Are you a college student who enjoys tailgating before LSU games? Do you always make sure to have a designated driver or choose to not drink?
If the answer to these questions is no, you could be setting yourself up for a drinking and driving charge. If you happen to not quite be 21, you might be convicted of an underage DUI.
We’re going to discuss what happens when you receive a DUI when you are under the age of 21, and how the laws differ from those that apply to people over 21. Keep reading for more information!
Underage DUI Charges in Louisiana
For people over the age of 21, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to drive is 0.08%. This level can occur after only a few drinks, but even a lower BAC could result in a DUI if the officer feels as though the driver is not being safe.
Drivers who have not yet reached the age of 21 will face stricter limits on their BAC, with 0.02% being the legal limit. This lowered limit can is often reached after half of a drink for smaller people and police do rarely turn a blind eye to the issue.
Louisiana is a bit different when it comes to drinking laws. People under the age of 21 can consume alcohol when a parent, legal guardian, or spouse (who is of age) is present. Many bars will allow patrons who are under 21 to enter their premises, with the stipulation that bartenders do not serve alcohol.
With this said, there is more of a chance for underage drinkers to consume far more than just one drink at a time. This means they often get on the road under the assumption they are okay to drive, only to realize their mistake when speaking to an officer.
Understanding the Penalties
Generally speaking, an underage DUI charge is the same as an adult DUI charge. The key difference is that an underage DUI conviction cannot enhance any later DUI charges.
The above stipulation is in place only for underage people who have a BAC in the range of 0.02% and 0.799%. If you should be arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08%, the charge will be treated as that of an adult and can enhance penalties of charges that may occur later.
When convicted of driving under the influence, you will lose your license for a set number of days, usually 30 days or one month. During this time, you will not be able to drive unless you have a hardship license.
This type of license allows you to drive to and from work or school, doctor’s appointments, and religious services. If you choose to drive to other places with a hardship license, the officer can take you to jail.
Aside from a suspended license, you will spend the night in jail until you meet post bail or can bond out. You will potentially face 24-48 hours in jail or perform community service (inclusive of litter abatement,) and often have to attend one or several educational classes.
Furthermore, the classes will cost anywhere from $75-100, and there will be court and administrative fines. You may also have to pay for the installation of an interlock device in your vehicle to prevent future drinking and driving activity.
The Deeper Costs
When arrested for an underage DUI while attending college on a scholarship, there is a high chance of becoming ineligible for further monies. Additionally, if you play sports, you could face suspension or dismissal from the team.
The night you are arrested and the day after are moments you will remember for a lifetime. Your mugshot will be placed online and in the paper along with your charges, and spending the night in a holding cell is not what most people remember as ‘fun.’
Your insurance will increase, too–if they do not drop you completely.
Although you may have heard to always refuse a chemical test, this plan can backfire. Once you receive your license in Louisiana and choose to drive a car, you are doing so under ‘implied consent‘ laws.
These laws mean that officers have the right to chemically test you if they believe you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They also mean that if you refuse, there is a chance that you can lose your license for a year or face charges and penalties that are similar or equivalent to an adult DUI.
Pleading Your Case Down
When it comes to drinking, we hope you don’t drive. However, if you should make that mistake, an attorney can help you fight your underage DUI charge, leading to fewer penalties or possibly a complete dismissal.
This negotiation process is called plea bargaining. You will have to plead guilty to either a DUI or some other charge but will know exactly what your sentence will be beforehand.
The burden of proof is always on the prosecutor, but with a DUI charge in Louisiana, you are often guilty until proven innocent. This is why it is wise to allow an attorney to negotiate on your behalf.
Choosing the Best Attorney for Your Case
Being charged with any crime is scary–but being charged with an underage DUI can leave a lot of room for confusion and uncertainty.
It is cheap and easy to simply opt for a public defender that won’t care about your case and won’t try to get you the best deal possible. Unfortunately, this may leave you with a marred criminal and driving record, increasing your insurance for years and causing problems with future employers.
Should you be charged with a DUI or refusing to submit to a chemical test, research the attorneys in Baton Rouge, read reviews, ask your friends, and then contact us when you realize your choice is clear!