Underage DUI Defense

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According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidents caused by underage drinking and driving represent 17% of all fatal alcohol-involved car collisions, while underage drivers only represent 10% of all licensed drivers.  For this reason, among others, Nevada takes underage DUIs very seriously.  Individuals charged with underage drinking and driving can expect harsh penalties.

What is considered underage drinking and driving in Nevada?

Under Nevada Revised Statutes 484.462 and 484.350, it’s unlawful for individuals under 21 years of age to operate a car with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02% or higher.  That essentially prohibits anyone under 21 from operating a car with even the smallest trace of alcohol in their system.  In comparison, drivers over 21 can have a BAC of up to .08%.

It’s important to note that most felony DUI charges (regardless of the offender’s age) and misdemeanor DUIs for drivers over 18 are usually prosecuted in criminal court.  However, misdemeanor cases involving defendants under 18 are heard by the juvenile court.

If you or a loved one has been charged with underage drinking and driving, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced lawyer that knows how to handle “underage DUI” charges.  At The Vegas Lawyers (or TVL as we’re often called), we’ve helped thousands of satisfied clients navigate the complexities of the justice system.  We can help you.  Contact us today at (702) 707-7000 for a free and confidential consultation.  Don’t let an underage DUI charge tarnish your future.     

What Are the Penalties For People Engaging in Underage Driving While Under The Influence?

Individuals facing first-time underage DUI charges can expect the same consequences as a driver over 21 years old.  Generally, the DUI penalty for underage drinking and driving includes:

  • Jail time or a suspended jail sentence (typically 6-months)
  • Fines $400 to $1k OR community services
  • Compulsory DUI school and Victim Impact Panel
  • 90-to-185-day license suspension depending on BAC levels

It’s important to note that subsequent convictions for driving under the influence can lead to a harsher DUI penalty.  Further, all underage DUI defendants must undergo a professional mental health evaluation for drug and alcohol abuse.  The penalties for underage DUI go beyond the legal consequences.  People with a DUI on their record have a harder time finding employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

Having an experienced DUI attorney in your corner can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.  At TVL, we can help you understand the law and give you the proper guidance to help you make intelligent decisions about your case.  We fight hard for our clients and will work towards getting your charges reduced or even dropped depending upon the circumstances.   

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test If You Get Pulled Over?

With regard to the law, no. You can’t refuse a breath test in Las Vegas.  All Nevada drivers agree to “implied consent” laws when they’re issued a driver’s license. This essentially means that you automatically consent to a breath test, urine screen, or blood draw in the event you’re suspected of driving under the influence.  Remember, driving is a privilege not a right.  

If you refuse a breathalyzer when arrested, you could face severe penalties, including:

  1. Revocation of your driver’s license for one to three years – depending on how many times you’ve refused in the past
  2. Forcible blood draw against your will
  3. Your refusal could be used as evidence against you in a criminal trial or DMV hearing

Can You Be Charged With an Underage DUI After You’ve Made it Home Safely?

Suppose you’ve made the wrong decision of getting behind the wheel of your car after drinking, but you don’t get pulled over.  You actually make it home safely.  An hour later, the police arrive at your house because they received a call from another citizen who witnessed you driving erratically.  At this point, it’s too late for you to be charged for a DUI, right?

That’s not necessarily true.  According to NRS 484C.110, you can still be convicted of a DUI if the prosecutors can prove you were physically in control of a vehicle (in a public space) while intoxicated.  The police can “request” you to take a chemical or blood test on the spot if they have probable reason to suspect you were driving under the influence.  This would not be an easy case for the police or prosecutors to prove but it is possible to get charged and convicted under these circumstances. 

Basically, it’s never worth drinking and driving when you’re underage.  Even if you make it home without getting into an accident, it’s still theoretically possible to be charged and convicted of a DUI. 

Do Underage DUI Criminal Records Get Sealed?

If you’ve been convicted of “underage DUI” charges in Nevada, there may be hope for a criminal record seal.  Depending on the circumstances, individuals (18 – 21 years of age) convicted of a misdemeanor DUI are eligible for a DUI criminal records seal seven years after the conclusion of the case.  However, felony DUI convictions are never eligible for record sealing.

It’s important to note that juvenile DUI convictions are automatically sealed when the offender turns 21.  If you’ve already been convicted of an underage DUI and are interested in learning more about the DUI record sealing process, we can help.  Contact us today to speak with an experienced DUI lawyer in Las Vegas and about the record sealing process.

What Is Nevada’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” for Underage DUI?

The best way to avoid a teen DUI is to avoid drinking any alcohol at all and driving if you’re under 21.  However, if you make the mistake of drinking and driving underage, you should be aware of Nevada’s strong stance against underage DUI.

Nevada DUI laws take a zero-tolerance approach to underage persons operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including marijuana).  That means that individuals arrested for driving with a BAC above the legal alcohol limit for minors shouldn’t expect the court to take it easy on them because they’re young.  The BAC limit for teen DUI cases is only 0.02%, so essentially, Nevada’s zero tolerance laws prohibit the use of any alcohol by a minor before operating a vehicle.

Driving underage with a BAC above the allowable alcohol limit can significantly impact your future.  Don’t risk being denied college applications, workplace discrimination against teen DUI offenders, and a criminal record.  Working with a proven teen DUI attorney can help limit your charges and penalties.  Contact us today to learn more about how Nevada DUI laws can impact your case.

Does An Underage DUI Case In Nevada Go To Criminal Or Juvenile Court?

Trick question: Drinking and driving is illegal at what age?  Technically, someone over the age of 21 is allowed to drink alcohol before driving. However, their BAC can’t be above .08 while operating a vehicle. On the other hand, individuals under 21 are not allowed to have even the smallest trace of alcohol in their system.

DUI cases for juvenile defendants who exceed the legal blood alcohol level can be heard by a criminal court or juvenile court, depending on the circumstances.  Whether the criminal or juvenile court hears your case depends on:

  1. Your age – DUI defendants age 18 – 20 will have their case prosecuted by a criminal court, regardless of the charges against them.  However, individuals facing misdemeanor teen DUI (under 18) charges can expect the Juvenile Court to prosecute their case.
  1. The DUI offense you’re charged with – While the Juvenile Court prosecutes misdemeanor DUI cases regarding an excessive legal alcohol level for minors, felony DUI cases (even for minors under 18) are prosecuted in the criminal court.

It’s important to note that the prosecution must first request the court to “certify” a minor as an adult before they are allowed to prosecute their case in criminal court.  It is up to the judge to decide where the case should be prosecuted based on the details of the case, prior criminal history, and other factors.

What Are The Penalties If You’re Convicted Of Underage DUI In Criminal And Juvenile Court?

If you’re an underage driver suspected of a DUI, the court may convict you of a DUI if the prosecution produces evidence of your guilt (beyond reasonable doubt).  With that in mind, the consequences for a juvenile DUI and a criminal-level DUI can be severe.  Generally, an underage driver convicted of a DUI in Nevada can expect the following penalties, depending on the court in which the case is adjudicated:

First-Time DUI Penalty – Juvenile Court

If you’re convicted of a 1st misdemeanor DUI for minors in Juvenile Court, you can expect severe punishment, but not to the level of a conviction in criminal court.  In general, the DUI penalty for juveniles includes:

  • Mandatory completion of a court-approved DUI education program for minors
  • Compulsory community service hours, in addition to possible fines
  • A court order to refrain from any criminal activities that could lead to an arrest
  • License suspension
  • A suspended sentence to juvenile hall

Defendants who don’t avoid further criminal charges or neglect to complete their sentencing terms for juvenile DUI risk going to juvenile hall.  If, for some reason, you or your loved one is unable to complete the terms of the sentence on time, it’s in your best interest to contact the court as soon as possible to avoid an additional DUI penalty.

DUI Penalty – Criminal Court

An underage driver (18-21) convicted of a DUI faces the same DUI penalty as adults over the age of 21. Generally, individuals convicted of a first-time misdemeanor DUI faces the following consequences:

  • Fines ranging between $400 – $1,000
  • Mandatory DUI school and Victim Impact Panel participation
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device for six months – at the defendant’s expense
  • A suspended jail sentence (typically six months)
  • Community service hours
  • Court-order to avoid additional arrests

Further, defendants convicted of a 2nd DUI or subsequent offense can expect much harsher penalties.  Further, a third DUI or otherwise felony DUI conviction in Nevada carries mandatory prison time.

A court may convict you of a DUI, and it might not.  Hiring the right lawyer can significantly increase your chances of a favorable outcome.  Whether you’re facing a juvenile DUI for minors or a criminal-level DUI, you should speak with an experienced attorney before going to court.

An Underage DUI Charge Can Affect Your Nevada Driver’s License

Both an underage driver convicted of DUI for minors and drivers over 21 face a license suspension.  However, the suspension’s duration depends on the type of DUI charge (i.e., juvenile DUI, criminal DUI, felony/misdemeanor DUI), the defendant’s criminal history, and many other factors.

Generally, underage individuals with a BAC of .01 but less than.08 can expect a 90-day license suspension (NRS 483.462).  Subsequent DUI convictions for an underage driver carry the same 90-day license suspension, so long as their BAC levels did not reach .08.  Depending on the circumstances, the underage driver may be eligible for a restricted license after 45 days.  A restricted license allows adult and juvenile DUI offenders to drive under strict conditions (i.e., to school, doctor’s appointment, grocery store, etc.)

Those with a BAC level of .08 or greater receive the same license suspension duration (185 days) as an adult driver.  It’s important to note that felony DUI convictions can result in much longer license suspensions.  For example, a second DUI within seven years can result in a 1-year license suspension with no chance for a restricted license.

Legal Defenses For Underage DUI Charges

Underage drinking and driving can be a difficult charge to fight.  However, with an experienced attorney, it’s possible to get your charges dismissed or reduced.  The most common DUI defenses used in Nevada include some of the following:

  • Lack of probable cause for the traffic stop – The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees Americans protection from unlawful searches and seizure. Generally, that means that the police must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion for stopping a car.  That includes cases involving underage drinking and driving.
  • The defendant did not drink alcohol or take drugs – Sometimes, breathalyzer tests produce false-positive results due to the presence of other substances like mouthwash. In that case, an underage drinking and driving suspect may have an illegal BAC level, although they never actually consumed alcohol.
  • The defendant was sober while driving – In some cases, the police arrest individuals who did not start drinking until after they were out of their car.  However, if the police cannot produce enough evidence of driving while intoxicated, their case will likely fall apart.  The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  If they can’t, the DUI charges will likely be dropped or reduced.  At TVL, we’ve helped many clients by using this defense. 
  • Certain medical conditions – Many times, individuals arrested for underage drinking and driving register high BAC levels due to a medical condition.  Common conditions that can cause a high BAC reading include acid reflux, auto-brewery syndrome, heartburn, “GERD,” and more.  Further, individuals who wear dentures or other types of dental devices are more likely to produce high BAC levels even if they haven’t been drinking.
  • Errors committed by the police – Nevada police must strictly follow DUI arrest protocols.  If they don’t, it could invalidate the evidence the prosecution wants to use against a defendant.  Examples of common errors committed by law enforcement include mistakes made while administering a field sobriety test, errors when collecting or storing blood samples, improperly calibrated breathalyzer devices, and more.

Generally, one of the best DUI defenses is not participating in underage drinking and driving at all.  It’s essential to keep in mind the allowable BAC levels for your age:

  • Legal blood alcohol level under 21: 0.02% = no drinking before driving
  • Legal BAC over 21: 0.08% = maybe 1 – 2 drinks before driving, but no more than that

If you have questions about your specific underage drinking and driving charges and potential DUI defenses, we can help. 


Contact the Vegas Lawyers If You’re Facing Underage DUI Charges

If you or your loved one has been charged with an underage DUI in Nevada, it’s essential you seek the help of an experienced Las Vegas DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.  Our DUI attorneys have the skill, experience, and determination to help you receive the best possible outcome for your case under the circumstances.

With decades of experience in courtrooms, we’re confident that you won’t regret your decision.  Are you ready to work with an affordable DUI lawyer in Las Vegas?  Contact The Vegas Lawyers today for your free consultation with a proven professional.  We understand the anxiety and stress you’re experiencing.  We’re here to help.  Call us today at (702) 707-7000.

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