Underage Drinking Laws and Penalties
If your child is under the age of 21 and has been caught with alcohol, they could face a variety of charges, from a minor in possession citation to an underage DUI charge. To better evaluate your situation, keep reading our blog for more information on the different types of underage drinking laws in Washington and the sentencing for these violations.
What Happens if You Get Caught Drinking Under 21?
If you are under 21, you can be cited for a minor in possession (MIP) if you have any evidence of alcohol on you. If you are exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol, such as alcohol on your breath, results of a breathalyzer test, statements by others, etc., you may be charged with an MIP.
The maximum penalty for a minor in possession offense is 1 year in jail and/or $5,000 in fines.
Zero Tolerance Law
In Washington, if you are under the age of 21, you do not have to be the least bit drunk to be penalized for underage drinking. Otherwise called the “Zero Tolerance Law,” a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .02% or more is punishable by license suspension. On a first offense, you could lose your license for 90 days and, for a subsequent offense, until you are 21.
It is illegal for those under the age of 21 to purchase alcohol, and you can be punished for doing so even if you have not yet ingested the alcohol. Further, even if you are unsuccessful in purchasing alcohol, the attempt is enough to charge you with a misdemeanor offense. The minimum penalties are $250 in fines and, if community restitution is required, at least 25 hours of restitution. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.
Using Fake IDs
It is a misdemeanor in Washington to possess an ID that does not belong to you. If you have been caught with a fake ID or any ID not belonging to you, or if you have lent your ID to someone underage to purchase alcohol, you could face:
- $250-$1000 in fines;
- up to 90 days in jail;
- a minimum of 25 hours of community service.
Washington also considers it a gross misdemeanor for any person to forge, alter, or manufacture false identification to supply to persons under 21, and one who does so can face up to $2500 in fines and up to 1 year in jail.
Underage DUI Violations
An “underage DUI” offense is a misdemeanor where drivers younger than 21 are found with a BAC of .02% or more within 2 hours of driving or drive with any concentration of THC in their blood.
The maximum jail time for an underage DUI is 90 days, though drivers who are younger than 18 when convicted will serve any confinement in a juvenile detention facility instead of prison. The maximum fine is $1000, and you might also receive up to 2 years of probation.
Note that an underage DUI conviction isn’t considered a “DUI prior” under Washington law. This means that if you subsequently get another DUI later on after you are of age, the new DUI will count as a first offense rather than a second offense. However, an underage DUI conviction will be part of your criminal history nonetheless, so a conviction can still have an impact on your sentencing for any crimes committed in the future.
Standard DUI Penalties for Underage DUIs
Underage drivers who are convicted of a standard DUI may face the same consequences as drivers 21 or older. The possible penalties could be:
- First-Offense DUI: a mandatory minimum of 24 hours in jail and a fine of at least $941.
- Second-Offense DUI: a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail, 60 days of electronic home monitoring, and at least $1196 in fines.
- Third-Offense or Subsequent DUI: a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail, 120 days of electronic home monitoring, and at least $2046 in fines.
Those convicted of DUI can also face probation for up to 5 years. The conditions of DUI probation will prohibit the driver from:
- driving without a valid license;
- driving without proof of insurance;
- driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol;
- driving without an ignition interlock device (IID) if the driver is required to have one; and
- refusing an officer’s request to take a DUI chemical test.
If you violate any of these conditions, you will face a mandatory 30 days in jail and 30 days of license suspension. If you are already on a suspended license, the suspension will be extended for 30 days.
Implied Consent Laws
Washington also operates under “implied consent” laws, which establish that any person who operates a vehicle in the state is deemed to have given consent to a breath test. This law requires all drivers who are lawfully stopped or arrested for DUI to submit to a breathalyzer test when asked to do so by an officer. Refusing a test will result in increased criminal penalties and an administrative license suspension for 2 years.
Administrative License Suspension
An underage DUI or standard DUI arrest will trigger an administrative license suspension, even if the driver isn’t later convicted of a crime in court. The administrative suspension lasts for 90 days to 2 years. If you are convicted of underage DUI or standard DUI, you could face an additional suspension that lasts for 90 days to 4 years. However, note that if you get a 90-day administrative suspension and another 90-day suspension for a DUI conviction, you will only have to complete the 90 days total, not 180 days.
If you need to drive for school or your job, you could petition for a restricted kind of driving. While your license is suspended, you can instead get an ignition interlock device (IID) license. An IID license will allow you to drive a car equipped with an IID for the period of your suspension.
Let Hester Law Group Fight for You
If your child is facing an underage drinking charge, contact an attorney immediately for experienced legal counsel. There is leeway in the sentencing for underage drinking charges, and an attorney could argue for mitigated penalties, such as time in juvenile detention instead of jail. Let the legal team at Hester Law Group fight for your right to a second chance as a minor.
Contact Hester Law Group today to schedule your free initial consultation.