Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is never a good idea—and for people who are under the legal drinking age, it is an especially terrible idea. The state of Arizona has a no-tolerance approach to dealing with those who are too young to legally consume alcohol who operate a motor vehicle while under the influence.
In Arizona, the laws related to underage drinking and driving are pretty straightforward. An individual under the age of 21 can be charged with an underage DUI (driving under the influence) if they are found in physical control of a car or other motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
The penalties for underage DUI are also straightforward. For a first conviction:
- Minimum prison sentence of 24 and maximum of 10 days
- $1,600 fine
- License suspension of 90 to 360 days
For a second conviction within seven years:
- Minimum prison sentence of 30 days and maximum of 90 days
- $2,500 fine
- License suspension of 1 year
Additional Related Charges and Aggravating Factors
Often an underage DUI charge comes with additional charges as well. Those charges may include:
- Various moving and vehicle maintenance violations
- Possession of false identification
- Minor in possession of alcohol, distribution of alcohol to other minors, or soliciting alcohol charges
- Violation of child endangerment laws
In addition, some aggravating factors—including an extremely high blood alcohol content (BAC) or involvement in a traffic accident with or without injury to others—can lead to more serious penalties for the person convicted of underage DUI.
Other Impacts of Underage DUI
On top of the potential criminal penalties a person may be facing, there are other consequences of underage DUI as well. Many of these additional consequences are long-term and could lead to significant, ongoing issues related to your finances, your education, your career, and more.
Perhaps the most obvious consequence of an underage DUI conviction is the potential impact on a person’s insurance rates. Rates are likely to increase significantly—and if a person’s license is suspended, a type of insurance known as SR-22 will be required for reinstatement. SR-22 is significantly more costly than other types of insurance.
In some cases, the issue will not be increased premiums. Instead, an insurance company may cancel the policy outright following an underage DUI. That can make it more difficult (and more expensive) to acquire a new policy with another company.
Other impacts of underage DUI may include:
- Suffering personal injuries or emotional trauma as a result of events that occur while a person is driving under the influence. A motor vehicle accident can lead to severe injuries to the driver—and those injuries can impact the rest of the person’s life. Mental health disorders related to the trauma of the accident can also have a long-lasting impact.
- Causing injuries or death to others leading to civil lawsuits that could result in a requirement to pay significant compensation to the victim or their loved ones. Harming others—whether friends or strangers—can have significant mental health repercussions. On top of that, the financial penalties related to having caused the accident can be truly crushing.
- Having a criminal record that could limit options for your education and career. Once you have a criminal record, it can undermine your efforts to pursue higher education or to land a new job. And those problems will persist as long as the incident remains on your record.
In a blink of an eye, a night of drinking and driving while underage can result in consequences that will be a part of your life for an extended period of time. What might seem like a simple night of having fun with friends can turn extremely serious very quickly. Keeping the potential consequences in mind before you get behind the wheel is always a good idea.
The Importance of Having a Lawyer on Your Side
As we have noted, the consequences of an underage DUI conviction are severe and can continue to have an impact on a person’s life for a long period of time. That is why it is absolutely essential to have an experienced and skilled lawyer representing the young person who has been charged with the crime. Facing these charges without the help of a lawyer is never a good move.
A defense attorney will fully investigate the case in order to prepare the most appropriate and effective defense against the charges. While the fact that Arizona is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to underage DUI means there are significant challenges to overcome, a lawyer can help by working to get charges reduced (for example, the charge could be changed to reckless driving) or even dismissed. They can also work to reduce the negative impact of any aggravating factors that may be in play. And of course, a lawyer will be sure to investigate whether any of the defendant’s rights were violated during the traffic stop that led to the initial charges.
Contact Our DUI Attorneys Today for Legal Help
An underage DUI charge is serious business—and so it is important to have stellar representation to ensure the best possible outcome to the case. The attorneys of Griffen & Stevens have the expertise and experience necessary to offer up exceptional legal services. We are ready to get to work on your (or your child’s) behalf, so contact us today to discuss the details of your case.