Pennsylvania takes a strict approach to underage drunk driving. Around 10% of Pennsylvanian drivers are teenagers, yet this same group accounts for 12% of drunk driving fatalities in the Commonwealth. Owing to the disproportionate risk presented by teenage drivers, the authorities punish underage driving under the influence (DUI) harshly. While this tough approach may serve to deter some teen drivers from drinking, it can also amplify the consequences of a youthful lapse of judgment.
Getting convicted of any crime at a young age, especially, a DUI a can seriously jeopardize your future. You will need to disclose your DUI in your college applications, which can reduce your chances of getting accepted. If you’re already in college, you may get expelled or suspended. And if you apply for any job requiring a background check, your potential employer will see your underage DUI conviction.
For these reasons, you should fight your underage DUI charges to minimize the chances of getting a conviction. Hiring a good lawyer may be expensive, but it is far less costly than the criminal penalties and long-term effects of an underage DUI conviction. Never plead guilty to DUI without first consulting with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, because there may be several defense strategies available to you.
What is Pennsylvania’s Law on Underage Driving Under the Influence?
You may be convicted of underage DUI if a prosecutor can show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under 21 years of age and had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 or greater while you were operating a vehicle. Alternatively, you may be charged if there is evidence that you were intoxicated (by alcohol or an illegal substance) at the time you were driving.
The penalties for underage DUI are as follows if you are aged between 18 and 21:
- First underage DUI–Up to 90 days in jail, $300 to $500 in fines, community service, alcohol highway safety school, and a 12-month license suspension if your BAC was over .10
- Second underage DUI–Minimum 5 days in jail with a possible 6-month sentence, fines between $300 and $2,500, 12-month license suspension, alcohol highway safety school, substance abuse treatment, community service
- Third or subsequent DUI–Minimum imprisonment for 1 year, fines of up to $10,000, community service, rehab, and revoked driving privileges
If you are under 18, there is little chance of being sent to jail for underage DUI. People in this age group are punished under Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Act, which seeks to rehabilitate offenders as opposed to punishing them. The goal of the juvenile criminal system is to minimize the effects of the crime on the offender’s future and may include educative and rehabilitative measures such as counseling, community service, and substance abuse treatment.
Your insurance company will also increase your premiums by up to $100 or $200 a month. This can add thousands to the cost of your Pennsylvania underage DUI. Repeat offenders may not be able to find anyone willing to insure them at affordable rates.
How Can a Philadelphia DUI Lawyer Defend My Case?
If this is the first time you’ve been charged with DUI, you may qualify for Pennsylvania’s ARD program. If accepted, your charges will get suspended. But in exchange, you will need to take drug and/or alcohol counseling, perform community service, and pay for any damage you caused.
30 days after your successful completion of these requirements, you may request that the record of your arrest and participation in ARD be expunged. Once the expungement takes effect, your encounter with the criminal justice system will no longer be public information. But the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement agencies may still access this information.
You may not qualify for the ARD program if you’ve been convicted of DUI before. For your first underage DUI charge, you may not qualify for ARD if either of the following applies:
- The DUI involved an accident in which another person was seriously hurt or killed
- There was a child under 14 years of age in the car at the time of the DUI
If ARD is not a possibility in your case, there still may be defense options. Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer may be able to:
- File a motion to suppress–When the police obtain evidence against you by violating your rights, your lawyer can ask the court to remove that evidence from the case. If the arresting officer pulled you over without reasonable suspicion, for example, any evidence obtained from the traffic stop may be excluded from the case.
- Take the case to trial–To obtain your conviction, the prosecutor must prove every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. So if your lawyer can show there is a reasonable possibility that you were above the legal limit while you were driving, you will be acquitted. In the context of DUI cases, there is often reasonable doubt as to whether the suspected driver was actually intoxicated because of the inaccuracy of the officer’s observations or the misuse of chemical tests.
- Negotiate a good plea agreement–When filing a motion to suppress or proving reasonable doubt at trial are not likely to succeed, it may be in your best interest to accept a plea deal. In exchange for pleading guilty, the prosecutor may offer you the guarantee of lesser penalties. With a good DUI lawyer by your side, you will have a greater chance of obtaining a beneficial plea bargain.
Every case is different, so if you want to learn how a lawyer can help, you should call a Philadelphia underage DUI lawyer for a consultation. At Fienman Defense, we are committed to giving each and every one of our clients the best chances possible as they face the criminal justice system. To find out how we can defend your case, call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.
Questions? Contact us today.
Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to get your DUI charges dismissed or lowered. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.