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Underage DUI

If your child has been arrested for driving under the influence, the process for handling their case is different than when an adult is arrested. Their case will be handled differently, and the limits for a DUI shift as well.

In the following article, we’ll walk parents through what they can expect to see if their child has been arrested for an underage DUI.

Denver Underage DUI Attorney

Getting a late-night phone call saying that your child is in custody for a DUI is heartbreaking. The worry that your child could have been hurt, or hurt others, is difficult to swallow, as is the potential impact on their future from a DUI charge.

Matthew Martin, PLLC, has represented thousands of clients for DUI defense, including minors in Colorado. The Law Office of Matthew Martin is ready to provide the legal support you need to ensure your child’s future, from initial contact to record sealing.

Don’t hesitate, call today at (303) 725-0017 for a confidential and free consultation. Payment plans and financing are available.

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Juvenile Alcohol Limits

It is often repeated that Colorado has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. This is misleading. Rather, Colorado provides a 2% (0.02) BAC limit for juveniles, up to 0.05.

Any person under 21 with a BAC of 0.02 to 0.05 is presumed to have drunk alcohol, and therefore to have violated state law.

However, the primary defense for juvenile DUIs lies with police procedure. Because of their age, police officers are instructed to operate a certain way; failing to do so may result in dismissal of the case.

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How Juvenile Cases Are Handled

Both Juveniles and Adults are subject to field sobriety and BAC tests. However, juveniles will be taken to a juvenile detention facility rather than to the city or county jail. This is largely for their safety.

Additionally, juveniles move through the juvenile court system with an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Juveniles aren’t typically convicted in the traditional sense; they usually face a deferred punishment through adjudication instead.

Juveniles can also expect record sealing – this means that most (but not all) people cannot see that they have been convicted of a DUI.

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Juvenile DUI Penalties

Because of their age, juveniles are not prosecuted for DUIs as harshly as adults. Instead of a misdemeanor, juveniles found guilty of a DUI face a Class A Traffic Infraction, community service and likely a rehabilitation program.

Class A Traffic Infractions are punishable by:

  1. $15 to $100
  2. DMV points. Underage Drinking and Driving (UDD) carries with it 4 points. The accumulation of 6 points in a 12 month period for those under 18 or 9 points in a 12 month period for someone 18-20 will earn a license suspension.
  3. 24 to 48 hours of community service for a first offense
  4. Possible rehabilitation via enrollment in a substance abuse program.
  5. Possible license suspension for 3 months or license deferment if the minor does not yet own a driver’s license.

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Repeat Offenses

If your child has been found guilty of a second DUI, then he or she will face much harsher consequences. These include a 6-month license revocation and charges as a Class 2 Traffic Misdemeanor, or 12-month revocation and charges as Class 2 Traffic Misdemeanor for a third offense.

The latter two punishments may include jail time and much higher fines:

  1. 10 – 90 days in jail
  2. 6 – 12 month license revocation
  3. Up to $300 in fines

In addition, repeat offenses may incur court fees, additional public service requirements and are guaranteed to include alcohol or drug rehabilitation courses.

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The defenses for juvenile DUI cases can be trickier than most – this is because younger people are more likely to admit to drinking and driving under pressure than adults. We’ll cover some of the more common defenses below, as well as some things to watch out for.

  1. Reasonable stop – if the police did not have reason to pull you or your child over, then you likely have a case. There are many reasons why the police are allowed to pull you over: swerving, lights are out, drifting across lanes and so on. However, an officer might pull a minor over simply because it’s late and there are a lot of people in the car. It might look like they’re partying, or the officer may be racially profiling the driver. If this is the case, then the officer no longer has a legal reason to stop the minor, and any evidence that came as a result of the stop will need to be dismissed.
  2. Failure to read rights – Minors and juveniles often do not know their full rights under law. In many cases, juveniles have the right to deny that they have been drinking, but may not understand that, or may be intimidated by the officer’s authority. This nervousness, mixed with the results of a poorly executed field sobriety test, may lead an officer to arrest the juvenile.
  3. Field sobriety and BAC tests – These tests are not conclusive evidence of drinking. BAC testing devices, also known as breath analyzers, have been known to issue faulty readings that indicate a higher BAC than is actually the case. In addition, field sobriety tests may be influenced by a variety of factors like nervousness, bad balance and others. It may be part of your lawyer’s defense to show that the field sobriety tests were conducted poorly or that the BAC device malfunctioned.

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Should I Fight a DUI?

It may be tempting to simply accept the DUI and let it serve as a warning for your child, but think twice before committing to doing so. While most people cannot access a juvenile’s sealed records, academic institutions can. Pleading guilty to a DUI may result in the loss of scholarships, internships or other academic opportunities, dramatically shifting your child’s trajectory through higher education and losing critical opportunities early on in life.

DUIs, along with any type of traffic infraction or accident, can also result in much higher insurance costs. Studies have shown that DUIs can increase the cost of insurance by as much as 40-50% annually. For more about the full cost of a DUI, read our article here.

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Additional Resources

Behavioral Health Administration – Colorado’s BHA offers an in-depth guide to the different types of DUI programs. The state separates out its programs into two levels, as well as therapy and the “level II Four Plus/Track F”, which is for drivers with 4 or more DUI offenses. Access this page to learn more about Colorado’s DUI rehabilitation program.

Juvenile Court Handbook – Denver’s handbook on juvenile court procedure was created for parents. The handbook details how to act in the courtroom, what to expect and what you can do to represent your child.

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Hire an Underage DUI Attorney in Denver, Colorado

Call (303) 725-0017 for a confidential and free consultation.

Attorney Martin accepts clients throughout the greater Denver metropolitan area and surrounding counties including Jefferson County, Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Adams County, Boulder County, and Broomfield County.

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