Underage drunk driving leads to two criminal offenses

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Drunk driving

In Virginia, there’s a legal limit to the allowable blood alcohol content (BAC) level a driver can have before an officer charges them with driving under the influence (DUI). The legal limit for drivers 21 and older is a BAC of .08%.

However, that threshold is much lower for drivers aged 20 and below. If an underage driver’s BAC is at least .02% or higher, an officer can charge them with DUI.

But do underage drivers face the same penalties as adults convicted of DUI?

DUI penalties for underage drivers

Like adult drivers, underage drivers convicted of their first DUI offense will have a Class 1 misdemeanor on their criminal record. However, unlike adult drivers, underage drivers won’t face any jail time for the violation. Instead, a conviction leads to the forfeiture of the underage driver’s license for a year, a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and a requirement for the underage driver to perform at least 50 hours of community service.

In addition to the punishments above, a court may require the underage driver to attend an Alcohol Safety Action Program. At its discretion, the court may also allow the underage driver to apply for a restricted license during their license suspension period.

Additional penalties for underage possession and consumption of alcohol

Young drivers charged with DUI may also face additional charges for violating Virginia’s laws prohibiting underage drinking. A conviction for underage possession and purchasing of alcohol is another Class 1 misdemeanor on record, which carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and up to a year in prison. A court may also order the offender to perform another 50 hours of community service and a mandatory six-month license suspension.

Underage drivers who drink and drive can face twice the number of criminal charges if caught. The young drivers will also get a misdemeanor on their criminal record, which could affect their educational and financial prospects. The parents or guardians of these young drivers might want to consider consulting with legal professionals to better understand their options in court.