Virginia takes a zero-tolerance approach to underage drinking and driving. No one under the age of 21 can legally purchase, possess, or consume alcohol. Drivers under the age of 21 who have alcohol in their system can face a suspended license, fines, and even the possibility of jail time. Talk to a Virginia DUI defense lawyer about your under-21 DUI and how to keep your license to drive.
Virginia DUI Laws for Underage Drivers
Drivers under the age of 21 can face the same criminal DUI penalties as drivers 21 and older. However, underage drivers have even stricter blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits than other drivers. Even if an under-21 driver is driving perfectly safely and is not impaired, a small amount of alcohol in the blood can mean an under-21 DUI.
Legal Limit for Under-21 DUIs
Virginia's zero-tolerance policy provides penalties for drivers under the age of 21 who are tested with a BAC of 0.02% to less than 0.8%. Underage drivers who are arrested with a BAC in this range can face an administrative license suspension (ALS), even if they are never convicted.
Any driver (under or over 21) who is convicted of driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher will face more serious penalties. The penalties for a DUI conviction depend on the driver's BAC and prior impaired driving history.
Penalties for Underage DUIs
Any person under the age of 21 who operates a vehicle with a BAC of 0.02% or above but under 0.08% is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction for an underage DUI include a suspended license for one year from the date of conviction. In addition, the driver may have to pay mandatory fines, complete 50 hours of community service, and attend alcohol education or treatment programs.
- Fine of $250 to $2,500
- Up to a year in jail
- Minimum jail time for higher BACs (0.15 or greater but less than 0.20 = minimum five days; and 0.20 or greater = minimum ten days in jail)
- seven-day administrative license suspension
- 12-month license suspension
- Ignition interlock required for six months (§ 18.2-270.1)
- Completion of a VASAP course
License Suspension for Under 21 DUIs
A driver under 21 who has a suspended license for a DUI may be able to get a restricted license. A restricted license allows the driver to go to and from certain places, such as work, school, or court dates. To get a restricted license, the individual may have to attend the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program. Then the court may provide the individual with a restricted license until the end of the DUI license suspension period.
Higher Insurance Rates After a DUI
Many young drivers already have higher insurance rates than older drivers. A DUI will only make those rates go even higher. Most drivers convicted of a DUI will have to get special insurance coverage known as a Financial Responsibility Certificate (FR-22). This requires higher coverage than the standard 25/50/20 in Virginia and increases coverage to 50/100/40.
Higher insurance coverage may be required for three to four years. However, because a DUI stays on your DMV record for 11 years in Virginia, a driver's insurance rates may continue to be higher than other drivers for years to come.
College Students with Under-21 DUIs
Many drivers who are arrested for a DUI in Virginia are college or university students. College students may experiment with drinking during college and find it easier to access than they might have at home. Many of these students also have access to a car. This, combined with strict enforcement in college towns like Charlottesville, may make college students more likely to have a run-in with the law over drinking and driving.
In addition to the criminal penalties and loss of driving privileges, colleges and universities may have their own policies for students who are arrested or convicted of drunk driving. For example, the UVA has policies that condone the illegal or irresponsible use of alcohol, including driving under the influence. Schools may discipline students who were found to be violating these school policies, with possible penalties including loss of scholarship money, removal from sports programs, suspension, or even expulsion.
If you are a college student facing a DUI, talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer about your rights and how to fight a DUI charge in court and even before a school disciplinary hearing.
Underage Possession or Fake ID Penalties
When an underage driver is found to be under the influence, he or she may face additional charges or violations. Some of the most common charges associated with an underage DUI include the following.
Multiple criminal charges are common in criminal cases. The prosecutor can often use multiple charges as a way to “negotiate” with the defendant. A prosecutor may offer to drop some charges in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty to other charges. The threat of multiple criminal charges often convinces defendants to accept a plea deal instead of fight the charges.
However, before you accept a plea deal or plead guilty to any criminal charges, make sure you understand your rights. You may have a better case than you realize. Talk to an experienced Charlottesville DUI defense attorney as soon as possible to decide the best way to handle an under-21 DUI.
Charlottesville Under-21 DUI Defense Lawyer
A driver under the age of 21 can face serious penalties and driving restrictions for a one-time mistake. If you want to keep your license to drive in Virginia and avoid a criminal record, you need to fight the criminal charges against you. Talk to an attorney with a record of successfully defending clients facing an underage DUI. Contact Charlottesville attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.