Drinking and driving is a bad idea no matter how old you are.
However, if a minor is caught drinking and driving the rules and consequences are even more strict.
In Virginia, the punishment is especially severe.
In this article, we’ll quickly cover the basics of this zero tolerance law.
Understanding Virginia’s Zero Tolerance Law
The Virginia Code specifically states that:
“It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to operate any motor vehicle after illegally consuming alcohol.”Virginia Code § 18.2-266.1
Under this law, any minor who is caught driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.02 or higher will be charged with a DUI.
This is significantly lower than Virginia’s normal BAC maximum of 0.08.
Additionally, “zero tolerance” means that drivers under 21 can’t have any alcohol in their system if they want to drive.
This means that, even if they’re below the cut-off for a DUI charge, they’ll still face criminal penalties under this zero tolerance law.
Why are the Penalties Harsher for Underage Drivers?
Second, motor vehicle accidents are statistically higher among teens aged 16-19.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that these drivers are 3 times more likely to cause a deadly crash than any other age group.
Because of this, the Virginia legislature has enacted more restrictive laws for drivers under 21.
With these laws in place, the hope is that underage drivers will think twice before choosing to drink and drive.
Penalties for Underage DUI
DUI charges for minors are Class 1 misdemeanors.
This means the penalties could include:
- Forfeiture of the driver’s license for up to 1 year
- A $500 minimum fine OR 50 hours of community service
- 6 demerit points on the driving record
Additionally, in most cases where a minor receives a DUI charge, they could also face additional charges such as underage possession of alcohol or reckless driving.
Finally, if the minor refuses to take a breathalyzer test the officer can also charge them with an additional offense on top of the DUI charge.
onsequences of Underage DUI
There are a few other charges to look out for which surround Virginia’s
- First, the penalties are even more strict for underage drivers who have a minor passenger in the car when they’re charged with a DUI.
- Second, these drivers can incur additional penalties for having an exceptionally high BAC.
For example, if their BAC is over 0.08 they can face the same DUI penalties as an adult.
In both these cases, the court may decide to give a higher fine and harsher penalties. The minor might even spend some time in jail.
Lastly, remember that driving under the influence is a criminal offense. In most cases, it will stay on your criminal record forever.
That means that if you apply for a job, fill out a loan, or try to adopt a child the DUI will show up on your criminal background check.
These additional, extra-judiciary penalties are called “collateral consequences” and can seriously impact your life going forward if you’re found guilty.
Virginia has a zero tolerance law for underage drinking and driving.
This means that if a minor is caught driving with a BAC over 0.02, they’ll receive several mandatory consequences.
Specifically, minors who drink and drive face penalties such as the loss of their license, fines, community service, and having demerit points added to their license.
Remember, a DUI conviction will stay with you for many years to come, so you’ll want to hire an attorney who can help give you the best outcome in your case.
An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges and may be able to negotiate a reduced charge or a