How Does Virginia Law Address Underage Drunk Drivers?
The Commonwealth of Virginia imposes strict laws against and severe punishment for drunk driving for both adults and minors under the age of 21. Though underage drivers face a different standard for driving under the influence or while impaired (DUI/DWI). Furthermore, the penalties for underage DUI also differ from the punishment that adults face for drunk or impaired driving.
What are the Virginia DUI Laws for Underage Drivers?
The underage DUI laws appear under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266.1. This section makes it unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.02 and 0.08.
How Does Virginia Penalize Underage DUI?
Section 18.2-266.1 categorizes underage DUI as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Any underage minor who commits this offense the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum fine of $500;
- Community service for at least 50 hours; and
- Forfeiture of driving privileges for 12 months.
If an underage drivers completes an Alcohol Safety Action Program under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-271.1, they may be able to obtain a restricted driving permit. These permits allow a person to drive under limited circumstances, even if they forfeited their driver’s license due to a legal violation.
Can Underage Drivers Face Adult Penalties for DUI?
In short, yes, an underage driver can face the same DUI penalties as an adult. But this only applies if the underage driver registers a BAC above 0.08, which is the adult limit established under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-266.
When an underage driver exceeds the 0.08 threshold, they will face the same penalties as an adult under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-270. Depending on the circumstances of the DUI offense, a conviction can lead to a host of different criminal penalties. In particular, repeat offenders face an escalating punishment scheme:
- First Conviction — Is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum of $250 in fines;
- Second Conviction — Remains a Class 1 misdemeanor but stipulates a mandatory minimum of $500 in fines and 10 to 20 days in jail;
- Third Conviction — Is a Class 6 felony with a mandatory minimum of $1,000 in fines and 90 days to six months in jail; and
- Fourth or Subsequent Conviction — Remains a Class 6 felony but stipulates a mandatory minimum of $1,000 in fines and 12 months in jail.
In addition, a DUI conviction results in forfeiture of driving privileges under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-271. First-time offenders lose their driving privileges for 12 months. Repeat offenders lose their driving privileges for 36 months or more.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal help with underage DUI or similar charges, it can be profoundly useful to contact a reliable criminal defense attorney. The Leesburg drunk driving attorneys at Simms Showers LLP understand how to defend against various types of DUI charges, including those involving underage minors. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.