Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious charge for anyone. But being charged with a DUI while under the age of 21 can present even more risks and put a young person’s future on the line.
Florida law is tough on drinking and driving, especially those under the legal drinking age. If you or a loved one has been charged with an underage DUI, it’s crucial to understand the unique challenges and potential legal consequences you may face.
Florida Underage DUI Laws
Florida has a zero-tolerance law prohibiting anyone under 21 with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% or higher from driving or being in actual physical control or a vehicle. This differs quite a bit from the legal BAC limit for adults, which is .08%. Even one driving after one drink can raise your BAC above .02%.
Florida’s implied consent law also comes into play in underage DUI cases. A police officer can stop and detain anyone under 21 who they have probable cause to believe was driving or had actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.
Under the zero-tolerance statute, police can also request an underage suspect to submit to a breath or blood test to determine a suspect’s BAC. Anyone under 21 with a driver’s license is deemed to have consented to a BAC test. Refusing a test will result in an automatic administrative license suspension of one year.
Penalties for a DUI Under 21
Although the administrative penalties for an underage DUI differ slightly from those for a defendant over 21, no differences apply to criminal prosecution. A defendant over 18 but under 21 is subject to the same penalties as someone over 21.
First-time offenders could face a misdemeanor charge, which could carry up to six months in jail, 50 hours of community services, up to one year of probation, and a maximum fine of $1,000. Second or subsequent offenders could face an even longer jail sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
A DUI can’t be expunged from your record, so being convicted could follow you around for life. That’s why working with an underage DUI defense lawyer is crucial to get the charges against you reduced or dropped.
Restrictions after an Underage DUI
In addition to the criminal penalties and risk of a permanent mark on your record, you could face other consequences for an underage DUI, such as:
Under the zero tolerance law, anyone convicted of a DUI under 21 will have their license suspended for six months. If convicted of a second or subsequent offense will lose their license for one year. In cases where the underage individual’s BAC was over .05%, the suspension will stay in place until a substance abuse course is completed.
If your license is suspended, you may be eligible for a hardship reinstatement in some cases. This reinstatement would restore some privileges, such as being able to drive to work or school. Anyone under 21 who has their license suspended will have to complete a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Education course before they can apply for a hardship reinstatement. If your license is suspended, you must serve 30 days without your license before you are eligible to apply for a hardship reinstatement.
Other Potential Consequences
An underage DUI can have other indirect consequences, including:
- Higher insurance premiums
- Disciplinary action at school
- Difficulty getting admitted into college
- Issues finding employment
What to Do if You’re Charged with an Underage DUI
If you or your child have been charged with a DUI, contact an experienced underage DUI defense lawyer immediately. Acting quickly will better your chances of building a strong defense. Your attorney will gather evidence, contact witnesses, and consult experts to get your charges reduced or dismissed. An attorney will represent your best interests from the start, protecting your rights and seeking the best possible outcome to help you move past the incident.
How to Challenge an Underage DUI
With your future potentially at stake, you need an underage DUI defense lawyer to fight for you aggressively and protect your rights. Your attorney could use defense strategies such as:
- Challenging the traffic stop. Police must have a reasonable suspicion of impairment to pull you over. Officers will look for speeding, weaving, and other erratic driving behaviors as reasons to make a stop. If you were pulled over without probable cause, your attorney can argue to have the charges reduced or dropped.
- Questioning breath or chemical test results. Police must follow approved protocols when administering breathalyzer tests, and the devices themselves can be unreliable. Your attorney may be able to show that the test results were inaccurate or conducted improperly.
- Proving the absence of impairment. The prosecution must prove you were impaired to get a conviction. Your attorney might combine several strategies to show there isn’t enough evidence of impairment to get your charges dismissed.
Underage DUI FAQ
Being faced with the threat of a DUI conviction at such a young age can be overwhelming. Here are answers to some of the biggest questions you may have right now:
Can my parents be held responsible for an underage DUI?
Parents can be held liable for civil damages and court costs if their child’s underage DUI causes property damage. If a parent provided alcohol to a minor — even their own child — who caused an accident while intoxicated, they could face serious consequences.
Will this affect my college applications?
An underage DUI conviction could be a significant obstacle for a teenager looking to pursue higher education. Many colleges require prospective students to disclose their criminal history, and competitive programs may view an underage DUI as a red flag and use it as a reason to reject an applicant. If accepted, students with a criminal record could also have trouble getting scholarships, participating in extracurriculars, and finding internships or other work opportunities.
What is the cost of hiring a lawyer for an underage DUI case?
The cost of defending against an underage DUI can vary widely based on several factors. The complexity of the case, aggravating factors, and where the minor was arrested can all influence your attorney’s fees.
Call Metcalf Falls for Underage DUI Defense
Getting a DUI under 21 can change a young person’s life forever. If you or a loved one were charged with an underage DUI, you need an attorney who understands the gravity of the situation and will fight aggressively to keep the charges from affecting your future.
The underage DUI defense lawyers at Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A. have years of experience fighting DUI charges in Florida. Our team understands the intricacies of Florida DUI laws, which can get even more complicated if minors are involved. We’re prepared to defend you and answer any questions you have about the implications of an underage DUI in Florida.