Virginia has zero tolerance when it comes to underage drinking and driving. If you are under 21 years old and facing a DUI charge, the consequences can be severe and have long-lasting effects on your life.
However, it is crucial to remember that you have rights and options. Our team of experienced Manassas DUI lawyers at The Wilson Law Firm understands the complexities of underage DUI cases and can mount an aggressive defense on your behalf so that you achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
What Is Underage DUI?
Virginia law defines underage DUI as driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 percent or higher. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266.1, the prosecution must prove the following elements of the crime to obtain a conviction.
Operation of a Motor Vehicle
The prosecutor must establish that the person was operating or in control of a motor vehicle, which includes cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
The law applies to individuals under 21 years old at the time of the offense.
Blood Alcohol Content
The person must have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher at the time of the arrest. This can be determined through breath or blood tests administered by law enforcement officers. Drivers of all ages impliedly consent to submit to a blood or breath test if the police arrest them for DUI.
Are There Any Exceptions to Virginia's Underage DUI Law?
While the law strictly prohibits underage drinking, there are certain exceptions where individuals under 21 years old can consume alcohol legally. A minor is allowed to drink alcohol in a private residence with the consent of their parent or guardian. However, the parent or guardian cannot consent to or serve anyone other than their child.
What Are the Penalties for Underage DUI?
The penalties for underage DUI in Virginia vary depending on the individual's age at the time of the offense. Here are the potential consequences.
Minors Under 18 Years Old
If a minor is arrested for DUI, a judge in juvenile court would decide their case. The penalties can include a driver's license suspension of up to one year and successful completion of an alcohol education program.
Individuals Who Are 18 to 21 Years Old
Underage drinking is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. A person who is between 18 and 21 years old and convicted of DUI could face these penalties:
- Mandatory minimum fine of $500 up to $2,500
- Mandatory community service of 50 hours
- Driver's license suspension for one year
- Jail sentence not to exceed 12 months
- Substance abuse counseling
In addition, an individual convicted of underage DUI would have the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record, which may impact their future education, employment, and other opportunities.