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Underage DWI

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Underage DWI - Mankato DWI Lawyer & Attorney

If a driver is under the age of 21 and they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then there is a possible misdemeanor penalty. The punishment can include driver’s license suspension and fines. The state of Minnesota does not tolerate any underage drinking or drug use. In fact, a minor is to not have a single drop of alcohol in their system. The presence of alcohol constitutes an automatic DWI, but this does not always mean that a minor was drinking.

Just being charged with a crime doesn’t mean your guilty. There are some times when minors can be falsely accused of drinking and driving in Minnesota. There really are such things as false positives, often cough medicine, which contains alcohol, can trigger a false test. As you can see it’s important to find a good defense lawyer.  A good Minnesota DWI attorney can find facts in the case that can help you. Even if  you are “guilty”  a good DWI attorney will use their skill to minimize the fine, jail and other long term consequences.

An Overview of Minnesota’s Underage DWI Laws

Drunk driving is dangerous. It is a public safety issue that Minnesota takes very seriously. In recent years, authorities have stepped up enforcement action. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, an average of 68 people are arrested on DWI charges in the state each day. In 2017, 6 percent of all drivers arrested for DWIs in Minnesota were younger than 21 years old.

Minnesota has strict impaired driving laws for underage individuals. These laws are sometimes referred to as the state’s ‘Not-a-Drop’ law or its ‘Zero-Tolerance’ policy. In this article, our Mankato DWI defense attorneys highlight the most important things you should know about Minnesota’s underage drunk driving laws.

Vaneess’s Law & The Underage Driver

In Minnesota, there is a law called “Vanessa’s Law” and it is named after Vanessa Weiss who was killed in 2004 in a drunk driving accident. She was the passenger in a vehicle driven by a 15-year-old driver, which meant this child was unlicensed.

Vanessa’s Law is designed for those under the age of 18 who may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It outlines the penalties that are paid and how they are paid. The following are the penalties under Vanessa’s Law:

  • Cannot obtain a driver’s license until the age of 18.
  • Must pay reinstatement fee of at least  $680 in order to have the drivers license reinstated
  • Pass the DWI drivers’ examination
  • Complete a classroom drivers’ ed class.
  • Hold a permit for at least 3 months prior to taking the full test
  • The judge may impose additional penalties depending on how serious the case is.

The purpose of Vanessa’s Law is to discourage teenage drivers from driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because Minnesota is zero-tolerance state we have a “Not a Drop Law” law which indicates that any driver under 21 must not drive.

Zero Tolerance for Underage Drunk Driving in Minnesota

In Minnesota, the blood alcohol limit for most drivers is 0.08. However, that limit does not apply to individuals who are not legally able to drink in the state. Minnesota has a strict zero tolerance policy for underage drivers. The zero tolerance policy is relatively straightforward: Under Minnesota’s ‘Not-a-Drop’ law, it is illegal for an underage individual to drive with any alcohol in their system. 

In other words, a 20-year-old driver with a measured BAC of 0.06 could be arrested and charged with intoxicated driving. If an underage driver is arrested with a BAC below 0.08, it is still a very serious criminal offense. The young driver could still end up facing jail time, along with a wide variety of other serious consequences.

Underage DWI Penalties

Similar to other DWI cases, the penalties for underage drunk driving in Minnesota will depend, in large part, on the totality of the circumstances. That being said, in order for a person to be charged with DWI, an individual has to have alcohol or drugs in their bloodstream. For those under 21, they are to not be driving with any alcohol or drugs. To fight the charges, it is ideal to employ the assistance of an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney who has a track record of success in underage DWI cases.

Assuming no other aggravating factors are present, the underage driver faces a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a license suspension. Notably, this applies to defendants who are 18, 19, or 20 years of age. An underage driver arrested for a DWI should consult with an experienced attorney right away. Criminal cases are time-sensitive.

Criminal Justice Process for Juvenile Offenders

A defendant who is under the age of 18—typically 16 or 17 in an underage DWI case—will likely go through the juvenile justice system. For youthful offenders, there are often more options available and punishment will be focused more on rehabilitation. Still, an underage DWI is a major traffic offense—even in juvenile court. A Minnesota juvenile defense attorney can help you navigate the justice system.

Contact Our Underage DWI Defense Lawyers Today

If you have child who has been charged or arrested for underage DWI or underage Drinking & Driving, you need to at least talk to a DWI lawyer. At Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office Chtd., our Minnesota DWI defense attorneys are skilled, solutions-driven advocates for clients and their families. Our law firm is focused on solving problems. If your child was arrested for an underage DWI, we are prepared and ready to help. Contact us today at 507-625-5000 or through our website. With legal offices in Mankato and Rochester, we defend DWI charges throughout all of Southern Minnesota, including in Nicollet County, Blue Earth County, Rice County, Waseca County, and Olmstead County.

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