Drinking is endemic in our culture. In permeates everything we do as a society, from sporting events to amusement parks, you can find alcohol. But, if you partake in drinking and driving, Virginia, as with all other states, chose to punish you with a DUI charge. It may surprise our readers that minors and adults are treated differently when they drink and drive.
Virginia’s zero-tolerance law
Unlike adults, our state has a zero-tolerance law (Virginia Code § 18.2-266.1) for underage drinking and driving. This means that anyone under the age of 21 who is caught driving after consuming alcohol will be charged with a minor DUI. The distinction deals with a difference in the required of blood alcohol concentration necessary to be found guilty of the charge. While adults will need to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or above to face a DUI charge, a minor need only a BAC of 0.02%, which could be as little as one drink. If a minor has a BAC of 0.08%, they will face an adult DUI (Virginia Code § 18.2-266).
Underage DUI penalties
Underage DUI(s) in Virginia are, generally, classified as Class 1 misdemeanors. This means that, if you are convicted, you could face up to 12 months in jail, plus a fine up to $2,500. The zero-tolerance law has mandatory minimum penalties for underage DUI(s). A minor with face a fine of at least $500 or at least 50 hours of community service, in addition to losing your license for at least 12 months, which is in addition to the administrative suspension from the DMV for an underage DUI arrest.
The administrative suspension from the DMV for an underage DUI arrest is seven days for your first DUI arrest. This rises to 60 days for your second DUI arrest. For your third DUI arrest (and all subsequent DUI arrests), your license suspension is extended until the day of your trial. Plus, you will receive a 6 point violation on your license.
What if I need my license?
For some that have their license suspended, you may be request a restricted license that would allow you to drive for specific purposes. Most often, this is for medical appoints, school or work. Granting a restricted license is at the discretion of the court and the DMV.
If you are underage and have been drinking, Virginia wants you off the road, period. If you choose to drive and are caught with even a small amount of alcohol in your blood, you could face stiff consequences, if convicted.
To be clear, a charge is not a conviction. You deserve a defense.