Drunk driving is illegal in every US state, but a DUI case in Virginia could be more serious depending on the age of the motorist. It is unlawful for anyone under 21 years old to consume alcohol, so there are different laws that apply for underage DUI. However, if you were under age 18 when arrested or you are the parent of a minor, drunk driving charges are even more complicated. There are implications for both underage consumption and driving while under the influence – and these cases typically proceed through the juvenile court system.
Combined, these factors create a challenging situation, especially considering the consequences for your child’s future. A Virginia juvenile DUI defense attorney can assist with the legal process, but you should become familiar with the basic concepts.
Overview of Virginia’s Underage Drunk Driving Laws: Anyone under 21 years old who gets behind the wheel of a car after consuming alcohol is essentially breaking two laws:
- Under Virginia’s statute on underage drinking, a person under age 21 can be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor for possession, purchase, or consumption of alcohol. A conviction could lead to a $500 fine or 50 hours of community service. Plus, even if not in a vehicle, the law provides for a driver’s license suspension of 6-12 months.
- Virginia has a special provision that applies to underage motorists who drive after illegally drinking alcohol. This separate count could lead to another fine or community service, as well as a suspension of driving privileges; the driver’s license suspension is added on to what would apply to an adult over age 21 if convicted of DUI.
In addition, note that drivers who have not attained legal drinking age will be subject to a lower blood alcohol concentration under state “zero tolerance” provisions. While an adult could be arrested for operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent, the applicable level for a person under 21 is .02 percent. The statutory provision regarding impaired driving – which is an objective standard not based upon BAC – does not affect a case involving underage DUI.
Special Considerations for Juveniles Charged with DUI: Both of the above laws apply to any underage driver, but the case is treated differently if the motorist has not reached the age of majority. Anyone under 18 years old is considered a minor in the eyes of the law, so the charges are processed through Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
You may have heard that the disposition for juveniles in the system is lenient because it focuses on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Some findings of delinquency result in probation, deferred disposition, the requirement to attend educational courses, or fines. However, the statute is clear that a DUI under age 18 still involves the same penalties as described above.
There are even consequences for your child if he or she does not yet have a driver’s license: If found delinquent under the juvenile justice statute, the court could order that the minor be denied driving privileges.
Set up a Consultation with a Virginia Juvenile DUI Defense Lawyer
When you realize what is involved with defending a juvenile drunk driving case and how the implications can affect your child’s future, you see the importance of retaining an experienced attorney. At Leary Law, P.C., our team is dedicated to helping families navigate the complex legal proceedings for all types of juvenile cases, including those involving DUI charges. For more information on your defense options, please contact our firm today. We can set up a consultation at our offices in Manassas or Fairfax, VA to discuss your circumstances and explain how the process works.