Driving under the influence is a serious enough offense. However, when you add in underage drinking, you or your loved one are now facing two charges. The first is driving under the influence, which is against the law for any driver. The second, of course, is the consumption of alcohol or liquor prior to reaching the legal drinking age.
What Does it Mean to Drive Under the Influence (DUI)?
In order to be charged a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) you must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) or .08%. If you are under the age of 21, which is the legal drinking age in Washington, you can have no more than a .02% blood alcohol level before you are considered DUI.
How Big of an Issue is Under Age Drinking And Driving in Washington?
According to statistics, Washington drivers 21 and under make up 10% of all licensed drivers in the state. However, they account for more than 13% of all DUI related fatalities. Drivers aged 16 to 20 are twice as likely as older drivers to die in an accident when they drive intoxicated. This means there is a disproportionate number of fatalities related to alcohol in drivers under the age of 21. Consequently, the law judges individuals under the legal drinking age harsher than it does those over 21.
What is a Minor DUI?
A minor DUI isn’t exactly the same charge as a DUI, only for a person under 21. In fact, a driver under 21 years-of-age can still be charged with a DUI, and will be if they are considered intoxicated while driving. However, if they aren’t intoxicated but have a blood alcohol level over .02, they will instead be charged with a “Minor Operating Motor Vehicle Over .02” or “Driver Under Twenty-One Consuming Alcohol.” This charge is sometimes shortened and referred to as simply a “Minor DUI,” “Minor Op,” or even a “Baby DUI.”
What Happens if You or Someone You Love is Charged With a Minor DUI?
A minor DUI is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a fine which can run anywhere from $0 to $1,000 and 0-90 days in jail. It doesn’t carry any mandatory fines or jail time, nor does it have an ignition interlock device requirement. However, there is a mandatory license suspension for 90 days after a Minor DUI, which is a result of Washington’s Implied Consent Law. Also, if you face a DUI later in life, the judge trying your case might take your Minor DUI into consideration when determining your punishment. A Minor DUI also brings with it a requirement for “high risk” insurance.
- What is High-Risk Insurance? Being put in the “high risk” category simply means you are a high risk when it comes to insurance. In the insurance’s point-of-view, you are more likely to be in an accident, which is what constitutes the change in category. Of course, being high risk makes your insurance more expensive. To help reduce your costs eventually, you can:
- Ask your insurance agent for approved defensive driving courses and take a class.
- Go at least three years within getting another ticket or violation to do with driving.
- Go accident-free for at least three years.
What Other Charges Might an Under Age Drinker Face?
In addition to a “Minor DUI” charge, a surge in insurance costs, losing your license and possible fines, an underage drinker might also face the following charges:
- Child endangerment violations.
- Soliciting alcohol.
- Minor in possession of alcohol.
- Distributing alcohol to minors. This charge might come about if there were other underage drinkers in the car at the time.
- Possession of false identification. This is applicable if the driver used false or fake identification to purchase alcohol.
- Vehicle maintenance and moving violations.
What is The Punishment For a Regular DUI Charge?
In Washington, the following is a breakdown of what you can expect if you or your loved one are convicted of a DUI:
- First Conviction: This comes with a punishment of up to one year in prison, license suspension for up to 90 days and a fine from $850 to $5,000.
- Second Conviction: If your second conviction is within seven years of the first, you can expect imprisonment from 30 days up to one year, a fine from $1,100 to $5,000 and a license suspension of over two years.
Contact an Experienced Spokane DUI Attorney
Facing a criminal conviction of a DUI is a scary situation, no matter your age. However, if you’re under 21 years-of-age, a criminal charge is even scarier. Criminal defense attorneys understand how to fight these charges. We know everyone makes mistakes. We don’t want you to pay forever for a mistake you made in one moment of poor judgment. Contact us today to learn more about underage drinking and how we can help you face a DUI conviction as someone less than 21 years of age.