Underage DUI: Zero Tolerance Laws
You didn’t feel drunk. In fact, your blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit for a standard DUI. The issue is that you were below the legal drinking age. Underage drunk drivers are subject to a different set of legal restrictions. This is a brief introduction to the laws governing underage DUI.
Definition of Zero Tolerance
In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or possess alcohol. And while driving under the influence of alcohol (normally 0.08 percent blood-alcohol concentration or higher) is illegal for all drivers, all states have so-called “zero-tolerance” laws for underage DUI offenses.
Zero-tolerance laws make it a criminal DUI offense for drivers under 21 to have any amount of alcohol in their system, ranging from 0.00 to 0.02 percent BAC, depending on the state. In light of these laws, even an innocent glass of wine with dinner could result in a DUI charge for a young driver. However, the purpose of these laws is to combat the very real risks associated with underage drinking.
Why Do We Have Zero Tolerance Policies?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of all deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds are caused by motor vehicle accidents, and approximately one-third of these fatalities are alcohol-related. According to the NHTSA, the alcohol involvement rate for young drivers is roughly double that of drivers over 21, and even low levels of underage drinking increase the risk of fatal crashes.
In order to qualify for Federal-Aid Highway Funds, the National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 mandated that states consider a BAC of 0.02 percent or less for drivers under 21 to be driving under the influence. To conform, as all states eventually did, they had to designate a BAC of 0.02 percent as a “per se offense.” This means that police are not required to prove intoxication if the driver is above the legal limit.
An NHTSA study comparing the first 12 states to implement zero tolerance laws to 12 other states found that those with the law experienced a 20 percent decrease in fatal nighttime single-car crashes involving drivers under 21. These are the situations where alcohol is most likely to be present. Furthermore, states with underage BAC limits of 0.02 percent or less saw the largest declines in fatal crashes, whereas states with higher BAC limits saw a lesser impact.
In addition to the obvious risks to health and safety posed by underage drinking and driving, DUI offenses can have far-reaching consequences for the future of a young driver. An early conviction for drunk driving can affect both employment background checks and auto insurance coverage.
Speak With One Of Our DUI Attorneys In Scottsdale
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.