Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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My child is facing a DUI—How can I help?

If your teen driver is arrested on charges of DUI, it is likely you are anxious and worried about his or her future. It is illegal for an underage driver in the state of Washington to have a BAC of 0.02 or higher or any marijuana in their system. An underage DUI conviction in the state of Washington can result in loss of driving privileges, hefty fines, potential jail time and a lasting criminal record. The minor may be booked and processed at a police station, although in most cases the minor will not be placed in a holding cell with an adult, rather will be kept separate until their parents or a guardian picks them up. The specific penalties can include:

  • Jail—a teen driver can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail for an underage DUI conviction. If the driver is younger than 18, that time would be spent in a juvenile detention center rather than a county jail.
  • Driver’s license suspension—The length of the license suspension will be affected by the level of intoxication, the rate of the offense, and other relevant circumstances. If the teen is driving on an instruction permit or intermediate driver’s license, an underage DUI arrest could affect the ability to obtain a standard driver’s license in the future. An underage DUI conviction can lead to the denial of an intermediate license and restrictions on current driving privileges. In some cases, when a teen is convicted of certain drug or alcohol offenses while having an instruction permit—regardless of whether the crime was committed while driving—the teen will not qualify for a regular driver’s license until he or she reaches the age of 18.
  • Fines and fees—The underage driver convicted of DUI can face a fine as high as $1,000.
  • Court-mandated drug and alcohol testing—Teen drivers convicted of DUI could be sentenced to regular drug and alcohol testing to ensure they are staying sober.
  • Probation—Teen drivers can receive up to two years’ probation for an underage DUI conviction.
  • Drug and alcohol assessment
  • Follow-up drug and alcohol treatments

If the young driver has a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, or if his or her THC level exceeds five nanograms per milliliter of blood, the driver can potentially be charged with a “standard” adult DUI. If the young adult is charged with an adult DUI, the penalties increase significantly in the event of a conviction (up to 364 days in jail, ignition interlock device, mandatory alcohol education classes, fines, and a longer driver’s license suspension).

If your child is charged with underage DUI, the very best thing you can do for him or her is to hire an experienced DUI lawyer who can carefully build a case, possibly challenging the field sobriety tests, arresting procedure or breath test results. Your child’s attorney will represent him or her in court, working to have the charges reduced, and answering all your questions.