Underage Driving Under the Influence Laws

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 What Is Underage Drinking?

At the age of 18, minors become adults in most states. Alcohol consumption is illegal under the age of 21. Although you are considered an adult at 18, you are underage if you consume alcohol before you turn 21. There are a few exceptions to the minimum drinking age law, so check your state’s laws.

What Are Underage Drinking Laws?

The purpose of underage drinking laws is to curb the use of alcohol by people under 21 years of age. For years, underage drinking has been a major issue in society.

The following laws were implemented to reduce the incidence of underage consumption and make it illegal for minors to:

  • Possess alcohol
  • Consume alcohol
  • Purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol
  • Possess a fake ID or misrepresent their age
  • Drive, even with a trace amount of blood alcohol content (BAC); varies by state

Some states may allow exceptions to minimum drinking age laws. Underage people may consume alcohol under eight different circumstances.

They are:

  • Parental Consent: The states that allow underage drinking with parental consent on private, non-alcohol selling premises are: AK, CO, CT, DE, GA, IL, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MN, MS, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI, WY;
  • Private Setting: The six states that allow underage drinking without parental consent on private, non-alcohol selling premises are: LA, NE, NV, NJ, OK, SC;
  • Religious Ceremony: The states that allow underage drinking if done during a religious ceremony are: AZ, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, IL, LA, MD, MI, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, SC, SD, TN, UT, WA, WY;
  • Medical Purposes: There are sixteen states which allow underage drinking if done for medical purposes, meaning with a doctor’s prescription. These states are AK, AZ, CO, CT, GA, IA, LA, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NC, OH, UT, WA, WY;
  • Government Work Purposes: Four states allow underage drinking when done for government work purposes, such as when working with an undercover police officer. These states are MI, MS, OR, SC;
  • Educational Purposes: The states that allow underage drinking for educational purposes are: CO, FL, IL, MI, MO, NJ, NY, NC, RI, SC, VT;
  • Emergency Call: These seventeen states allow an underage person who has been drinking to place an emergency 911 call on behalf of another underage drinker: CA, CO, DE, DC, IN, KY, MI, MN, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, TX, UT, VT, WA; and
  • Alcohol-Selling Premises: States that allow underage drinking while on premises that sell alcohol with parental approval are CT, KS, LA, MA, MS, NV, OH, TX, WI, WY

It is important to note that regardless of these exceptions, all other drinking laws apply to minors. Examples would include sales of alcohol and DUI laws.

What Are Some Underage Drinking Accident Statistics for the United States?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the United States.

Underage drinkers are more likely to suffer from the following:

  • Higher rates of school absence;
  • Higher rates of lower grades;
  • Increased social problems, such as fighting at school;
  • Legal problems related to being arrested for underage drinking;
  • Unwanted, unplanned, or unprotected sexual activity;
  • Disruption of normal growth or development;
  • Physical and sexual violence;
  • Higher risk of suicide and homicide;
  • Higher rates of auto accidents;
  • Higher rates of unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning;
  • Increased memory problems when compared to minors who do not participate in underage drinking;
  • Increased rates of misusing other substances;
  • Changes in brain development; or
  • Alcohol poisoning.

It is estimated that 10.8 million underage drinkers exist in the United States, with one out of six teenagers engaging in binge drinking. These statistics become even more concerning when considering driving under the influence cases.

Over a third of all fatal drunk-driving cases in the United States involve people aged 16-20. The following are some statistics regarding underage drinking.

Underage Drinking in General:

  • An estimated 5,000 people under the age of 21 die every year from drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, and alcohol-related accidents such as drowning or burns;
  • In 2008, over 190,000 persons under the age of 21 made an emergency room visit for alcohol-related accidents; and
  • Although young people drink less frequently than adults, they tend to drink more in quantity than adults consume. The average minor consumes about five drinks when they drink, which is considered to be binge drinking.

What Are Some Consequences for Minors?

If you are caught violating any underage drinking laws, you may face the following penalties:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Possible jail time
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Mandatory alcohol awareness classes

Underage drinking has legal repercussions and can negatively affect a minor’s academic performance, extracurricular activities, and driver’s insurance.

Underage Driving Under the Influence Laws

Many states have separate laws for underage driving under the influence. They are almost identical to adult DUIs, except that the driver is under 21. In some states, DUI is expanded to cover driving a car, boat, or flying an airplane and may also be called driving while impaired (DWI) or operating under the influence (OUI).

How Does Underage DUI Differ From Adult DUI?

Other than the obvious age difference, underage DUI and adult DUI differ in two ways:

Blood Alcohol Content
Most state statutes make having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher a DUI for an adult. For someone under 21, the legal limit is usually a BAC of 0.02% or higher. That is four times lower than for an adult.

Punishment for underage DUI is generally different than for an adult because it combines two crimes: underage drinking and DUI.

What Are the Consequences for Underage DUI?

The punishment depends on the state in which the offense occurs but typically includes:

  • Taking the car,
  • Taking the underage driver’s license for a period ranging from 90 days to 3 years,
  • Attending alcohol and driving educational classes,
  • Completing more than 30 to 60 days of public service,
  • Paying any fees associated with any punishments,
  • Fines ranging from $100 to $2,000,
  • Placed on probation for a period ranging from 3 months to 5 years,
  • Jail time, ranging from 48 hours to 1 year, or
  • A combination of some or all.

Can Parents Be Held Liable for Their Child’s Underage Drinking?

The answer to this question depends on the laws of the state. Parents can provide alcohol to their children as long as it is at home and under their supervision in some states.

Other states are very strict in this regard and will impose criminal charges on adults who knowingly serve, sell, give, or allow alcohol consumption by minors on their property. If an adult contributes to the delinquency of a minor, the adult may face civil and criminal charges. Adults may even be charged if drinking occurs on their property while they are not at home.

What Are the Consequences for Everyone Else?

Underage drinking laws do not only affect minors.

If you participate in any of the following, you may be arrested, fined, or charged with a crime depending on state law:

  • Buy or give alcohol to a minor
  • Allow a minor to consume alcohol on your property
  • Allow a minor to use your ID
  • Sell alcohol to any person under age 21, even if they misrepresent their age

Do I Need an Attorney?

It is strongly recommended that you find a criminal defense attorney to assist you because of the extreme nature of the charges, and a DUI/DWI lawyer can better advise you of your rights. Use LegalMatch to find a DUI lawyer in your area today.

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