All states have laws regarding a “standard” DUI for anyone who is 21 or older. However, since 1988, all state have also had zero-tolerance laws for underage drivers as well. These types of laws come with their own penalties for younger drivers who drink and drive…

Zero-Tolerance Laws: Underage DUI Penalties

License suspension

​Many states will suspend the license of an underage driver who violated the zero-tolerance laws. The range of these suspensions can vary, but they generally are from 90 days to a year. Refusing a breath or blood test could also make these suspensions last longer.

These suspensions usually are triggered when the officer reports to the DMV about a zero-tolerance violation. The DMV can then begin the suspension process. However, drivers can request a hearing to challenge the suspension.

Fines & other penalties

You might think that zero-tolerance laws are more severe than their standard DUI counterparts. However, they actually tend to be less severe. In fact, many states consider an underage DUI to be an infraction rather than a misdemeanor.

This means that a typical punishment for an underage DUI is a fine and no jail time. Of course, this can differ from state to state. Yet, even in states where underage DUI comes with jail time, they tend to be shorter than standard DUI offenses.

Underage vs. Standard DUI

What makes a underage DUI different from a standard DUI is the allowed BAC level. For a standard DUI, a BAC of .08% or higher is enough for someone to face charges. However, with zero-tolerance laws, an underage driver with a BAC of .01-.02% can face an underage DUI.

It’s also important to know that being underage doesn’t protect these drivers from standard DUI charges. An underage driver can still be charged with a standard DUI if their BAC is over the normal legal limit. This will come with the same penalties regardless of their age.

Zero-tolerance laws are important for helping stop underage drinking and driving. In fact, underage DUI and accident rates have gone down since these laws were put into effect. These laws help younger drivers realize that drinking and driving is serious at any age.