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Are Juvenile DUIs Handled Differently?

The state of South Carolina has a set of laws that govern the way drivers behave on the road. These laws are put in place to keep as many people safe as possible. Additional laws apply to young drivers, particularly those under the age of 18. When a juvenile driver breaks these laws and is caught drinking while driving, they risk facing severe consequences. Some drivers may even jeopardize their overall driving privileges. When this happens, a strong legal defense is key. What are some of the consequences juvenile drivers may face?

Getting a South Carolina License

A minor must be a licensed driver before worrying about juvenile traffic offenses. The process to becoming licensed to drive in South Carolina is relatively simple. Anyone 15 years or older can get their learner’s permit. Once they have their permit for 180 days, they are eligible to take a road test. If they pass the test, they will be awarded a provisional license. They must also prove they are attending school regularly, have completed a Driver’s Education course, and practiced driving for at least 40 hours. The associated fees can be upwards of $25. Once a driver reaches 17 years of age, their license will become a regular driver license.

DUI Laws for Juvenile Drivers

The state of South Carolina has taken a strict stance against underage people drinking while driving. Anyone under the age of 21 who is caught driving a vehicle after consuming alcohol will be subject to the zero-tolerance policy.

The zero-tolerance policy applies to anyone younger than 21 who is caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .02% or more. For adults, the blood alcohol concentration that could lead to a DUI charge is .08%. Under the zero-tolerance law, anyone caught in this situation will automatically have their license suspended for 3 months. They will face a 6-month suspension if they have any prior convictions related to alcohol or if their license was suspended at any time in the previous 5 years.

The penalties are more severe for young drivers who refuse blood alcohol concentration testing. Someone who refuses testing will face an automatic 6-month suspension which will be increased to a full year if they have prior convictions related to alcohol. Anyone who receives an underage DUI conviction will have to partake in the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. Like rehabilitation, this program will require them to be evaluated and follow certain treatment protocols.

Criminal Penalties for Underage DUIs

Underage drivers caught driving under the influence of alcohol will face administrative penalties, such as having their license suspended. However, they may face criminal charges as well. In South Carolina, underage drivers caught with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more will be fully prosecuted according to the state’s DUI statutes.

The potential penalties for a DUI charge in South Carolina are as follows:

  • A defendant may face a jail sentence between 2 and 30 days long as well as a $400 fine for a first DUI in which their blood alcohol concentration was less than .1%. They will also receive a license suspension of 6 months.
  • A defendant may face a jail sentence between 3 and 30 days as well as a $500 fine for a first DUI in which their blood alcohol concentration was between .1% and .15%. They will also receive a license suspension of 6 months.
  • A defendant may face a jail sentence between 1 and 3 months long as well as a $1000 fine for a first DUI in which their blood alcohol concentration was more than .15%. They will also not be able to get their license reinstated until they have an ignition interlock on their vehicle for at least 6 months.

Social Consequences of Juvenile DUIs

The legal penalties a young driver will face after a DUI are extensive, and for good reason. The state of South Carolina wants to keep the roads safe and teach young drivers why driving under the influence is so dangerous. Legal penalties are not the only penalties they may face. An underage DUI can impact a teenager’s life in many other ways, such as:

  • Expulsion from certain colleges or other punishments from their place of education
  • Difficulties getting accepted to certain colleges
  • Disqualification for certain scholarships
  • Not being hired for certain jobs due to the DUI appearing on background checks
  • Impacts to their social life due to a long-term lack of driving privileges

Defending Against an Underage DUI

A DUI charge should be taken very seriously. However, a teenager charged with a DUI is not guilty until the state of South Carolina proves they are. There are many legal strategies that may be used for a juvenile DUI case. These strategies could lead to lesser punishment, or the charges being dismissed.

Some examples of defenses that might be applicable to a juvenile DUI charge include:

  • The officer did not have probable cause to pull the driver over
  • The breathalyzer or chemical tests were not performed properly, and therefore the results cannot be used in court
  • The equipment used to test the driver’s blood alcohol concentration malfunctioned or was broken when used
  • The teenager’s blood alcohol concentration was within a margin of error
  • The teenager was not informed of their rights by the arresting officer
  • The blood alcohol test results were caused by something else, such as acid reflux.

Not all of these strategies will be applicable to every case. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant craft a legal strategy that is relevant to the specific circumstances of their case.

We Can Help You

If you or your child is facing charges for an underage DUI, contact Masella Law Firm, P.A. today. More than 25 years of experience advocating for South Carolina citizens has made our lawyers highly qualified to advise people in your position. We understand that these charges are serious and that your future is on the line. That’s why we will do everything in our power to work towards getting your charges lowered or dropped. Contact us today at (803) 938-4952 or online for a consultation.