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Underage DWI

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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.

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.

What are the Penalties for Underage Drunk Driving in Minnesota?

Similar to other DWI cases, the penalties for underage drunk driving in Minnesota will depend, in large part, on the totality of the circumstances. 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 Mankato DWI Defense Lawyers Today

At Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office Chtd., our Minnesota criminal 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 more than ready to help. Contact us today at 507-625-5000 or directly through our website. With legal offices in Mankato and Rochester, we defend DWI charges throughout Southern Minnesota, including in Nicollet County, Blue Earth County, Rice County, Waseca County, and Olmstead County.

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