Why do I need a lawyer after an underage DUI? A drunk driving conviction on an individual’s permanent criminal record can lead to severe penalties and some collateral consequences. This result is especially likely if the person sustains the DUI conviction as a minor. Not only do stricter standards apply to minors when it comes to DUI arrests, but minors also have the most to lose if they sustain a conviction for their offense.
For instance, they might have difficulty finding a job later in life or getting into the college or university of their choice after an administrator performs a criminal background check.
If you face a criminal DUI charge, you must have experienced legal representation in your corner as soon as possible. A DUI defense lawyer in your area can advise you on how best to proceed with your case and explain your legal options.
Your lawyer might work out a favorable plea deal with the state’s attorney handling your case in some instances. At other times, an attorney might assert a robust legal defense on your behalf in court, resulting in a case dismissal. Your lawyer can advocate for you and help you pursue the best possible outcome in your criminal case, no matter the circumstances.
- DUIs and Minors
- Defining a Criminal DUI or OWI Charge
- Proving That a Minor Is Guilty of DUI
- Penalties and Collateral Consequences Associated With a DUI Conviction for a Minor
- The Dangers of Representing Yourself in a DUI Case
- Representing You During an Interrogation
- Raising a Legal Defense Against Your Charge
- Representing You at a Sentencing Hearing
- Talk to a Criminal DUI Defense Lawyer in Your Jurisdiction Today
DUIs and Minors
Different jurisdictions define the term ‘minor’ in different ways. In most states, an individual is a minor if they are under 21 years of age. This definition is because a person must usually be 21 years of age or older to consume or purchase alcohol in public. If a minor gets behind the wheel of a car or truck after drinking, a police officer might pull their vehicle over and arrest them for DUI.
There are many signs and symptoms that police officers will look for to determine whether a young driver is impaired. First of all, police officers will typically look for erratic driving maneuvers, such as speeding, recklessly weaving in and out of traffic, and failing to use turn signals properly. They will also observe physical manifestations of alcohol impairment, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an inability to walk in a straight line.
Defining a Criminal DUI or OWI Charge
DUI means driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Some jurisdictions also use OWI, which stands for operating while intoxicated. While some jurisdictions use these terms interchangeably, other states recognize the offenses as separate. Each violation carries minimum and maximum penalties in those jurisdictions.
Most jurisdictions impose stricter standards for a DUI arrest and conviction for those under 21 years. Generally speaking, an adult driver is per se intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. This standard defines them as legally intoxicated under the law.
In most states, the applicable BAC is 0.03 or lower for minors. However, even if a driver has a BAC lower than the defined percentage, a police officer can still arrest them if the officer believes that they are impaired by alcohol, to the extent that they cannot operate their vehicle safely.
However, many states have a zero-tolerance policy for minors who operate their vehicles while they are under the influence. Therefore, if a police officer stops the minor, determines that they are impaired, or detects any amount of alcohol on their breath, the officer will usually arrest the minor for DUI.
As with minors, stricter DUI standards typically apply to commercial truck drivers, including the drivers of big rigs and tractor-trailers. A police officer can arrest a driver of one of these vehicles even if they have a 0.04 percent or higher BAC.
If you or your son/daughter is facing a pending DUI charge, you have legal options available to you. Your most important step following the arrest should be to speak with a knowledgeable criminal DUI defense lawyer in your area as soon as possible. Your attorney can meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your arrest and decide what options you can pursue. Your lawyer will do everything they can to get you the best possible result in your case.
Proving That a Minor Is Guilty of DUI
Cases that involve driving under the influence of alcohol are criminal cases. Therefore, the criminal legal standard will apply to the case. The state prosecutor has the legal burden of proof in a criminal DUI case. They must establish their burden beyond a reasonable doubt or beyond a doubt based upon ordinary common sense and reason.
If the prosecutor cannot establish that you were legally intoxicated, a judge can dismiss your case. The arrested individual, or the defendant, does not need to prove anything in the criminal case.
Moreover, the defendant doesn’t need to testify at a trial. However, the defendant‘s lawyer can introduce relevant defenses on the client’s behalf. If a defense is successful, the case might be subject to dismissal. A criminal DUI defense lawyer in your jurisdiction can help you determine if you are eligible to raise a particular legal defense to your DUI charge.
Penalties and Collateral Consequences Associated With a DUI Conviction for a Minor
Even when a person sustains a DUI arrest or conviction as a minor, the potential penalties are still harsh. In addition, due to the significant collateral consequences that a minor might face, there is a lot on the line in a criminal DUI matter.
In some instances, if the state prosecutor can obtain a conviction against the defendant, a judge might sentence the defendant to a period of probation. This probation might include a temporary revocation of driving privileges and require community service and payment of monetary fines. If the defendant completes their probation, the court may remove the suspended sentence, and the guilty finding will not become a conviction.
In some instances, minors and other individuals who sustain a DUI conviction can be looking at jail time, monetary fines, community service, and revocation of driving privileges, either temporarily or permanently.
In addition, the offender might need to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. These devices are costly to install and maintain, subject to maintenance at regular intervals. In addition, the ignition interlock device will not allow your vehicle to start until you blow into it. If the device detects any amount of alcohol on your breath, the car or truck will not start.
Generally speaking, minors and other individuals who sustain DUI convictions incur more significant penalties if they are repeat offenders. A knowledgeable criminal DUI defense lawyer in your area can represent you at a courtroom trial or other proceeding and raise a defense on your behalf.
If the defense a successful, your case may be subject to a complete dismissal, in which case you will not incur any legal penalties. If you do sustain a conviction for the DUI offense, your lawyer can represent you during your hearing and advocate for the lowest possible penalty available under your circumstances.
The Dangers of Representing Yourself in a DUI Case
Some individuals with a recent DUI arrest attempt to represent themselves. However, doing that can often prove a colossal mistake—especially if they are a minor.
If you show up to your DUI court date without having a lawyer present, there is no guarantee that the presiding judge will offer to postpone your hearing or trial. Instead, the judge can make you proceed forward with your case without any legal representation. If you represent yourself in a DUI trial, you will significantly disadvantage yourself.
Without having a lawyer present, no one will support a legal defense for you or negotiate with a state prosecutor for a favorable plea deal. Instead, you must do this on your own, and the chances are good that the prosecutor will take advantage of your inexperience. In short, having a lawyer on your DUI case almost always puts you on equal footing with the prosecutor.
Representing You During an Interrogation
Although it is crucial to have a lawyer represent you at your hearing or trial, it is equally essential that you have legal representation at other stages of your criminal case—including during a police interrogation.
Immediately following an arrest, the police officer will start to ask the arrestee questions. For example, the officer might ask the person whether they had been drinking before driving and how much they drank. Other than answering routine intake questions, such as your name and address, you do not have to answer any substantive questions that a police officer or investigator might ask.
This right to remain silent remains even if the police officer insists that you must answer the questions.
If a police officer starts to question you about substantive issues, you should immediately insist upon the presence of legal counsel. Therefore, you should not respond to any inquiries without having an attorney by your side and present with you. That way, the lawyer can protect your rights and ensure that you do not say something to harm your case.
If you make an incriminating statement, the police officer and state prosecutor will use it against you. Having a lawyer on your side during a police interrogation helps prevent that.
Raising a Legal Defense Against Your Charge
A lawyer can also help you during your criminal trial. Even though the defendant does not have a legal burden of proof in a DUI case, their lawyer might raise one or more legal defenses on their behalf in court. If the judge or jury believes the defense, they can dismiss your criminal case.
There are numerous defenses that a lawyer might raise on your behalf against a criminal DUI charge. Specifically, your lawyer might allege that the breathalyzer equipment that the police officer used was defective somehow. The machine might have failed to work correctly to obtain an accurate reading. At other times, certain health conditions, such as acid reflux, can significantly affect a Breathalyzer reading.
Likewise, the police officer may have made an error when conducting a field sobriety test, leading to a false result.
Finally, your lawyer might raise a defense based upon constitutional grounds. For example, the police officer might have disregarded your request that a lawyer is present during questioning. Therefore, anything you might have said afterward can be subject to exclusion from evidence at your criminal trial.
Representing You at a Sentencing Hearing
If you ultimately sustain a conviction for your criminal DUI charge, a judge will determine the penalty or penalties to impose against you in your case. This sentencing will occur at a criminal sentencing hearing, and a judge will preside over the hearing.
Fortunately, you have a right to legal representation during a sentencing hearing. Your lawyer can be present with you at that hearing and work to minimize the potential penalties. Your lawyer can make an argument on your behalf or negotiate with the state prosecutor before the hearing.
Many criminal defense lawyers who handle DUI cases are in court regularly. Consequently, they frequently have good working relationships with state prosecutors and criminal court judges. A lawyer might work out a favorable plea deal with a prosecutor that lessens the potential penalties. For example, your lawyer might argue for a favorable term of probation instead of jail time in your DUI case.
Talk to a Criminal DUI Defense Lawyer in Your Jurisdiction Today
Sustaining a DUI charge or conviction often raises many questions. An experienced DUI defense attorney in your area can help you decide how best to pursue a favorable result in your case, such as a not guilty finding or a favorable plea deal with the prosecution. If you already sustained a DUI conviction, your attorney can represent you at your sentencing hearing and work to get you a fair penalty that is not excessive.