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Underage DUI / OWI

Teen Boy Getting Arrested for DUI

DUIs in Michigan, as in other states, typically carry heavy consequences: loss of the drunk driver’s license, heavy fines, and even jail time, depending on the severity of the offense and the number of times the driver has faced DUI charges.

For underage drivers, however, the consequences of DUI may go further. Drivers under the age of 21 convicted of driving while intoxicated may face serious penalties that can linger—and subsequent DUI charges in the future may cause even more serious problems. Michigan has a zero-tolerance policy for DUIs for underage drivers. To speak to a professional about your options after receiving a DUI Contact Michigan Defense Law Firm today.

What Constitutes a DUI for Underage Drivers?

In Michigan, any driver with a BAC of over 0.08 percent faces DUI charges. For underage drivers, however, a BAC between 0.02 percent and 0.079 percent can also result in criminal penalties. A Michigan driver under the age of 21 who has a BAC under the legal limit for drivers of age, but who still has a BAC that indicates consumption of alcohol, may still face OWI, or “operating while intoxicated,” charges. If the underage driver has any alcohol in their system that did not come from a recognized religious ceremony, the driver may still face significant penalties.

Penalties for OWI

A Michigan driver under the age of 21 who operates a vehicle while intoxicated, with a BAC of less than 0.08 percent but over 0.02 percent, may face:

  • Fines up to $250 for a first offense and up to $500 for a second offense
  • 360 hours of community service for a first offense and up to 60 days of community service for a second offense.
  • A 30-day license suspension for the first offense and a 90-day license suspension for the second offense.
  • Jail time of up to 93 days for a second offense.

A first-time OWI will not receive a penalty involving jail time. If the OWI offender transported a minor under age 16 in the vehicle at the time of the OWI, however, the penalties for that offense may increase. For a first-time OWI offense with a minor in the vehicle, the penalties increase to match the penalties usually associated with a second-time OWI offense. Second-time offenses with a minor in the vehicle increase even more.

Restricted Licenses for OWI

In Michigan, drivers who have had their license suspended for operating while intoxicated may apply for a restricted license during their license suspension. This even applies to minor drivers convicted for their first OWI offense. A restricted license may make it possible for a driver who can prove hardship without the license to receive provision to drive themselves to work, to school, and to any court-mandated appointments or events, including community service. The restricted driver’s license hearing generally occurs separately from the OWI or DUI hearing. Second-time OWI offenders, however, cannot receive a restricted license.

Implied Consent Laws

Many underage drivers hope that as long as the police cannot prove the presence of alcohol in their system, they will not face criminal prosecution. In Michigan, however, every driver operating a vehicle on state roads gives implied consent for a chemical test to determine the presence or lack of alcohol in the bloodstream. Refusal to submit to these tests can result in license suspension for one year for the first refusal and two years for subsequent refusals within a seven-year period. Underage drivers who refuse to submit to blood alcohol testing cannot apply for a restricted license during that suspension on the basis of hardship.

Underage Drivers and Alcohol

Between the ages of 16 and 20, many drivers fail to operate a vehicle with the same confidence and skill displayed by older drivers. They have not yet developed the reflexes they need to safely avoid accidents, nor do they have the experience necessary to avoid many dangerous situations on the road.

Unfortunately, the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream may impact these drivers substantially more. They do not have long habits and experience to help improve their driving ability; instead, their ability to drive safely may deteriorate after just one drink. Drunk drivers, especially underage drivers, lose their ability to control the vehicle effectively and pay attention to the road around them. As a result, they may:

  • Miss traffic signals. Red lights and stop signs may go unnoticed, leading to cars blazing through an intersection or smashing into the back of another car. Intoxicated drivers may also miss speed limit signs or ignore turn signal indicators or brake lights from other vehicles, which can substantially increase the risk of an accident.
  • Swerve erratically. Many young drivers struggle to learn how to control the vehicle effectively in the first place. Driving while intoxicated increases this difficulty, making it difficult for intoxicated drivers to stay in their lanes.
  • Drive extremely fast or extremely slowly. Many drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol choose, rather than speeding, to drive very slowly. Some feel that this will reduce the risk of accident or prevent police from targeting them. Slow drivers, however, pose just as much danger as too-fast drivers on many roads. Slow drivers may drive erratically or unpredictably, or they may create traffic jams and other hazards.
  • Drive on the side of the road. Driving off of the road can pose extreme danger for pedestrians and cyclists, especially those who do not realize they have neared a drunk driver. Unfortunately, underage drivers under the influence of alcohol may hug the outside of the lane, leading to them jumping the curb or coming dangerously close to pedestrians and cyclists. In some cases, this may result in accidents with severe injuries.

Michigan’s zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers who operate vehicles while intoxicated means that when an underage driver gets behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated, they may quickly face a range of criminal penalties. By working with a lawyer, however, you can help retain your teenager’s freedoms and decrease the fines they may face for choosing to drive under the influence. Contacting a lawyer is the most effective way to help avoid long-term penalties associated with DUI.

Stiff Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving Friends Drinking Inside Car

Michigan law for drivers under 21 consuming alcohol and driving is very harsh. It is called “zero tolerance” because it basically prohibits people under 21 from operating their motor vehicle with any alcohol in their system. Any level of .02 or higher can result in a person being arrested and charged with a OWI. The good news is this offense does not include jail time as an option in first offense situations. However, it is considered a “drunk driving” for future purposes. This means if a person is arrested and convicted of a zero tolerance OWI at age 20 with a .03 blood alcohol limit and then gets arrested again at age 22 for a .08 OWI they will be prosecuted as a second offender with a maximum jail sentence of one year and mandatory revocation of their driving privileges for at least one year. This is a severe collateral consequence of being an underage person who drinks and drives.

If an underage driver has a blood alcohol content above .08 they will be charged with a regular, adult OWI. Results between .02 and .08 are the zero tolerance version of drunk driving. These cases also have significant drivers license penalties, fines, probation, testing and possibilities of large amounts of community service. The law is clear that the underage people who drink and drive do not get a break just because their level is below the legal limit for legal drinkers. It is quite important for underage drinker/drivers and their parents to remember that the prosecutor and the court are not your friends in these situations. They do not intend to just give the youthful person a warning and send them on their way. It is treated just like a regular, adult OWI and has lasting repercussions such as greatly increased insurance rates, license sanctions, etc. There have been many fatal accidents involving underage drunk drivers. Judges want to send a message to this population that it is dangerous and not ok.

Client Reviews
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My son was charged with two serious felonies for home invasion. Paul worked long and hard on the case and was able to negotiate a deal so that all of the charges were dismissed after my son completed probation. He is now in college without a criminal record. Mr. T.
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I was arrested for drunk driving and possession of a controlled substance (Vicodin). Paul worked hard on the case and kept the felony off my record and got the drunk driving case reduced so that I kept my driver’s license and my job. He really cared about helping me. J.T.
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When I recently had an issue at the airport, I decided to call Paul on the weekend. He called me back on a Sunday! He dealt with my issue without me having to fly back to Michigan and got it dismissed. Until you go through the court system especially for the first time, you don’t have a sense for how harrowing it can be. E.W.