Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Underage DUI

Unfortunately, impaired driving is a significant factor for an increased risk of an automobile crash. Impaired driving—driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs—affects judgment, reaction times and awareness, making it particularly dangerous for teenage drivers whose inexperience already places them at a high risk of a collision. A full one-fifth of high school students across the nation reported riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol at least one time—and usually more—within the prior month.

A teen’s crash risk is substantially higher when he or she drinks and drives, even when the BAC is at low or moderate levels. Being awake for 18 hours is similar to having a BAC of 0.08 (legal intoxication), and since teens are notoriously sleep-deprived, adding any level of alcohol into the mix significantly increases the risk of a crash.

In the state of Washington—and in most other states as well—one of the primary factors in traffic collisions which involve teen drivers is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That being said, when a teen has a DUI conviction, he or she can find the door shut on many current and future opportunities, whether those opportunities involve furthering their education or seeking a job. Because of this, it is extremely important that a teen who has been charged with DUI in Pierce County have an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer on his or her side from start to finish.

Penalties in Washington for DUI

An adult in the state of Washington can be convicted of DUI when their BAC levels are 0.08 or higher, or they have five nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. For a driver who is under the age of 21, the laws in the state are significantly more severe. It is unlawful for any driver who is under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. An underage driver with a BAC level at or above 0.02 can be charged with underage DUI. If the driver is convicted of underage DUI, he or she could potentially be sentenced to as many as 90 days in jail. If the offender is under the age of 18, those 90 days would be served in a juvenile detention center. A conviction can also result in fines as large as $1,000 and up to two years of probation.

As you might imagine, this level of punishment could completely derail the future of a young adult. If the teen is sentenced to jail or detention time, that would be time he or she is not spending in school, college, or working. Further, while an underage DUI conviction is not considered for charging or sentencing purposes for a future criminal offense, the underage DU conviction is not automatically expunged, remaining on the teen’s criminal record.

Administrative License Suspension Hearing

Once a driver has been arrested for underage DUI, the arresting agency notifies the Washington State Department of Licensing and the suspension process begins. The driver has seven days to request an administrative review hearing. If this hearing is not requested within that window of time, the right to contest the suspension is lost. Having knowledgeable Washington drunk driving defense lawyers by your side, fighting to protect your driving privileges, is crucial.

Can a Young Driver Be Charged With an “Adult” DUI?

If a young driver’s BAC is 0.08 or higher (or if his or her THC level exceeds five nanograms per milliliter of blood), the driver may be arrested and charged with a “standard” adult DUI. If convicted, the penalties imposed can be extremely harsh—up to 364 days in jail, and a significant fine, with a mandatory minimum of twenty-four hours in jail and a fine less than $1,000.

With an “adult” DUI conviction, the sentencing can increase if the BAC was excessively high, if there was property damage, if another person was injured, or if the underage driver refused a breathalyzer test. Probation, electronic monitoring, installation of an ignition interlock device, mandatory alcohol education classes and suspension of the driver’s license are among the penalties which can be handed down when an underage driver is charged with an adult DUI.

Administrative Penalties for Washington Underage DUI

Regardless of age, there are two types of driver’s license suspensions the Washington State Department of Licensing may impose. Even when a driver is acquitted of a DUI charge by a Washington criminal court, an administrative license suspension, from ninety days to two years, will occur. A criminal conviction for underage or adult DUI results in a driver’s license suspension lasting from ninety days to four years, although time completed on the administrative suspension can be applied to the criminal license suspension. An underage driver, like an adult driver, could possibly obtain a vehicle ignition interlock device during the suspension period which would allow them to drive only a vehicle equipped with the IID.

If the case against a teen driver is solid, there is little reason to expect the judge to be lenient, however, experienced DUI lawyers can help dispute the prosecutor’s case. There is every reason to consult a top DUI defense lawyer in Pierce County, and no reason not to. A young adult has his or her entire future ahead, and this one mistake can significantly alter that future. While no one will ever say driving while impaired is okay, people—especially teens whose brains have not fully developed—make mistakes. A one-time bad decision should not completely change a teen’s future and the only way to ensure it does not is by talking to experienced DUI lawyers as quickly as possible following the arrest and charges.

Getting the Help You Need from The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden

If you (or your child) has been arrested for an underage DUI in Washington State, hiring an experienced Washington attorney to fight for your rights and your future is imperative. An attorney from the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden can help mitigate or eliminate the criminal consequences of an underage DUI as well as the consequences to your driver’s license. Our attorneys will investigate the evidence surrounding your arrest, building a strong defense on your behalf. Contact the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden today.