There are many different components to the average DUI law, but the legal system has a specific classification for drivers under the influence who are below the age of 21. If a driver is below the legal age to drink alcohol, he or she is treated differently under the law if they are found to be driving under the influence. This is referred to as a zero tolerance law, and this is further explained below.
Zero Tolerance and DUI Explained
As you are likely are aware, it is against the law for individuals under 21 years of age to either purchase or be in the possession of any type of alcoholic beverage. This is true throughout all 50 of the states and in the District of Columbia. Zero tolerance relates specifically to this demographic group. While individuals over the age of 21 can have a certain level of alcohol in their blood before being declared legally impaired, no such allowance it give to someone under the age of 21. Any level of alcohol in the blood can result in a DUI charge being levied by a law enforcement official.
Zero tolerance laws essentially make the DUI or DWI charge possible for a driver order 21 years of age with even the most minute levels of alcohol being present in their system. This means that a blood alcohol content level from 0.00 to 0.02, depending on the state the charged is levied in, can results in a young driver being charged with a DUI. What starts out as an innocent glass of wine at the family dinner can result in a serious charge being issued. The intent of zero tolerance laws is to highlight the serious problem of underage drinking, but some young drivers end up getting caught in the nuances of the policy.
Rationale Behind Zero Tolerance DUI Related Laws
It is well documented that young people are disproportionately killed in auto related accidents. Of those who die between the age of 15 and 20, more then one third are believe to perish as the result of a vehicular crash. Of those accidents, some 35 percent are alcohol related in one way or another. Because of these two factors alone, it has been found that underage drinkers are involved in alcohol related car accidents at more than twice the rate as those drivers aged over 21.
The zero tolerance law related back to the National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995. This law actually requires that each state consider drivers under the age of 21 to be considered under the influence if their blood alcohol content level is found to be 0.02 percent or lower. If a state were to not do this, they would lose access to Federal money for highways. Since that point, all states in America have obliged with the Act and this means that police officers do not have to prove a young driver is intoxicated. They simply have to show that even the most minute level of alcohol has been consumed.
The basis for zero tolerance laws is solid. Something had to be done to legally deal with the number of underage drivers getting behind the wheel of a car drunk. The results are promising, with some states revealing statistics that fatalities in this age group as the result of drunk driving has decreased by 20 percent. While this is certainly promising, it does not reveal the legal turmoil that some young drivers have had to face because of one innocent mistake that leaves them subject to a DUI due to zero tolerance laws.
If you or a family member has been charged with underage DUI, contact a professional lawyer in your area for a consultation. You do have legal rights and they deserve to be protected.