don’t take effect until 8 am local time. As a result, every year a few very surprised 21-year-olds are arrested for underaged drinking because they started too early. Combined with the previous law, this means that the “no tolerance” rules are still active and you can still be arrested for having a blood alcohol level below 0.08% while sitting in a parked car before 8 am on your 21st birthday. If you do want to start at midnight, it’s probably best to keep the celebration confined to a private residence until your birthday legally takes effect.
When it comes to underaged DWI charges, there are two standards for license suspension. If you are over 18 but under 21, your licence will be suspended for 30 days on the first offense and 180 for any future offenses. However, if you are below the age of 18 and caught drinking in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, stationary or otherwise, your license will be suspended irrevocably until your 18th birthday. Not only that, but you will have to go through the whole license application process over again once you are 18.
Losing your license isn’t the only consequence for those facing underaged DWI charges. The offenses will go on your record and can remain there forever, even if you are below the age of 18. You can also face hefty fines and possible jail time. You may have to perform hours of community service, attend mandatory alcohol education classes, or go on probation. There is also a serious risk of losing your vehicle to forfeiture as well as seeing your insurance premiums rise.
If you or someone you know has recently been charged with underaged drinking and driving, don’t leave the results up to chance or assume the consequences will be small because the subject is a minor. Call an experienced defense lawyer immediately to create your best possible chance to minimize legal penalties. For DWI charges in the Minneapolis area, Segal Defense is ready to help! Contact us today for a free consultation and we’ll do our best to help you or your teen.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.