The Law Office of Matthew E. Bennett

A Maryland Law Firm Based in Silver Spring And Serving Surrounding Communities

Consequences of an underage DUI

You were out with your buddies celebrating a big college football win. You had one drink, but felt you were safe to drive back to your dorm across campus. Despite careful driving, a police officer pulled you over for having a busted tail light. When the officer approached your window, he smelled the beer on your breath. When he checked your license, he also learned that you were not yet 21.

A conviction for driving under the influence, or DUI, comes with harsh punishments at any age. There are a few things to keep in mind regarding DUI laws in Maryland when it comes to underage drivers.

Zero tolerance law

Maryland has a zero-tolerance law regarding underage drinking and driving. While anyone can get a DUI for driving with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of 0.08 percent, a person under age 21 with a BAC of only 0.02 percent can lose their license. This comes from a concern that the person was drinking and driving before they were legally allowed to drink at all. A level that low is unlikely to impair driving. However, if an underage driver encounters a traffic stop for any reason in Maryland, and the police officer smells alcohol, they can claim probable cause to conduct field sobriety testing. If an underage driver has a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, not only will they be subject to license suspension, they will be subject to criminal penalties.

Criminal court is possible

If an underage driver arrested for DUI is over 18, but under 21, their case will go to criminal court as they are a legal adult. If the underage driver is under 18, juvenile court will handle the case. Consider which court will handle your case when choosing a lawyer. Penalties will vary based on the BAC level and whether or not it was the first offense. Alcohol education classes, license suspension, fines and incarceration are all possibilities.

Having a criminal record showing a DUI can be challenging at any age. However, having to explain an underage DUI conviction can be daunting when it comes to college applications, student loan applications and apartment applications. A criminal record at such a young age may prove to be a hardship in getting your life started. If you face a DUI charge while underage, or your child is looking at a DUI charge, a DUI lawyer will help you understand your rights and build a defense for your case.