Whenever people refer to the legal limit, they almost always reference 0.08. If you're behind the wheel and register a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading at or above that figure, you’re likely facing a drunk driving charge.
Some people, however, have a much lower legal threshold: those who aren’t yet 21. So can someone not of legal drinking age get a DUI? And if they can, what happens?
Underage BAC limits are often referred to as “zero tolerance” laws, reflecting the fact that anyone under the age of 21 shouldn’t be drinking anyway. It happens, however, and some states set a “zero tolerance” BAC limit to acknowledge that.
In Alabama the underage zero tolerance limit is 0.02. Any driver under the age of 21 that has a BAC reading of 0.02 or higher is considered over the limit, and may face a criminal DUI charge.
An under-21 driver found to have a BAC between 0.02 and 0.08 faces having their license suspended for 30 days on a first-time offense. At this point, the arrest and case will only be disclosed to the courts, law enforcement agencies, the person’s attorney and potentially an employer.
Repeated offenses could include harsher penalties, and those under the age of 21 found to be driving over the 0.08 BAC limit may also face more severe charges.
In addition, it’s possible that this arrest winds up affecting other aspects of someone’s life down the line, especially if they’re under consideration for something that requires a criminal background check.
Underage driving is a serious problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in 2016, nearly 20% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
But underage or not, everyone accused of a crime should have the opportunity to defend themselves against the claims in court. Considering the potential consequences, if you’re charged with a DUI while under the age of 21, you may want to consider enlisting the help of an attorney. They can go over your options and see if there are ways to potentially minimize the impact of this incident.