Drinking and driving is dangerous at any age. It is particularly risky if you are under 21 years old. That’s because law enforcement and prosecutors in Virginia take matters seriously when minors are caught operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Unlike the state law prohibiting adults from driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, zero-tolerance laws impose a much lower legal limit.
Underage drinking is a criminal offense that is a Class 1 misdemeanor. You could face costly fines and other consequences if convicted. Add driving under the influence to the charges, and the penalties could increase significantly, especially if you injured or killed someone in an accident.
Virginia’s Zero-Tolerance Law
The zero-tolerance law in Virginia prohibits a person under 21 years old from operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol illegally. If you’re a minor under 21, you also can’t possess, purchase, or consume alcohol.
You are in violation of this law if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.02% or more or the results of a breath test show 0.02 or higher per 210 liters of breath but less than 0.08 grams.
Penalties for Underage DUI
Driving under the influence as someone under 21 years old is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you face immediate suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year. The penalty could also include a mandatory fine of at least $500 or a minimum of 50 hours of community service.
You might be eligible for a restricted license during the suspension term but must attend an Alcohol Safety Action Program. This license would allow you to drive to and from school, work, court, and other necessary places.
Unfortunately, underage DUI charges often accompany additional charges. If you were illegally consuming alcohol, you might have committed other offenses, such as:
- Using a fake ID to buy alcohol
- Possession of alcohol as a minor
- Child endangerment if other minors were in the vehicle you were driving
- Providing other minors with alcohol
If you had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, you could face the same penalties as an adult driver. They include:
- Fine between $250 and $2,500
- Up to one year in jail
- License suspension for up to one year
- Installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for at least six months
- Successful completion of an Alcohol Safety Action Program
In Virginia, refusing to submit to a chemical test is a civil offense. If you were arrested for underage DUI and refused to take a breath or blood test, the court could suspend driving privileges for a year. However, more severe penalties exist if this is a subsequent offense.
Insurance rates typically increase after a DUI conviction. A conviction like this can remain on someone’s driving record for eleven years, meaning you could be responsible for paying expensive rates for many years.
Besides criminal and civil penalties, you could face additional punishments if you’re an underage college student. Different universities and colleges have policies regarding driving under the influence of alcohol. If they choose to enforce these policies, they could suspend you from school, withhold your scholarship money, or remove you from sports you participate in.
Contact a Richmond DUI Defense Lawyer
If you were arrested or charged with underage DUI, you need an experienced and dedicated Richmond DUI defense attorney on your side. Fighting these charges alone will be a challenge. You deserve an opportunity to defend yourself in court and have the best chance at securing your freedom and future.
At Bain Sheldon, we have been fighting for the rights of minors and adults facing criminal charges since 2006. Our team will work hard to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us at (804) 282-8625 or reach out to us online for a free and confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys today.