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What an Underage DUI Charge Means for You

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If you’re under the age of 21 and you’ve been accused of DUI, you should realize that a conviction may derail your life. There are several charges that an underage person caught drinking—or even just caught with alcohol in his or her vehicle—may face. All of these charges carry heavy fines, and some may even result in a license suspension. Additionally, you may face difficulties when it comes time to apply for colleges, jobs, or housing because of your conviction. Speaking to an experienced DUI attorney about your case is the best way to gain a full understanding of your legal options and to find a way to reduce the consequences that you face.

Florida’s Zero Tolerance Laws

All fifty states in the nation have a legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent for drivers 21 years old and over. All states also have a law that requires an individual to be at least 21 years old to legally purchase or consume alcohol. However, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens, and about a quarter of fatal crashes in which there was a teenage driver also involve alcohol impairment. In 2017, young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 made up 42 percent of the drivers involved in fatal drunk driving crashes. To combat the problem of underage drinking and driving, many states have enacted zero-tolerance laws, including Florida.

Florida’s zero-tolerance underage drinking laws include the following provisions:

  • It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if he or she has a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 percent or higher.
  • If a law enforcement officer suspects that an underage driver has a blood-alcohol level of 0.02 percent, a breath or blood alcohol content test will be requested and the underage driver will have his or her license suspended immediately.
  • Upon suspension of your license, you will obtain a temporary license that allows you 10 days to either do nothing and lose your license for up to 90 days; request a hearing, at which point you will be issued a temporary driver’s license that is good for up to 45 days until the hearing takes place; or plead guilty and file for a hardship license, which will allow you to drive to work, school, or other necessary functions.
  • If the underage driver is found to have a breath or blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, which is the legal limit for those over the age of 21, he or she will be charged with a DUI and face the same consequences as an adult.

How Much Alcohol Does It Take to Reach 0.02 Percent BAL?

As explained by OnHealth, it takes very little alcohol to reach 0.02 percent BAL. However, how much alcohol one can consume before reaching this level depends greatly on personal factors, such as age, gender, physical condition, how much an individual has had to eat before drinking, and any medication or drugs that he or she may be using. Women typically have a higher blood alcohol content than men when consuming equal amounts of alcohol. Different drinks also contain different amounts of alcohol. A general rule of thumb is that one drink is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, 12 ounces of regular beer, or five ounces of table wine.

Alcohol impairment begins after one drink and worsens with every drink you consume within an hour. A single drink for a 100-pound male may produce a blood alcohol level of 0.04 percent, which is above the underage drinking limit. A single drink for males who weigh over 100 pounds will take you close to the 0.02 percent requirement for an underage DUI. After two drinks, nearly all males would be over the legal limit for underage DUI. For females, if you weigh under 180 pounds, a single drink will likely cause you to be over the 0.02 percent limit. After two drinks, those under 120 pounds will likely reach the legal limit for adult impairment. Most females up to 240 pounds in weight will be over the 0.02 percent underage DUI limit after two drinks in one hour.

The Penalties for Underage DUI

The penalties for underage driving under the influence in Florida are as follows:

  • If the offender is under 21 with a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.02 percent, then he or she may receive up to a six months driver’s license suspension.
  • If the offender is under 18 with a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.02 percent, then he or she may receive up to a six months driver’s license suspension, as well as required enrollment in an alcohol education course.
  • If the offender is under 21 with a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more, then he or she may receive a driver’s license suspension of six months to a year, $500 to $1,000 in fines, up to six months in jail, and 50 hours of community service.
  • If the offender is under 21 and this is his or her second DUI, then the offender faces a driver’s license suspension of at least one year, the potential for a jail sentence of up to six months, and vehicle impoundment.

It should be noted that these are minimum fines. Your sentence may be harsher, depending on the judge’s discretion and the facts of your case.

Other Laws Come Into Play

If you’re stopped for suspected underage DUI, other laws may come into play and result in additional consequences, such as:

  • Refusing the breath or blood test requested by the law enforcement officer: Automatic driver’s license suspension for one year on the first refusal. A second refusal may result in an 18-month license suspension.
  • Underage possession of alcohol: First conviction is a second-degree misdemeanor, with a fine of $500 and 60 days in jail, or probation time of six months, along with a six to 12-month license revocation. A second conviction is a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying fines of $1,000, one year of jail or probation, and two-year license revocation.

If you are charged with underage DUI, contact a DUI lawyer for answers to your legal questions today.

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