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What an Underage DUI Charge Could Mean For Your Child Consumption of alcohol as a minor (a person under the age of 21) is against the law in Illinois. Getting behind the wheel of a car, after consuming alcohol, can be especially dangerous for people under the legal drinking age. Due to the inherent danger of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the legal consequences of a DUI charge can be incredibly severe. If your child is charged with a DUI, it is important to speak with a legal professional. 

The Zero Tolerance Law 

In 2017, a staggering 397 drivers under the age of 21 lost their driving privileges due to violations of Illinois’ Zero Tolerance law. According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, the Zero Tolerance policy was officially established in 1995. The law states that if a driver under the legal drinking age is found with traces of alcohol in their system, they may face driver’s license suspension. It is important to note that a minor does not have to be driving with a blood alcohol concentration over the standard legal limit of 0.08 to be in violation of the Zero Tolerance policy. Violation of the zero-tolerance policy results in a mandatory three-month license suspension. 

The Legal Consequences of an Underage DUI

Penalties for underage drivers are more severe if their BAC is 0.08 or higher. A first-time DUI conviction is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in fines up to $2,500 and as long as one year in prison. For drivers under the age of 21, even a first-time DUI conviction automatically amounts to a two-year driver’s license revocation. For minors, restricted driver’s permit (RDP) eligibility is not warranted until the second year of the revocation. 

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IL DUI lawyerWith the legal drinking age set at 21 nationwide, you would not expect there to be many arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) among people under age 21. Yet over 2,000 Illinois youth received punishment for underage driving and driving in 2016. If you are suspected of drinking and driving, the penalties you may face are substantially tougher if you are under age 21 than if you are age 21 or older.

The Legal Limit for Blood Alcohol is Lower for Underage Drivers

If you are at least 21 years old, you are considered guilty of DUI when you have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. You can also be charged with DUI if your BAC is .05 or higher and there is additional evidence that your driving was impaired.

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IL teen DUI lawyerWhat can happen to a 16- or 17-year-old driver if they get arrested for drinking and driving in DuPage County? In short: A lot. While drivers under the age of 18 have the advantage of being treated as juveniles, rather than adults, in the Illinois legal system, they have the disadvantage that state law is very tough on underage drinking and driving.

Drivers Under Age 18 Go to Juvenile Court

When a minor under the age of 18 is arrested in Illinois, they are processed through the juvenile justice system. By law, the police can only detain 16- and 17-year-olds in a municipal lockup or county jail for a maximum of 12 hours, after which they must either be released to parents or processed for placement in a juvenile facility. If a DUI charge is filed against the juvenile, they can either make a plea deal with the prosecutor or have a bench trial before a judge; juveniles are generally not entitled to jury trials.

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