Society has made at least one thing pretty clear about alcohol: if you’re not twenty-one, you cannot legally consumed alcohol. What is unclear is what happens when law enforcement believes someone who’s less than twenty-one years old has consumed alcohol, especially after pulling them over. How does the law work in this instance? How much alcohol can a minor have in their system before it’s a crime? What are the legal consequences? This article will spell out the issues minors and juveniles face when confronted with a potential charge of Operating Under the Influence and other crimes involving driving and alcohol.
Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol (Criminal OUI) is a Class D misdemeanor crime, even if you are a juvenile. The maximum sentence a court can impose on a Criminal OUI is three hundred sixty-four (364) days in jail, a $2,000.00 fine, and a license suspension for up to two hundred ten (210) days. This crime also carries a mandatory minimum sentence, meaning if you are convicted, the judge has no choice but to impose those mandatory minimum sentences.
For a first offense OUI with a breath test of under a .15% and didn’t refuse the test, the minimum penalty is a $500.00 fine and a one hundred fifty (150) day license suspension. For a higher test or if you refused the test, the mandatory minimum sentence includes jail time. To prove that anyone committed this offense, the State must prove that either the driver was operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that they had an excessive blood-alcohol level at 0.08 grams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of blood or two hundred ten liters of breath. Basically, either it needs to be apparent that your physical or mental faculties are impaired, however slight, or they need to have a blood or breath alcohol level of .08 grams or more. This applies to everyone, including minors and juveniles. Even if a juvenile or minor is tested to have some alcohol in their system, that may not be enough to convict unless the level is .08 grams or more. Additionally, there are certain inferences that a Court and jury can make regarding someone’s blood alcohol level. If someone was tested with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, the Court and jury may be allowed to say that the driver was impaired. If someone’s blood alcohol level is between .05 and .08, the Court and Jury can use this level as evidence of impairment, but it does not meet the threshold of an excessive blood alcohol level and no presumption of impairment applies. If someone’s blood alcohol level was below .05, the Court and jury should presume that the person was not impaired, and the State will need to prove the OUI through other means in order to demonstrate hat the person was operating under the influence. Long story short, there is no zero-tolerance alcohol requirement for juveniles and minors regarding any criminal conviction for Criminal OUI.
Because Criminal OUI does not have a zero tolerance requirement, prosecutors will often charge minors and juveniles with a separate crime of Operating Without a License, or Operating Beyond License Conditions. When juveniles and minors are issued driver’s licenses, the license has specific restrictions, one of which is not to operate a motor vehicle with an alcohol level greater than 0.00 grams. This is a zero-tolerance alcohol law targeting minors and juveniles. These crimes are class E misdemeanors that carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail, and a $1,000.00 fine.
While there are no mandatory minimum sentences, a conviction for Operating Without a License will trigger the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to suspend your license for thirty days, and Operating Beyond Conditions can put up to six points on your driving record. Although this may not seem as serious as
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