One of the most common offenses committed by young people in Lancaster County is an underage DUI. These days, it isn't difficult for people under the age of 21 to get their hands on alcoholic beverages. Underage drinkers have discovered all sorts of crafty ways to get alcohol, whether they get it themselves or have someone else get it for them. But what they may not realize at the moment is that merely being in close proximity of alcohol as an underage person can expose them to serious criminal charges.
If you've been charged with an underage DUI, your first step should be to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney. You have a long life ahead of you. A criminal charge for underage drinking while driving can haunt you in the future and limit many opportunities in the workforce, school, and many more aspects of your adulthood.
A seasoned legal professional has the tools to provide a solid defense for you and either get your charges significantly reduced or dismissed altogether. In this article, we'll explore what constitutes an underage DUI in Pennsylvania and its penalties.
What Constitutes an Underage DUI in Pennsylvania?
Since the majority of DUI-related fatalities are caused by juvenile motorists, the state takes a zero-tolerance approach to underage drinking. This means that any trace of alcohol found in an underage driver's system will lead to criminal charges, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The legal limit for those over the age of 21 is .08% blood alcohol content (BAC).
An underage DUI is generally a misdemeanor, but the legal penalties enforced hinge on a number of factors, including a person's BAC, if there was an alcohol test refusal, criminal history, and substance use.
Even if this is your first criminal charge, a conviction for an underage DUI still warrants pretty stiff penalties. They include:
- Jail time for up to 90 days
- A fine ranging from $300-$500
- License suspension (if the BAC is over .10%)
Obviously, subsequent DUIs have more severe penalties, like more jail time, higher fines, and longer license suspension duration periods. Refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test will also lead to additional penalties.
An indictment for underage DUI charges is determined by the prevalence of a number of factors. Attorney Joseph Lento of the Lento Law Firm has an adept knowledge of the elements of a case that must be proven to prosecute a defendant of an underage DUI, and therefore understands the potential defenses to assert to disprove these elements. A defense can be so convincing that it leads to a defendant's sentence being reduced or downgraded. A solid defense can even lead to the dismissal of your case altogether. The following defenses could possibly be asserted in your case if applicable:
The police didn't follow proper protocol. Officers must follow certain protocol when administering field sobriety tests (FSTs). If they don't, any evidence gathered due to a test must be suppressed or inadmissible.
The police made an improper stop. The constitution prohibits law enforcement from arbitrarily pulling over citizens without reasonable suspicion. This means, in order to pull you over for a DUI, a police officer must've had good reason to suspect that you were doing something illegal. It may be possible for an attorney to prove that reasonable suspicion wasn't a factor in your stop and arrest.
You have a medical condition. Certain medical conditions give off the appearance of being drunk and can even skew the results of tests. For example, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that causes chronic acid reflux. People with this disease experience serious digestion issues. Some have reported that their stomach contents flow all the way back up into their esophagus and even their mouth. If your stomach contents include remnants of alcohol you drunk yesterday, it can actually end up back in your mouth when it's time for testing.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
An underage DUI conviction will haunt you in adulthood. To avoid the legal and collateral consequences that come with an underage DUI on your record, you need the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
If you're looking for quality legal representation, the Lento Law Firm is the ideal firm for you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired assault charges. He will provide you with options in this predicament, like possibly joining an ARD program, and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. Mr. Lento keeps flexible office hours and is willing to work around your schedule. To set up a consultation or for more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.