What are the Underage Zero Tolerance Laws?

September 18, 2019

West Chester criminal defense lawyers advocate for those affected by zero tolerance laws.Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is illegal for everyone, but for minors who drive under the influence, new underage Zero Tolerance laws carry severe penalties. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about one-third of all deaths for children aged 15 to 20 years old result from car accidents. Thirty-five percent of these fatalities are due to drunk driving. In fact, underage drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a drunk driving accident than those over 21 years of age.

Zero Tolerance Laws

The Underage Zero Tolerance laws are in effect in all states across the nation to reduce the number of fatal car accidents related to underage drunk drivers.   While some states have made it illegal for an underage driver to have a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent, other states have adopted laws that include all blood alcohol levels above 0.00 percent. The blood alcohol level for drunk drivers over the age of 21 is 0.08 percent.

So far, the enforcement of Zero Tolerance laws has been impressive. The NHTSA conducted a study of the first 12 states to enact Zero Tolerance laws and compared them to 12 states that had not enacted the laws. The study revealed that states with Zero Tolerance laws had a 20 percent reduction in the amount of evening car accidents involving drivers under the age of 21. States with Zero Tolerance laws for blood alcohol levels set at 0.02 percent or lower saw the biggest reduction of underage drunk driving accidents.

Strict Penalties

To enforce the Zero Tolerance laws across the country, lawmakers have established harsh penalties for underage offenders. Being convicted of a criminal offense for underage drunk driving can have a serious affect on future job opportunities, college admissions and scholarships, and car insurance coverage.

First time drunk driving offenses for underage drivers include loss of license for a period of nine to 18 months, up to six months in jail, and fines ranging from $500 to $5,000. Second-time offenders face license suspension for a minimum of one year, while third-time offenders face loss of license for a minimum period of two years. Financial penalties increase with each offense as well. Repeat offenders may also be required to enroll in an alcohol treatment program.

Consequences for underage drunk driving convictions also extend beyond legal penalties. Many employers that see an underage drunk driving conviction on a background check will deny employment with their company. College admissions officers can also refuse to accept underage drunk drivers because of strict on-campus underage drinking policies. Educational scholarships can also be denied to those convicted of this crime.

In Pennsylvania, a person convicted of underage drunk driving can petition the court to have their record expunged. A specific provision within the Zero Tolerance laws makes it possible for convicted offenders to have their record expunged after completing driver license suspension periods, fulfilling payment of all fines, and completion of any court-mandated counseling or alcohol treatment programs.

West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes Provide Representation to Those Facing Underage Drunk Driving Charges

If you have been charged with underage drunk driving, the West Chester criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Heather J. Mattes can help. Call us at 610-431-7900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.