The legal age to drive in Pennsylvania is 16 years, while the legal age to consume alcohol is 21. Therefore, drivers under the age of 21 should have a zero alcohol level at all times. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 22 percent of drivers aged 16 to 20 involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 or higher. Pennsylvania charges drivers under 21 with a DUI at a BAC lower than all other drivers.
What is an underage DUI charge and what are the penalties?
In Pennsylvania, you can face charges of impaired driving if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher. For a person under the age of 21, though, the legal limit is 0.02 percent. It is considered an upgraded misdemeanor and can include fines, jail time, license suspension, alcohol highway safety school (AHSS), and, if indicated, a full drug and alcohol assessment.
In fact, the penalties for a first offense are six months probation, a fine of $300, and AHSS. If convicted a second time, the driver might face five days to six months of jail time, a fine of $300 to $2,500, AHSS, a 12-month license suspension, an ignition interlock for a year, and a drug and alcohol assessment. Learn more about the possible consequences by looking at our DUI Sentencing Grid.
How might a DUI affect a driver under 21?
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, drivers under 21 years old who have a DUI on their record could face additional consequences. For example, schools may view the DUI during the admission process, which might affect the applicant’s admission to the college or university.
Similarly, a background check when applying for a job may find the DUI, and an employer may view it negatively when deciding whether to hire the applicant. Some landlords may even run background checks and could consider the DUI when deciding whether to rent an apartment or house to the applicant. And students who wish to take a trip with friends on spring break or summer vacation may be unable to rent a car with a DUI on their record.
What to Do if Charged with an Underage DUI
The best thing to do is to find a Stroudsburg attorney that is familiar with DUI charges. A lawyer will look at the entire process and check for mistakes the police made in the initial stop, the field sobriety tests, or with the breathalyzer or blood tests. One mistake by law enforcement could jeopardize the prosecutor’s case. Even if convicted, a lawyer may argue to reduce fines, avoid jail and get your license back sooner.
If you have been convicted of an underage DUI, contact an attorney immediately. The attorneys at ARM Lawyers deal with all types of DUI cases and help those charged build a defense to reduce or dismiss charges, or to reduce penalties. If you live in the Stroudsburg, Palmerton or Bethlehem areas, give us a call at 570-257-4509 (Stroudsburg), 484-765-8140 (Palmerton), or 610-849-2788 (Bethlehem) to set up a confidential evaluation of your case.