DUI Under 21 in Virginia

Most people believe that if you have a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) under 0.08, you are safe to drive and cannot be charged with DUI.  However, in Virginia, that is not the case.

If you are under 21 years old, it is illegal to consume any amount of alcohol and therefore an underage person who consumes, even a small amount of alcohol and operates a motor vehicle can still be charged with a crime.

If you are under 21, testing positive for alcohol while driving with a BAC between 0.02 and 0.08 will result in a charge for an underage DUI.  Often colloquially known as a “baby DUI”.

Of course, and underage person who tests under the influence above a 0.08 will simply be charged with a regular DUI under VA Code § 18.2-266.1.

This standard for underage DUIs is codified in Virginia statute § 18.2-266.1. Persons under age 21 driving after illegally consuming alcohol; penalty

The statute reads in part that:

  1. It shall be unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to operate any motor vehicle after illegally consuming alcohol. Any such person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.02 grams or more per 210 liters of breath but less than 0.08 by weight by volume or less than 0.08 grams per 210 liters of breath as indicated by a chemical test administered as provided in this article shall be in violation of this section.

The penalties for conviction of the charge are described in Section B of the statute:

  1. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Punishment shall include (i) forfeiture of such person’s license to operate a motor vehicle for a period of one year from the date of conviction and (ii) a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or performance of a mandatory minimum of 50 hours of community service.

Underage DUI charges are also commonly accompanied by underage possession of alcohol charges under VA Code 4.1-305.  The penalties for possession of alcohol are strikingly similar to the penalties for an underage DUI:

Any person found guilty of a violation of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; and upon conviction, (i) such person shall be ordered to pay a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or ordered to perform a mandatory minimum of 50 hours of community service as a condition of probation supervision and (ii) the license to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of any such person age 18 or older shall be suspended for a period of not less than six months and not more than one year.

However, just because the penalties are similar does not mean the officer won’t charge both offenses and the prosecutor won’t push for convictions on both charges.

If you have questions about a driving under the influence (DUI/DWI) charge in Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, or the surrounding counties, please contact the attorneys of Winslow & McCurry, PLLC at (804)423-1382 or email us at info@wmmlegal.com.