Underage DUI Defense

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Underage DUI Defense Attorney in Las Vegas

There are certain exceptions in Las Vegas alcohol laws that allow a minor to drink. However, when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol, Nevada has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinkers.

Drivers under 21 are held to even stricter blood alcohol content (BAC) standards than those over the legal drinking age. If an underage driver is convicted of a DUI, penalties can vary based on the circumstances of the arrest and the driver’s BAC. 

If you’re currently facing underage DUI charges, it’s essential to consult with a proven Las Vegas DUI lawyer as quickly as you can. While hiring a lawyer doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid the consequences, there are potential defenses for an underage DUI charge. A lawyer will also ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

At The Vegas Lawyers, we’ve helped countless people fight DUI charges, assert their rights, and seal misdemeanor-level DUI offenses. Mistakes happen, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Give us a call at (702) 707-7000 to schedule your initial consultation today.

Underage DUI Statistics in Las Vegas

There aren’t many statistics available that specifically highlight underage DUI stats in Nevada. However, according to the latest information provided by stopalcoholabuse.gov, more than 40 deaths per year can be attributed to alcohol consumption by underage persons in the state.

That equates to a little over 2,500 years of potential life lost. More so, the last available report suggests there are about ten fatal crashes per year caused by drivers aged 15 – 20 with a BAC over .01.

Recently, the Nevada Department of Transportation created a strategic highway program to limit DUI crashes and fatalities. With this focus, the state aims to reach zero drunk driving fatalities statewide by strictly enforcing laws and setting up checkpoints in strategic locations.

Approximately 65 percent of all drunk driving charges in Nevada occur in Clark County. Most injuries caused by impaired driving happen on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – which is why you’re more likely to be stopped at a checkpoint or pulled over by the police if you exhibit somewhat or egregious reckless driving behavior during this time.

What Happens If You’re Under 21 and You Get a DUI in Las Vegas?

Drivers of any age can be convicted of driving under the influence if their BAC is above .08 percent.  With underage drivers, the BAC allowance is much lower. It’s unlawful for drivers under the age of 21 to have a blood alcohol concentration above .02.

If you are pulled over, and a chemical or blood test determines your BAC is above the allowed levels, you are at risk of being convicted of an underage DUI. While being underage is an understandable excuse for making questionable decisions in most cases, Nevada has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to driving under the influence.

Nevada Zero Tolerance Policy For Underage Drinkers

It sounds a bit unfair, but Nevada’s zero-tolerance policy for under-aged drivers is in place to save lives and deter other underaged people from committing the same offense. It means that if you’re stopped by the police while underage and register a BAC above .02, you’re going to be arrested.

Depending on the circumstances and outcome of your arrest, an underage DUI conviction could remain on your record for years or a lifetime. So, it’s in the best interest of yourself and the public to refrain from such activities.

While the laws, consequences, and effects of the law are clear, there are potential defenses to these charges. The sooner you speak with a proven DUI lawyer in Las Vegas, and they can learn about your case, the better.

Penalties For Underage DUI

The consequences of an underage DUI conviction in Nevada vary depending on the circumstances. The courts consider many variables to include blood alcohol content levels, prior history of DUI convictions, and whether or not the driver’s alcohol consumption caused an accident resulting in a fatality or significant injury.

In addition, consequences could go beyond the court system and DMV. With a DUI conviction on your record, it can be difficult to get into college and even affect your ability to get a job.

It should be noted that penalties for drivers under 21 with a BAC between .02 and .08 face a different set of consequences than if they had a BAC of .08 or higher at the time of the arrest.

First Offense

The first underage DUI conviction for those between 18 and 21 incurs a license suspension or revocation of at least 90 days. They are also required to attend an alcohol assessment and treatment program.

Second Offense

The second underage DUI conviction also incurs a license suspension of at least 90 days. However, in many cases, the terms of the suspension are longer. They must also attend an alcohol assessment and treatment program.

How an Underage DUI (18-21) Differs From an Adult DUI (21+)

If you’re over 21, the law allows you to operate a vehicle so long as you have less than .08 BAC. However, if under 21, that allowance drops to .02. If convicted of DUI while under 21, a judge must first send you to a chemical dependency evaluation before they can impose penalties.

The evaluation is not free. You must pay for it. Once your interview with the alcohol counselor is over, the counselor provides the court with the results and their recommendations regarding the type of treatment and length of your program. Some potential suggestions can include:

  • Periodic drug/alcohol testing
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) treatment program
  • Substance abuse counseling

These recommendations are enforced in addition to the other court requirements you must fulfill.

What Happens if an Underage Driver’s (18-21) BAC is Above .08?

Drivers under 21 arrested with a BAC above .08 face similar penalties as a person over 21. Typically, the first offense is considered a misdemeanor. Potential consequences include:

  • Two days – six months in jail or juvenile detention center
  • Fines typically ranging between $400 – $1000 + court costs
  • Mandatory attendance of DUI school and DUI victim impact panel
  • Mandatory license suspension (up to 185 days)
  • Potential installation of ignition interlock device (IID)

In many cases, the jail sentence is suspended on the first offense, and the courts replace it with community service hours.

If your BAC is at or above 0.18, you must install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for one to three years. Also, you face a minimum 1-year license suspension.

Keep in mind that the penalties mentioned above are only for first-time underage DUI convictions. If it’s the second offense (or beyond), involves serious bodily injury, or a fatality resulting from driving under the influence, you could face serious jail time, higher fines, and other consequences.

What Happens if The Driver is a Juvenile (Under 18)?

While the penalties and procedures for drivers under 18 arrested for DUI are different, the consequences can still be severe. If a driver is under 18 years of age, their case will be heard by a juvenile court. If convicted, it is punishable by:

  • Fines – in proportion to BAC levels and other factors
  • Mandatory community service and substance abuse courses
  • Juvenile hall sentence – typically suspended so long as they meet the requirements of their sentence

Potential Defenses For an Underage DUI

Nevada’s zero-tolerance policy is in place to save lives and keep the roads safe. However, in some cases, the defendant is wrongly charged, or their rights are violated. A skilled DUI attorney in Las Vegas will evaluate your case’s details and build a DUI defense strategy to fight your charges. Potential defense for an underage DUI charge can include:

  • Invalid Breathalyzer Results: Breathalyzer machines can malfunction just like any other device. If it’s not calibrated correctly and properly maintained, it could be less accurate. If your DUI lawyer successfully proves the device wasn’t working correctly, it could invalidate the evidence.
  • Lack of Probable Cause for Being Pulled Over: Regardless of the reason you’re pulled over, if an underage driver registers a BAC above .02, they will be arrested. However, police officers must have a lawful reason for the stop. If they can’t furnish a valid reason to pull you over, your case can potentially be dismissed.
  • False Reading on the Breathalyzer: Breathalyzer devices can’t tell the difference between alcohol from a drink and alcohol from mouthwash. If you can prove you weren’t drinking but instead used mouthwash before driving, it can potentially help dismiss your case.

Your criminal defense attorney may get your charges reduced to a reckless driving charge or dismissed if they can prove procedural mistakes were made, or there were inaccuracies in the breathalyzer/blood test results. It’s essential to contact your DUI attorney in Las Vegas as quickly as you can so they can begin working on your case.

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

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 are issued a 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.

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

How Long Does an Underage DUI Stay on Your Record?

Juvenile DUI convictions are automatically sealed when the defendant turns 21. However, if you are over 18 at the time of your arrest, Nevada law only allows certain types of DUI convictions to be sealed.

First-time and second-time misdemeanor DUI convictions are eligible to be sealed seven years after the case concludes – so long as you don’t get into more legal trouble. Felony DUI convictions are never eligible to be sealed.

It’s essential to remember that DUI’s causing serious bodily injury or death are often considered a felony offense. Therefore, they can’t be sealed.  If your case is eligible, it can take a few weeks or months for the procedure to take effect.

Sealing a criminal record does not mean that it completely goes away. Instead, it means your record is no longer available for public view. However, if you apply to certain government jobs or face other criminal convictions, your previous record can still be viewed and used against you.

What to do if You’re Pulled Over After Drinking?

The best time to stop a DUI arrest from occurring is before you get behind the wheel. Once a police officer pulls you over, there isn’t much you can do to get out of being arrested. However, it’s important to remain calm, respectful, and cooperative. Otherwise, any negative actions or statements could be used against you in court.

Furthermore, it’s important to answer all questions asked without incriminating yourself. This does not mean you should lie. Rather, it means that you should refrain from making absolute statements of guilt.

Always remember your Miranda Rights, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney.”

After your arrest, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced DUI lawyer as quickly as possible. The longer you wait to seek legal counsel, the more jeopardy you put yourself in.

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 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.

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


Should I Hire a Lawyer?

You have the right to represent yourself and fight DUI charges on your own, but it’s rarely recommended. Las Vegas prosecutors see thousands of DUI cases each year. They are skilled, prepared, and experienced.

Having a skilled DUI lawyer in your corner who understands the system, knows the prosecutors and understands what it takes to win or secure a favorable deal will provide you peace of mind and confidence in knowing your rights are protected.

Fighting DUI charges alone can leave you in a precarious situation. That’s especially true if you’re not familiar with and aware of all the Nevada DUI laws, lawful police procedures, and how to defend yourself effectively.

A skilled lawyer can guide you through the process, prepare you for court, and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. A good lawyer will also thoroughly investigate every aspect of your case to search for anything that could possibly lead to a dismissal or decreased charges.

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