Underage DUI

Although a person legally becomes an adult upon reaching the age of 18, three more years of alcohol abstinence are mandatory in the State of Florida. Many young adults in the last year of high school or early years of college see the hypocrisy of the law and choose to drink alcohol anyway. They do so at their own risk.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in Florida. A person under 21 years of age who combines drinking with driving may be arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

Under Florida Statutes § 322.2616, the threshold for presuming legal intoxication in a person under age 21 is much less (one-fourth) than the threshold for a person 21 or older.

An Underage DUI conviction may result in a parade of harsh penalties imposed by the courts and by state administrative agencies, including the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHMSV), which has the power to suspend a driver's license for driving with even a minuscule amount of alcohol if the driver is under 21 years of age.

In addition, students arrested for DUI may face disciplinary hearings at school.

Find an Attorney for Underage DUI in West Palm Beach, FL

If you were charged with Underage DUI or a similar DUI offense in West Palm Beach, Florida, or the surrounding areas of Palm Beach County, FL, then you should contact an experienced local DUI attorney today.

After a DUI arrest, a person who is under the age of 21 only has 10 days to demand a formal review hearing to contest the administrative suspension. An administrative suspension is a serious penalty that may have adverse consequences for many years — so it is important to consult with an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible.

A skilled attorney can challenge a driver's license suspension and attempt to reduce the legal ramifications of an underage DUI arrest, investigate all other aspects of the case, and fight for a reduction or dismissal of charges.

At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we are focused on DUI cases. We often represent drivers under the age of 21 who are charged with a violation of Florida's DUI laws. In the past, we have successfully defended many underage clients accused of DUI in court, at administrative license revocation hearings, and at school hearings.

Meltzer & Bell, P.A. represents clients throughout Palm Beach County, Florida, including the cities of West Palm Beach, Wellington, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Jupiter, and Belle Glade. We also represent young drivers facing DUI charges in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Call Meltzer & Bell, P.A. at (561) 557-8686 today to schedule a free consultation about your underage DUI charge. We can help you protect your driving privileges and your freedom.

Underage DUI in West Palm Beach, Florida

Under Chapter 316, § 316.193(1) of the Florida Statutes, a person is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence if the person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle and:

  • The person has a blood-alcohol level (also called blood alcohol concentration or BAC) of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood; or
  • The person has a breath-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath; or
  • The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance under Florida Statutes, Chapter 877, § 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired

But under F.S. § 316.2616, drivers under the age of 21 are subject to a much stricter DUI law than drivers who are 21 or older: "It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 who has a blood-alcohol or breath-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.02 or higher to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle."

One drink may, and two drinks almost certainly will, result in a BAC of 0.02 or higher for most people.

If a driver under age 21 registers a BAC of 0.05 or higher, the penalties are enhanced.

Penalties for Underage DUI in Florida

When a young person is charged with DUI, severe penalties may result. A first-time DUI charge is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida, punishable upon conviction by up to six months in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000. Additional sanctions the court may impose include probation, community service, and court costs.

In addition, a person's driver's license will be suspended for six months for a first underage DUI, or one year if the driver refuses to submit to a DUI breath or blood test, regardless of whether the case is prosecuted. An administrative driver's license suspension can only be contested by demanding a formal review hearing within 10 days of the arrest. 

On top of that, once a person is permitted to drive again, insurance premiums — which are almost always quite high for young, inexperienced drivers anyway — are certain to cost even more for up to three years.

Lastly, drivers under 21 are often students. A DUI conviction may have an adverse effect for students, who may face disciplinary measures, including suspension or expulsion, from a high school or college due to the criminal conviction.

Future educational and employment opportunities may also be impacted because a person was caught driving after a drink or two.

Administrative Driver's License Suspension and the 10-Day Rule in an Underage DUI Case

In order to contest the administrative driver's license suspension, the driver must demand a formal review hearing within 10 days of arrest (often called the "10-Day Rule"). The demand for a formal review hearing must be made to the Florida Board of Administrative Reviews (BAR), a division of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). 

A knowledgeable DUI attorney will be able to file the request for a formal review hearing as soon as the attorney agrees to represent a client accused of DUI. While fighting to invalidate the administrative suspension, the attorney will work to obtain a 42-day temporary driving permit for the client.

For a first-time DUI offense, the administrative suspension is six months, with a 30-day "hard" suspension. If the driver refused a chemical DUI test, the suspension is for one year, with a 90-day "hard" suspension.

A person under 21 with a BAC of 0.05 or higher (which is still much lower than the threshold for other adults) must complete DUI school before he or she can obtain hardship driving privileges.

At a formal review hearing, a competent DUI attorney can subpoena and cross-examine witnesses, including the arresting officer and breath test operator, while exploring possible defenses that can be used to fight the charges in the criminal case. Fighting the administrative suspension often exposes weaknesses in the State's case that could affect the outcome of the criminal case.

An experienced West Palm Beach DUI attorney will be able to answer any questions about the criminal and civil ramifications of an Underage DUI charge, while fighting for your rights and freedom in the courts, with the state bureaucracy, and with your school, if necessary.

Possible Defenses against an Underage DUI Charge

When the police make a DUI arrest, they must follow a specific set of rules and protocols. Sometimes, mistakes are made during the traffic stop, in making the arrest, or in the implementation of chemical tests. Any errors by the police or prosecutor may result in the exclusion of evidence and a reduction or dismissal of charges.

A skilled DUI lawyer will attack an Underage DUI case at many levels, including filing motions to suppress or exclude evidence, challenging the testimony of witnesses, hiring independent witnesses to testify on behalf of the defense, challenging police procedures, or applying legal knowledge and case history to weaken the state's case.

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Additional Resources

Florida Statutes, Title XXIII, Chapter 316, § 316.2616 — DUI Driver's License Suspension for Persons Under 21 Years of Age — Read the Florida law that defines Underage DUI and lists the penalties for a Underage DUI convictions.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBSO) — Learn about the activities of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and find information about arrests and the jail, community services, and more. The main county jail location is:

3228 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Phone: (561) 688-4400

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — Evaluation of Community Programs to Deter Underage Drinking and Driving — Find information and statistics about underage drinking and driving, including an evaluation of four community programs conducted by the NHTSA in 2002.

5 To Drive Campaign — As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week in October 2015, the NHTSA publicized a campaign in which it urged parents and guardians of teen drivers to discuss with their teens one traffic safety topic each day for five days. The five topics, also the most risky behaviors among teens, include alcohol abstinence, texting while driving, failure to wear seat belts, speeding, and riding with extra teen passengers.

Find an Attorney for Underage DUI in West Palm Beach, FL

DUI charge is serious and can have long-term adverse effects on a person accused of DUI, especially on young persons under 21, who are subject to a much lower threshold in determining guilt than people who are 21 or older.

If you were charged with Underage DUI or Juvenile DUI, or if your son or daughter was arrested on one of these charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, you need to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney right away.

The experienced DUI attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. understand Florida's DUI laws and use their experience to defend you and fight for your freedom from injustice.

Meltzer & Bell, P.A. represents DUI clients throughout Palm Beach County, including the cities of West Palm Beach, Wellington, Jupiter, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, as well as people residing in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Call Meltzer & Bell, P.A. today at (561) 557-8686 to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.

This article was last updated on Thursday, March 3, 2016.


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