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Underage DUI in Washington State

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For all residents of Washington state, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to serious consequences, both for the victims of any potential accidents and for the intoxicated driver. An adult must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher for a law enforcement officer to place him or her under arrest. However, the rules are much stricter for drivers under the legal drinking age of 21.

What Is an Underage DUI?

It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs for all drivers. Adults 21 years and older can face DUI charges if they have a certain amount of alcohol or drugs in their blood while driving or within 2 hours of operating a motor vehicle.

For most drivers who are above the legal drinking age, a law enforcement officer will administer a test to determine their BAC and if the results indicate a reading of .08 or higher, they could face severe consequences.

Washington imposes zero tolerance laws for drivers under the age of 21 in regards to DUIs. If you are younger than 21 years old, you could face misdemeanor charges if you have a BAC of .02 or higher within 2 hours of operating a motor vehicle. In addition, an underage person cannot have any concentration of THC in the blood while driving or within 2 hours of driving.

Potential Consequences for an Underage DUI

While an underage DUI may be a different charge than a regular DUI, the penalties are still severe if the young person receives a conviction.

Punishment for underage DUIs vary based on the number of previous offenses.

  • A first-offense underage DUI can lead to a jail sentence of at least 24 hours, which may occur in an adult jail or juvenile detention facility, depending on the offender’s age. In addition, this charge carries a minimum fine of $941.
  • A second-offense underage DUI will result in a jail sentence of at least 30 days in jail, along with 60 days on electronic monitoring. This charge carries a minimum fine of $1,196.
  • A third or subsequent underage DUI can lead to at least 90 days in jail and 120 days on electronic monitoring. In addition, the offender may face at least $2,046 in fines.

All underage DUI offenses are subject to an administrative license suspension between 90 days to two years, and may be subject to a suspension up to four years. The offender may also face up to 5 years of probation.

An underage DUI charge can have a significant impact on a young person’s life if he or she receives a conviction. These charges are part of the offender’s criminal history, having an impact on any subsequent charges he or she may receive.

How Can an Attorney Help with an Underage DUI Charge?

Facing criminal charges can be intimidating and scary, especially if you are a young person. You need a criminal defense attorney on your side to represent your best interests, guide you through the complexity of Washington’s justice system, and craft a compelling case in your favor. An attorney can benefit your underage DUI case in a number of ways.

  • While your criminal case may be a new experience to you, your attorney will have handled many cases that are similar to yours. Your lawyer will use this knowledge and experience to apply trusted defense strategies to your case, collect evidence and utilize resources, and build a strong case in your favor.
  • It may be tempting to hire a public defender, but investing in a private Tacoma criminal defense lawyer can protect your future. A DUI charge can lead to a license suspension, preventing you from going to work or school. A criminal record can also prevent you from finding employment.
  • Many DUI defense strategies involve police misconduct, and you may not be familiar with the rules and regulations surrounding DUI arrests. Your attorney will listen to your story and advise you on the police’s actions. If misconduct occurred, the court may reduce or even dismiss your charges.

If you have not done so already, contact a DUI defense attorney with experience helping underage clients as soon as possible. Your lawyer will meet with you to discuss your case, plan your next steps, and help you understand what will happen next.

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