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Teens and the Legal Consequences of an Underage DUI

If you’ve already made the mistake of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol but somehow managed to make it home without injury to yourself or others and without being arrested, then you were fortunate.

Statistically, the odds are against it.

  • Every day about 800 people are injured in a drunk driving crash — one every two minutes.
  • In 2016, 10,497 people died in drunk driving crashes — one every 50 minutes.
  • Two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.

So, if you make that unfortunate decision again, there are a few things you should know will happen when you are pulled over for a DUI.

Legal Trouble is Only the Beginning

First, legally speaking, you will be arrested and booked for “suspicion of drunk driving.” You will be taken to the nearest police station or jail, fingerprinted, your mugshot taken and held there until someone pays your bail and takes you home.

From there, the legal consequences and costs of a DUI arrest likely include:

  • The loss of your driver’s license, from six months to a year. Every state in the U.S. revokes licenses for DUI convictions, even for a first-time conviction.
  • Court appearances require legal representation, which cost between $750 and $1,500 for a plea bargain and between $2,500 to $25,000 to go to trial, depending on the complexity of your case.
  • Fines for first-time DUIs range from $390 – $1,000 but can be assessed even 3x higher;
  • Probation, even informal, ranges from 1-3 years, but probation times vary from state to state. First-offense misdemeanors for DUIs in California can result in a 3-5 year probation period.
  • Community service is almost always a part of a DUI conviction, the hours of which range from 24 – 100 hours for first-time convictions.
  • Jail time: In all states, first-offense DUI or DWI is classified as a misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to six months in jail. While unlikely for a teen’s first-time offense, jail time can be given for drunk driving that results in serious injury or fatality.

Zero Tolerance, Zero Free Ride

For teenagers, the legal consequences of driving impaired may seem less severe. But most states have zero-tolerance laws for those under age 21, who drive under the influence. If a teen is pulled over by police and any amount of alcohol is found in their system, they will be charged with DUI.

Whether the charges stick or are dismissed, the life consequences that follow will be long-term and challenging.

  • A DUI conviction for a teenager may be expunged from his or her permanent record, if all the court requirements are met, but it is not guaranteed, not even with a great lawyer.
  • Students who are charged with underage drinking and driving are often expelled from school.
  • A DUI charge makes getting into college more difficult and makes a student eligible for fewer scholarships.
  • Your DUI charges will likely show up in a background check, limiting job opportunities.
  • A DUI under age 21 puts two points on your driving record, which will increase your auto insurance costs an average of 80 percent over the three to seven years it remains on your record.

Research shows that 75 percent of teens say their parents are the biggest influencers in their lives, especially regarding the decisions about drinking. In other words, you’ve got the time, opportunity and trust factor to equip your teen to make safe, smart choices. It’s time, maybe past time, to have the first of many conversations before a DUI up-ends their future.

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About the Author

Mr. Sloan has spent the last 14+ years focusing his attention on DUI representation. He has done more than 100 felony trials and has earned numerous favorable results for his clients, including Not Guilty verdicts, dismissal of cases, and beneficial plea agreements.