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Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information.
Just as teenagers are bound to drink, they're bound to drink and drive. And they're also bound to get pulled over and charged with a DUI. We all know that driving drunk is illegal, but are the rules different for minors under 18 years old? What about the possible punishments?
Here's what could happen if you get a DUI when you're under 18.
Most states have zero-tolerance laws for underage DUIs, meaning if you're under 21 and test positive for any alcohol consumption at all while driving, it's very likely that you'll be charged with and convicted of drunk driving. And if you're under 18 and get arrested for a DUI, you will probably be tried as a juvenile.
Some courts may have DUI diversion programs which allow DUI defendants to plea to a lesser charge, or get their charges dismissed if certain conditions are met. However, you could also be facing some combination of time in a juvenile detention center, hours of community service, and/or criminal fines that can range into the tens of thousands of dollars.
There are also some penalties that can follow you around for a while. Every state has statutes that automatically suspend your driver's license if you're guilty of DUI. These suspensions can be as short as a month or as long as a year, even for first-time offenders, and driving on a suspended license only makes a bad situation worse.
If and when you get your license back, you could be required to install an ignition interlock device in order to drive your car. While these devices have normally been reserved for serious or repeat offenders, courts have been known to assign them in juvenile DUI situations.
Oh yeah, and this may all end up on your criminal record, unless you are able to expunge it. You normally only get one shot at expunging your record, and if you're using that one shot on a DUI before you're even 18, you could be out of luck later.
DUIs are serious offenses with serious consequences. If you've been charged with DUI, especially as a juvenile, you should consult with an experienced DUI attorney today.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.