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Underage DUI laws impose a zero-tolerance approach

| Jul 10, 2018 | Drunk Driving (DUI)

For drivers in Virginia, DUI charges can be serious at any age. However, they can be at their most severe for people who are arrested and charged with underage DUI. For people who are legally driving but not yet legally drinking because they are under the age of 21, DUI charges can be leveled even when the driver is under the legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC. Drivers with alcohol in their systems under the age of 21 are subject to a different legal regime that can put their driving privileges at risk.

These laws, called zero-tolerance laws, prohibit people under the age of 21 from driving with any amount of alcohol in their systems at all. The legal limit for people under 21 can range from just above 0.00 percent BAC to 0.02 percent BAC, well below the legal limit for drivers over 21. Even one glass of wine with dinner could put a driver under the age of 21 at risk of serious DUI charges.

According to a federal law passed in 1995, states must have at least an 0.02 percent BAC limit for drivers under 21 in order to receive critical federal highway funds. There is no need to prove that the driver was actually intoxicated or that his or her drinking caused any kind of problem on the road in these cases.

Regardless of whether a person under 21 was actually too drunk to drive safely, a DUI conviction can affect his or her criminal record and play a role in employment background checks. That driver may face years of difficulty in obtaining insurance coverage as well. Drivers under 21 facing drunk driving charges under these laws can work with a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer might be able to challenge police procedures and advocate for reduced charges, working to avoid a conviction.