Driving over the legal limit at any age can create legal problems for young offenders and result in serious criminal penalties. The penalties for drivers who are under the legal age limit to drink (21) can be more severe than over 21 drivers who are charged with DUI. The recent Justin Bieber DUI arrest as well as the Texas “Affluenza” DUI case both illustrate that underage drinking and driving is a common offense, but has the potential for serious criminal penalties.
In the state of Alabama, 21 is the legal age limit to consume or possess alcohol. Teenage or underage drinking and driving cases account for a significant number of arrests and accidents every year. In these cases, defendants and their families should be aware of the immediate and long-term consequences of underage drinking and driving. Our DUI defense attorneys in Birmingham understand the complexities of drinking and driving charges. We also know how devastating a DUI can be for a high school student, college student, or other underage driver charged with driving under the influence. Not only will you face criminal penalties, but a DUI could have lasting personal and professional consequences.
When arrested and charged with DUI, any defendant driver should have a clear understanding of their rights and obligations. In the case against Justin Bieber, it was demonstrated that he was technically under the legal drunk driving limit. Can he still be charged with DUI? In the state of Alabama and Florida where Bieber was arrested, any driver under a BAC of .02% can be charged with DUI. For those over 21, the BAC is .08%. Bieber blew a .011 which was under the legal limit even for underage drivers. He may be able to successfully challenge the alcohol allegations; however, he also tested positive for THC in his system, which could indicate pot or possibly prescription medications. While there was enough evidence to charge him, he is pleading “not guilty” and can explore other legal defenses. It is uncertain whether there is enough evidence to charge him of DUI based on the presence of THC in his urine sample.
As this case demonstrates, DUI cases are always complicated and involve a complex set of facts. In any underage drinking and driving case, an experienced advocate should review the circumstances of the arrest, any evidence, including BAC, breathalyzer, urine, or field sobriety tests, as well as the overall facts of the case. There are many defenses that drivers may not be aware of and immediate action that can be taken to protect a driver’s license and reduce penalties.
Alleged teenage or underage drunk drivers should be aware that any charge will carry serious penalties. A first conviction can result in up to a year imprisonment, fines up to $2,100, and a 30-day license suspension. A second drunk driving conviction within 5 years will also result in mandatory 5 days in jail (up to 1 year), minimum of 30 days community service, fines up to $5,100 and license suspension. From there, the charges and penalties will only go up. Any driver who is under 18 and arrested for DUI will be tried in Juvenile Court, which means you will not have the right to a jury trial.