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Facing the Harsh Consequences of an Underage DUI in Pennsylvania

As a parent, it is easy to take the position that “ignorance is bliss” and presume that our kids do not drink alcohol before driving home from bars and parties. Unfortunately, statistics regarding the prevalence of teen drinking by high school students and those attending colleges in the vicinity, including Penn State University Berks, Albright College, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Alvernia University and Reading Community College reveal that a substantial number of teenagers under 21 regularly drink and drive. Pennsylvania under 21 driving under the influence (DUI) law imposes penalties that can have a long-term impact on a teenager’s future.

Pennsylvania’s no tolerance DUI laws for minors

Pennsylvania’s teen DUI laws impose a zero tolerance policy on drunken driving by those under age 21. Under 75 PA.C.S.A §3802(e), a per se (in itself) violation of underage DUI law requires only a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02 percent or higher within two hours of driving or exercising control of a motor vehicle. This means that even a single drink can result in a DUI if the driver is under 21 while driving, operating or in actual control of a motor vehicle. A minor who is operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with any alcohol in his or her bloodstream may also be prosecuted under 75 PA.C.S.A. §3718.

Protecting a teenager’s future when facing DUI charges

Teen drivers convicted of underage DUI may struggle with financial burdens, a criminal record, potential jail time and the loss of driving privileges. Many teenagers are afraid to seek help to avoid these consequences because they worry how their parents, college admissions officers, university administrators and others will react. However, Pennsylvania DUI convictions do not go away for 5 to 10 years; it becomes part of one’s permanent record.

Those who suffer a DUI when under 21 will be subject to enhanced penalties associated with the High Rate Tier in Pennsylvania’s tiered DUI penalty system. This may result in a maximum incarceration period of six months, maximum fine of $5000 and a 12 month license suspension.

College students may be far from home and unsure how to proceed when they are charged with an out of state DUI. It is possible that an out of state DUI will result in sanctions both in Pennsylvania and one’s home state. The serious long-term repercussions of a DUI conviction while one is a teenager and complexities of dealing with a DUI when you are away from your home makes prompt legal advice and representation imperative.

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