In Virginia, a Juvenile Driver with a BAC of Only 0.02% Can Be Convicted of Misdemeanor DUI

In July of 2011, Virginia became the latest state in the union to adopt “zero tolerance” laws for teen drinking and driving. What this means, in practice, is that drivers under the age of 21 who are found to have a blood-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.02 percent can be subject to onerous fines, as well as a one-year suspension of their license. Perhaps more important, underage drinking and driving is now a misdemeanor charge, meaning that a youthful infraction can weigh down on the offender for the rest of his or her life.

“Zero Tolerance” Is Intended to Send a Harsh Message to Juvenile Drivers

You can most easily grasp the severity of Virginia's “zero tolerance” law by considering the BACs involved. Virginia drivers over the age of 21 must be found to have a BAC of 0.08 or more before they can be charged with DUI; that corresponds to three or four drinks in the hour before that person got behind the wheel. By comparison, a BAC of 0.02 corresponds to a juvenile having a single beer within an hour of being stopped by the police.

Other provisions of Virginia's “zero tolerance” DUI law include:

  • A mandatory, one-year suspension of your driver's license
  • Either a fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service
  • Classification as a class-one misdemeanor, meaning you will have a permanent criminal record if convicted

There are two major reasons why the Virginia legislature passed this “zero tolerance” law. First and foremost, this law is meant to actively deter teenagers and young adults from drinking and driving—a goal that no one can argue with. Second, this law corrects a previous oversight, by which the penalties for underage drinking, purchase, or possession of alcohol were actually more severe than those for underage drinking and driving.

Of course, you can argue—and many defense lawyers have—that a law which makes examples of the teenagers who happen to get caught is profoundly unfair, since, for every teen charged with driving under the influence, there are probably dozens who get away with it. But it's unlikely that public opinion in Virginia, or in any state in the U.S., will ever allow a “zero tolerance” law to be repealed or modified once it has been passed.

A Charge of Juvenile DUI is Extremely Serious—and Requires Serious Legal Representation

For the average teen, losing the right to drive for a full year sounds like cruel and unusual punishment—while the average teen's parents are more likely to worry about the permanent blot on his record. If you are a teenager or young adult who has been charged with juvenile DUI, or if you are a concerned parent, contact the lawyers at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC, who will work to secure the best possible outcome for your case.