What to Do if You’re Facing an Underage DUI Charge

Pennsylvania has thorough DUI laws. You face severe criminal penalties if you are convicted of driving under the influence. While the legal limit for adult drivers is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher, that is not the case for anyone under the age of 21 years. 

If the police arrest you or your child for underage DUI, seek legal advice from an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible. A DUI attorney can help you fight underage DUI charges.

Pennsylvania’s Zero Tolerance Law for Underage Drivers

Pennsylvania has a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. If you are under 21 years old and have any amount of alcohol in your system, you can be charged with driving under the influence. An underage driver with a BAC of .02% is considered intoxicated. 

Penalties for Underage DUI in West Chester, PA

The penalties for underage DUI are significant. Adult drivers charged with drunk driving are charged based on their BAC levels. Pennsylvania in 38 Pa. CS §3802 divides DUI charges into three categories:

  • General Impairment DUI – BAC between .08% and .099% or sufficient alcohol in your system to impair driving ability
  • High Rate of Alcohol – BAC between .10% and .159%
  • Highest Rate of Alcohol – BAC of .16% or higher

The DUI penalties increase as your BAC increases. However, underage drivers with a BAC as low as .02% are charged at the High Rate of Alcohol level. The penalties break down as follows and apply to those drivers who are under 21 but 18 or over:

First Offense Underage DUI High BAC Level (Ungraded Misdemeanor):

  • Minimum 48 hours in jail (maximum jail time six months)
  • $500 fine (maximum fine $5,000)
  • Driver’s license suspension for one year
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for one year
  • Pay for and attend Alcohol Highway Safety School 

Second Offense Underage DUI High BAC Level (Ungraded Misdemeanor):

  • Minimum 30 days in jail (maximum jail time six months)
  • $750 fine (maximum fine $5,000)
  • Driver’s license suspension for one year
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for one year
  • Pay for and attend Alcohol Highway Safety School 
  • Drug and Alcohol Assessment

Third Offense Underage DUI High BAC Level (First Degree Misdemeanor):

  • Minimum 90 days in jail (maximum jail time five years)
  • $1,500 fine (maximum fine $10,000)
  • Driver’s license suspension for 18 months
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for one year
  • Pay for and attend Alcohol Highway Safety School 

Fourth Offense Underage DUI High BAC Level (Third Degree Felony):

  • Minimum one year in jail (maximum jail time seven years)
  • $1,500 fine (maximum fine $15,000)
  • Driver’s license suspension for 18 months
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for one year
  • Pay for and attend Alcohol Highway Safety School 
  • DNA sampling

Underage drivers can be charged in the Highest BAC range. If so, they face harsher sentences, including higher minimum fines and longer jail sentences. 

Collateral Consequences of an Underage DUI Conviction in West Chester

The collateral consequences of a DUI conviction for a teenager or young adult can significantly impact their future. 

An underage DUI conviction can make it more difficult to get into college and qualify for scholarships and student loans. Drunk driving convictions also make it more difficult to find employment. Your teenager could have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their lives.

Underage DUI for Younger Offenders

If a driver is younger than 18 years old, the juvenile court system in the county of the DUI offense handles the drunk driving charge. Under 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3718, a minor with any alcohol in their system can be charged with a summary offense. The penalty is a $100 fine and a 3-month driver’s license suspension.

Generally, the juvenile court system focuses on rehabilitation instead of criminal penalties. A minor may qualify for the consent decree program for a first offense juvenile DUI arrest. The court places the DUI arrest on hold for six months for the minor to complete the terms of the program.

Terms of the consent decree program include:

  • Six-month driver’s license suspension
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Payment of court costs
  • Juvenile probation for a minimum of six months
  • Drug and alcohol assessment
  • Drug and alcohol treatment upon court order
  • Community service

If a minor completes the program, they are eligible to have the juvenile DUI arrest expunged from their criminal record. Expunging a DUI record for a minor can make a positive difference in their future. 

Underage drivers who are 18 years or older could qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD), which could allow them to avoid jail time. Like the juvenile program, ARD focuses on rehabilitation for underage driving and driving.

Contact Our DUI Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA DUI lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC
29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535