Underage DUI

Nevada takes all charges of DUI very seriously – but instances in which minors are found to be driving while under the influence of alcohol are handled with no tolerance. However – the strictness of this policy does not mean that any minor charged with driving under the influence will be convicted. Anyone who has been charged with an Underage DUI should hire an attorney who has the familiarity and experience with cases like this as soon as possible. There are several ways to defend an Underage DUI and the sooner your attorney knows the details of your case, the better their chances of building an effective defense.

We’ve answered some of the common questions and concerns for these cases below, including some useful general information and details of the penalties that come with the conviction of an Underage DUI.


What Constitutes a DUI for a Minor in Nevada?

It is a crime in Nevada for anyone to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but there is a different set of criteria for a driver who is under the influence and under 21 years of age. In short, any driver who is younger than 21, is driving or is in physical control of a vehicle on the highway or any premises that the public has access to, and has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% is committing an Underage DUI.


What is the Zero Tolerance Policy in Nevada?

Nevada has what is often referred to as a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to Underage DUIs. This policy means that anyone younger than 21 who is pulled over and registers at least .02% BAC will be arrested for a DUI. This will apply even to drivers who were not driving erratically or who seem to be sober and in control of their vehicle. It is the BAC percentage that matters most in that moment.


How Does a DUI for a Minor Differ from a DUI for an Adult?

The difference lies in the BAC percentage allowance:

●      If a minor is pulled over for any reason and is found to be driving with as little as 0.2% blood alcohol content (BAC), they will be arrested. This differs from the DUI laws that apply to adults over 21, who can technically operate a vehicle with a BAC of less than 0.8%.

●      For minors, a BAC that is over 0.2% but below 0.8% will result in a suspension of their driver’s license (as stated in NRS 483.461). If their BAC is at 0.8% or higher, their charges will be the same as an adult over 21.


Penalties for an Underage DUI Conviction

The penalties for an underage DUI conviction will vary based on the circumstances of your charges. Prior convictions, BAC levels at the time of arrest and accidents that resulted in serious harm or death will all be taken into consideration during sentencing. The standard penalties are as follows:

First Time Offense, BAC Over .02 But Below .08

●      License will be suspended or revoked for 90 days.

●      Participation in an alcohol assessment and treatment program

Second Time Offense, BAC Over .02 But Below .08

●      License will be suspended or revoked for at least 90 days, typically longer

●      Participation in an alcohol assessment and treatment program

First Time Offense, BAC Over .08

The penalties for a conviction of this level are very similar to those for a comparable offense by an adult and will include:

●      2 days to six months in a juvenile facility or jail (this period of detention time is often suspended and substituted with community service)

●      Fines in an amount determined by the charges

●      Attendance at Nevada’s DUI School as well as a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel

In addition to these penalties, for an underage driver who is convicted of a DUI with a BAC of over .08 there will be a mandatory alcohol and drug evaluation. This evaluation (as detailed in NRS 484C.350) is meant to determine a potential or existing substance abuse issue and usually includes meeting with a counselor who will then make a recommendation to the court regarding what they feel would be beneficial treatment. Participants are required to cover the cost of this evaluation themselves, which is around $100.


Common Defenses for an Underage DUI Charge

Due to the “zero tolerance” stance that Nevada takes with underage DUIs, there are often situations that are defensible for minors who have been charged with a DUI. These are some of the most common defenses that are relevant in an Underage DUI case.

●      Breathalyzer Malfunction – Breathalyzers require specific calibration and proper maintenance in order to function with the accuracy needed to register such a low BAC percentage. Proving that the test equipment was faulty can render that evidence unreliable.

●      No Probable Cause to Pull Over the Driver – While any BAC over .02 will lead to an arrest regardless of erratic driving, there still has to be a valid reason to make the traffic stop in the first place. If there was no justification for pulling the car over, sometimes a case will get dismissed.

●      No Actual Illegal Activity Occurred – It is actually possible for there to be a false reading on a breathalyzer following the use of things like mouthwash, which contains alcohol and can register as a high enough BAC to warrant an arrest.     

The consequences of a DUI can have lasting effects on the life of anyone who is convicted of this crime, but can be an especially negative mark on the record of someone young. While it is possible to have your DUI criminal record sealed if you are convicted, there is a waiting period of seven years before this is allowed. If you are under 21 and have been charged with a DUI or if you are the family member or friend of someone underage who has been charged, we encourage you to contact us today for a free case evaluation. We have the knowledge and experience to assist anyone facing these charges and we want to hear your side of the story.


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