In DC, a person under the age of 21 is not permitted to consume or possess alcohol. This restriction also prohibits them from driving with alcohol in their system. The consequences associated with underage drunk driving are very serious and can leave a teen with a permanent criminal record. When someone is under 21, there is zero tolerance, so they will be charged with DUI or an OWI. The standard is going to be strict.
A DC underage DUI lawyer can use their experience to provide a young person with an aggressive representation strategy after they have been accused of impaired driving.
DC Code establishes rules of implied consent, making clear that any driver in the District must submit to chemical testing if there is reasonable cause. However, evidence cannot be used against a teen if police officers do not have reasonable cause to believe the teen was impaired or intoxicated before testing was performed.
A teen can be charged with an underage drunk driving offense if a measurable amount of alcohol is deemed to be in their system. A blood or breath alcohol concentration above 0.0 means that the young person may have violated zero tolerance laws and could face possible penalties.
The process for a DUI case is essentially the same as if the person is an adult. When someone under the age of 21 is pulled over, the DUI investigation, standardized field sobriety tests, breath test, and other chemical tests are the same as for an adult. If the person is arrested, they are taken to the police station and possibly to arraignment court, or they may be released with a citation to come back to arraignment court. If they are over 18, they will be in the same adult court as other adults.
An underage DUI is going to be prosecuted aggressively because there is a strong correlation between underage drinking and driving and serious accidents.
Individuals under the age of 21 face the same possible penalties such as license suspension for a DUI as people 21 years of age and older. There is no restricted license available in DC if it is based in a traffic alcohol charge.
There can be huge potential impact particularly for someone who is underage because it can affect their ability to apply to college, internships, as well as a person’s ability travel in certain countries, such as Canada. A person must get a special waiver after five years following a DUI conviction to be able to travel to Canada. There are huge collateral consequences in addition to repercussions like license suspension or revocation.
There is the potential for a deferred sentencing agreement that would involve a person entering a guilty plea to a DUI or other charge. Usually, the case is then delayed six months to a year. The person would complete certain classes, pay a fine, and perhaps make a contribution to a program called the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.
If they successfully complete all the requirements for sentencing agreements, they can withdraw their guilty plea and the case is dismissed. There is no conviction on the person’s record. There is also a potential Youth Rehabilitation Act treatment that would “set aside” a person’s conviction if, and only if, there is a guilty plea or guilty verdict at trial before the age of 22.
When a person is found guilty at trial or they enter a guilty plea it is still up to the judge whether the person would benefit from the treatment of the Youth Rehabilitation Act. That means the judge must believe that the person could really use this because of the potential adverse consequences that would affect them educationally or job-wise. For a deferred sentencing agreement, typically prosecutors do not offer it unless the person has below a .02 BAC.
For a teen driver with a blood or breath alcohol concentration above 0.08%, or with repeat offenses for drunk driving, contact with a DC underage DUI lawyer may be a good idea as penalties may include incarceration, as well as fines and the loss of a driver’s license. A DC underage DUI lawyer can help a person to consider defenses or negotiate a plea bargain to a lesser charge.
A teen’s future is at stake when accusations of underage drunk driving are made. If background checks are conducted by colleges, future employers, sports teams, or volunteer programs, they may learn of the drunk driving charge. It is important for young people and their families to do everything they can to avoid a conviction or have the charges reduced.
A DC underage DUI lawyer can use a number of potential defenses to protect their client from these charges. Defenses may include questioning the accuracy of any Standardized Field Sobriety or chemical testing that took place. In addition, tests may have been performed incorrectly, evidence may have been handled improperly, or law enforcement may not have had probable cause to conduct the tests.
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