What Happens When a Minor is Arrested for a DUI?

A minor driving under the influence of alcohol may be arrested just like an adult who is driving under the influence. However, some special rules apply in underage DUI cases that parents and minors need to be aware of before dealing with prosecutors or the court. A Phoenix DUI attorney can be very helpful in underage DUI cases by providing legal advice and defense options to help reduce or eliminate the DUI charges against your child.

Arizona’s Zero Tolerance Laws for Underage Drinking and Driving

Consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 years is illegal in Arizona. Therefore, the state has a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving by anyone under the age of 21 years. Arizona Revised Statute §4-244(34) makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 years to “drive or be in physical control” of any motor vehicle if the person has consumed any alcohol. While the legal limit for DUI in Arizona is .08 BAC for adults, a person under 21 years of age can face a DUI charge for any alcohol detected in the person’s system.

The zero-tolerance policy also means that a person convicted of underage drinking and driving could face some of the same harsh penalties for a DUI conviction, depending on the age of the person. The law is designed to strongly discourage anyone under 21 years of age from driving under the influence of alcohol.

Penalties for Underage DUI Convictions

For anyone between the age of 18 and 21 years, the penalties for an underage DUI conviction is the same as an adult DUI conviction. Therefore, a 19-year-old could receive the same fines, jail time, license suspension, and other penalties for a .01 BAC that a 30-year old with a .08 BAC would receive for the same DUI charge. Depending on the circumstances of the DUI arrest, a young adult between the ages of 18 and 21 years may receive up to six months in jail, license suspension of up to two years, a high fine, probation, installation of an interlock system, and court-ordered substance abuse programs.

For minors under the age of 18 years, the juvenile justice system handles a DUI charge. Therefore, a teenager under 18 years of age may not receive the same harsh penalties for a DUI conviction as someone over the age of 18 years. While jail time is typically not a penalty for DUI convictions of minors under 18 years of age, suspended driving privileges for two years and court-ordered substance abuse programs are common penalties.

However, minors can receive jail time in some cases. The jail time is served in juvenile hall and is usually just a few days but can be up to a month for subsequent DUI convictions. Some underage drivers may face harsher adult penalties if the DUI involves aggravating circumstances, such as bodily injury or a high BAC level.