Many teens and young adults look forward to turning 21 so that they can start drinking alcohol. Some teens and adults who are under the age of 21 simply don’t wait and begin drinking while they are still too young. If you drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of your car, you may be charged with a DUI even if you are not impaired and even if your BAC is below the state’s legal limit for adults of 0.08%.
The DUI laws are harsher for minors in Pennsylvania because they are likelier to be involved in crashes than more experienced drivers. To prevent people who are younger than 21 from drunk driving in the state, the laws are stricter for this age group. DiCindio Law is experienced in handling underage DUI cases and can help you to understand what to expect. Here is an overview of how underage DUI cases are handled in Pennsylvania.
Lower BAC limit for younger drivers
For adults in the state of Pennsylvania, the legal blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.08%. If you are younger than age 21, however, the legal limit is much lower. If you are younger than age 21, the legal limit at which you can be charged with a DUI is 0.02%. People who are younger than age 21 may be convicted of DUIs if they have any traceable amount of alcohol in their systems. This means that you could be convicted of a DUI even if you only had one drink if you are under age 21.
What are the penalties for an underage DUI?
The penalties for underage drinking and driving are harsher than they are for adults. Three main types of penalties exist for people who are convicted of underage DUIs, including time in jail, fines, and a suspension of driving privileges. If your BAC was 0.10% or higher, you could see substantial jail time depending on what number offense this is. If you are a repeat offender, you may spend time in jail while also losing your license for a long time.
Pennsylvania has a three-tier penalty system for DUI offenses that depends on the BAC levels of the people who are convicted. However, if you are underage, you will automatically face the penalties for a high BAC DUI even if you only had trace amounts of alcohol in your bloodstream. For a first offense, this means that you could have to pay a fine of $500 to $5,000 and could have your license suspended for a year.
If you are younger than age 18 when you are convicted of a DUI offense, your case will fall under the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act. You may be institutionalized, be forced to pay a fine, and be placed on probation. If you are 18 but younger than age 21, you may face the following penalties for a first-offense underage DUI:
- Mandatory minimum jail time of 48 hours
- Fine ranging from $500 to $5,000
- Alcohol safety school
- Other penalties such as treatment or community service
An underage DUI conviction also carries some collateral consequences beyond the legal penalties. If you have a criminal record, it could prevent you from obtaining some types of public and private scholarships. If you are already enrolled in and are attending college, your university may have its own disciplinary system for you, including a potential suspension from the college, being placed on probation at the college, or potentially being expelled.
Expungement of an underage DUI
For most people, a DUI cannot be expunged until they reach age 70 or have died. If you are granted entry into a diversionary court program for first offenders, you will be permitted to have your record expunged upon successful completion of the program. Expunging your underage DUI removes it from your criminal record. As soon as you have satisfied the conditions of the program, you are able to immediately petition the court for an expungement. This is important for you if you want to go to college and are getting ready to apply. Some colleges require that their students have clean criminal records before they are admitted and then to maintain clean records while they are attending. Expunging your DUI conviction can help you to gain admission into the college or university that you want to attend and to be eligible for more public and private scholarships.
Can an underage DUI case be won?
It is possible for you to win your underage DUI case at a trial, but it will depend on the facts of your case. An attorney may review what occurred and advise you on whether it makes sense to take it to trial.
A criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law may also be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce your charges through a favorable plea agreement. If you are facing an underage DUI charge, it is important for you to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before you just plead guilty. An attorney may be able to identify potential defenses that you could raise and help you to build a strong defense case. An attorney may also be able to secure a better plea bargain on your behalf by negotiating with the prosecuting attorney who is assigned to your case.
Getting an underage DUI charge can have long-lasting consequences. It is important for you to talk to an attorney at DiCindio Law if you are facing this charge or have already completed your sentence and want to get an expungement. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation of your case.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale