Adolescent drunk driving poses a huge concern, which the United States government has been trying to address since at least 1995, when it passed legislation requiring states to consider a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for underage drivers of 0.02%. In the years since, many states have adopted laws and penalties in accordance with the recommendations, such that New Jersey penalizes any amount of alcohol in an underage person’s system, from 0.01% on up. Given the severity of DWI charges for both underage and adult drivers, if you or a loved one is dealing with similar charges, don’t delay and contact a Mercer County DUI lawyer today.
Is the BAC Limit for Underage Drives the Same as for Adults?
Yes, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for underage drivers are very different compared to the limit for adults. For drivers over 21, the BAC limit is 0.08%. But for underage drivers, New Jersey joins a list of states with a zero-tolerance standard. A BAC with any quantity of alcohol means legal consequences.
If a driver under 21 is convicted or pleads guilty to possession of alcohol—possession, not consumption—could result in that minor losing their driving privileges for six months. If an underage driver has a BAC between 0.01% to 0.07% (below the adult BAC limit of 0.08%), they face up to 90 days of license suspension and up to 30 days of mandatory community service. In addition, they will also need to participate in a class from the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). If the underage driver is under 17 and has a BAC between 0.01% and 0.07%, their license may be suspended after they reach 17.
If an underage driver has a BAC of 0.08% or more, which is the adult limit, the minor is then able to be charged the same penalties as an adult would.
For a first-time offender with a BAC of 0.08%, this would mean up to 30 days in jail, fines up to $400, and suspension of their license until they install an interlock device on their car, which must be left in place for three months.
On the other hand, a first-time offender with a BAC between 0.10% and 0.15% sees an increase in potential fines of up to $500, and the duration of the interlock installation increases by up to 12 months.
Should a first-time offender have a BAC over 0.15%, their license may be suspended for four to six months and the interlock may be installed for up to 15 months. Additionally, all three penalties for the above-noted adult offenses include up to 48 hours of cooperating with the IDRC.
A final and very important proviso: like adults, underage drivers may be convicted of drunk driving with a BAC under the limit, if the police officer points to behavior such as their speech and driving conduct. The court system grants police the discretion of being able to use their observations as evidence for someone’s intoxication.