Are DUI Laws Unfairly Targeting Younger People?

by cbennett on November 7, 2012

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Nobody wants to face a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, and the lump in the pit of a minor’s stomach when they see blue lights behind them is likely much larger than in a driver’s who is legally allowed to drink. There is no debate to the fact that drinking and driving is unsafe at any age, but many people often wonder if DUI laws unfairly target the younger public. It’s true that people under the age of twenty-one aren’t supposed to drink at all, but some laws do make it seem as if young people are treated unfairly.

Minor’s Blood Alcohol Content

The most obvious fact that could point towards unfair treatment of minors is the blood alcohol content (BAC) level with which they can be charged with a DUI. According to our attorneys at Kellis Law, those who are over the age of twenty-one must have a .08 percent BAC to be considered drunk for the purposes of a DUI charge. This level, however, is much lower for younger drivers.

Every state has varying laws related to DUIs, but many set the BAC for minors at .02 percent. This means that an underage driver can literally be arrested for driving under the influence after drinking less than one full alcoholic beverage. Some states will even allow officers to effect an arrest if a young person’s BAC is above 0.0 percent. This is obviously a burden on younger individuals.


The sad part about an underage driver being charged with a DUI is the fact that they’ll face many of the same consequences of their overage counterparts. Some people may think that this is fair, but it’s important to remember that younger drivers can be charged with the crime if they have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system at all. A teenager who had a few sips of her mother’s margarita, for example, could face the same consequences of a frat boy who is leaving his fourth bar in the course of a night.

Underage drivers can face jail time, community service, license suspension and several other detrimental ramifications. In most states, the jail time that a minor can face ranges from two days to a year. They could also lose their license for up to three years, and this can make it impossible for them to keep a decent job. Most adults will also only receive one year of probation after a DUI, but minors can receive up to five years. All of these penalties show the imbalance of a DUI charge when compared between younger and older drinkers.

Additional Charges

Overage drivers usually only face a single DUI charge after being arrested for drinking and driving. Younger drivers, however, have much more to worry about. These young people can face charges of possession of alcohol by a minor, solicitation of alcohol from an adult or several other misdemeanors based on which state they’re in.

These added charges can make the aforementioned penalties even more detrimental, and prosecuting attorneys will often use them as leverage to make a minor plead to a charge that they have a legitimate defense for. This usually makes it necessary for a young person to have a DUI lawyer by their side during their proceedings.

Drinking and driving is undoubtedly a serious charge, but the consequences can be much worse for younger drivers. Simply drinking a few swallows of alcohol is enough to get a minor charged with driving under the influence in many states, and this is true even if the driver is affected in no way by the alcohol. Driving under the influence and underage drinking are both negative occurrences, but laws related to underage drinking make it quite obvious that younger drivers are unfairly targeted.

Chris Bennett is a DUI rights advocate and contributing author for Kellis Law, a Philadelphia DUI lawyer. The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis have successfully represented drunk driving cases in Philadelphia for over 20 years. If you have been charged with any type of drinking and driving crime in Pennsylvania, you should seek the help of a lawyer that focuses on DUI defense.




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