Will Underage DUI Charges Affect Your Future?

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

A DUI is a serious offense no matter what age you happen to be, but the consequences can be even harsher for underage drivers. 

All 50 US states have zero-tolerance laws for underage drivers, which means that any driver under the age of 21 found to have between 0.00 and 0.02 percent blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) could face a DUI charge. The actual limit varies by state, but it’s always somewhere in this range. If an underage driver’s BAC registers beyond the legal limit, he/she could be charged with a DUI, in addition to their underage charge. 

Zero-tolerance laws may seem like a harsh mandate, but they exist to protect young and often inexperienced drivers from the perils of drinking and driving. In the US, motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death for underage drivers, and there is a correlation between zero-tolerance laws and lower rates of fatal underage car crashes. 

Short-Term Consequences of an Underage DUI Charge

DUI laws vary significantly by state. Regardless of where you live, you can expect substantial fines and a suspended driver’s license. Some states will require you to attend DUI school, have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your vehicle, undergo alcohol counseling, and/or perform community service. In severe cases, you may serve jail time, even for a first offense. 

Long-Term Consequences of an Underage DUI Charge

An underage DUI charge can adversely affect many aspects of your life. Some examples include:

  • Fewer employment opportunities. Employers often conduct a background check as a condition of employment, and a DUI may adversely affect a hiring decision. If you work with children, hold a government job, run for public office, or drive commercial vehicles, your employer will almost certainly request a background check. Commercial drivers, in particular, must follow strict regulations and should exercise caution even when operating a personal vehicle, as certain infractions (such as a DUI) can be grounds to suspend or revoke their commercial driver’s license (CDL). 

  • Limited access to housing. Like employers, some landlords will run a background check before renting housing to a potential tenant. A DUI can also affect a person’s eligibility for public housing.

  • Higher car insurance rates. A DUI will almost certainly increase your auto insurance premium.Depending on the charge’s severity and your state of residence, your rate can double or even triple for three to five years. Some insurers will actually drop a policy entirely if the insured gets into an accident caused by DUI.

  • Penalties to your college career. Many colleges look into a potential student’s background when considering an application, and a DUI could negatively impact a school’s decision to admit you. If you are already a college student at the time of your DUI, you could lose scholarships, financial aid, or forfeit your place in athletics. In severe cases, your school could even suspend or expel you. 

  • Harsher consequences for repeat offenses. Suppose you have an underage DUI on your juvenile record. In that case, the court could consider an adult DUI a second offense if it occurred within your state’s lookback period (the amount of time a DUI stays on your driving record). Subsequent DUI offenses have increasingly punitive sanctions.

How Can I Mitigate the Effects of an Underage DUI?

DUIs of any type are dangerous, costly, and never worth the aggravation. But people make mistakes. If you have been convicted of DUI, there are steps you can take to reduce your DUI’s negative impact on your life, especially if you were charged as a minor. 

Many states are more flexible regarding juvenile criminal records; some even seal records automatically once you turn 18. However, as mentioned above, this does not mean that your juvenile record has no impact once you reach adulthood. As such, if you have the option to seal or expunge a DUI from your record, you should take advantage of it. 

Expungement is the process by which a court clears an arrest or conviction from someone’s record. If your record is expunged, you can honestly say you have no criminal record when asked by a potential employer or landlord. Certain charges cannot be expunged from your record, and in some states, such as Massachusetts, even DUIs fall under this category of charge. If you cannot expunge your DUI from your record, you can often petition the court to seal it instead. 

In states that make a distinction between sealing and expungement, a sealed record is only accessible to law enforcement and the court; as such, you can honestly say that you have no criminal record when applying for employment or housing. Convictions on a sealed record may still be used against you in future criminal proceedings, but for the purposes of living your life free of the hassle of a past arrest or conviction, a sealed record functions the same as expungement.  

Seek Legal Counsel

Each state has specific laws, restrictions, and penalties for DUIs, as well as rules around expungement. A DUI attorney, such as the team at Trey Porter Law, can review your case and best advise you on your legal rights and options, saving you money today and preventing the DUI from coming back and haunting you later in life. If you are charged with an underage DUI, seek legal counsel as soon as possible so that you can protect your rights and move on with your life.

October 1, 2020 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: Uncategorized