Underage DWI, as defined by Louisiana Revised Statute 14.98.1, is the operation of a motor vehicle by a person who is under the age of 21 and who has a BAC between .02 and under .08. If the BAC is .08 or above, then the person is charged with an adult DWI, regardless of age.
Zero Tolerance Penalties for Underage DWI
Louisiana has unique underage drinking laws in that minors can consume alcohol on private properties if no alcohol is being sold and the minor has consent from a guardian. To encourage responsible behavior with underage drinking, Louisiana has a zero tolerance policy for underage DUI charges. The penalties for underage drinking and driving offenses include:
- First Conviction: $100 to $250 fine, plus court approved substance abuse and driver education program and possible jail time
- Second Conviction: $150 to $500 fine, ten days imprisonment; or probation with ten days of community service, possible substance abuse treatment and screening, and court ordered treatment programs
Refusing DWI Tests in Underage DWI Cases
A college student or minor may be subject to a breathalyzer or field sobriety test if he is speeding, driving recklessly, has an open container in the car or provides any other reason to give probable cause to the police officer that alcohol consumption occurred, Louisiana’s Implied Consent Law results in punishment if an offender simply refuses to blow into the Intoxilizer device to measure BAC (blood alcohol content). For an average person small of stature, it probably would not take more than a single beer to reach .02. Thus, only a small amount of alcohol could result in an underage DUI arrest. As the punishment is often lesser for refusal than a high BAC, a reasonable conclusion is that if the arrested minor has any alcohol in him at all, it may be advisable to consider not blowing into the device at all.
How a DWI Under 21 Affects Your Future
The good news is that an underage DUI cannot be used against a person in a DUI charge. The bad news is that nothing in the law prevents the driving while intoxicated charge from being put onto the driver’s record. If the underage DWI charge is discovered by an insurance company or employer, then you can still suffer expensive consequences. A drinking and driving arrest for a college student can also result in a loss of a scholarship and/or the inability to participate in athletic events. If the minor is still in high school, an underage DUI may prevent the student from being accepted by a university.
In many respects a conviction for DWI under the age of 21 is just as serious as an adult DWI and should be defended vigorously by an experienced criminal defense attorney.