What Happens When Teens Get DUIs?


Arizona loves to party. And unfortunately, many people start partying a little too young. Youth drinking rates in Arizona are slightly higher than they are in the rest of the country. And, not coincidentally, so are underage DUI legal penalties. This creates substantial problems for parents and teens in Arizona. The consequences have the potential to be extraordinarily expensive and damaging to a teen’s future – even if no one was hurt, and even if the underage drinker only had a few sips.

Arizona’s DUI Laws For Underage Drinkers

Anyone under the age of 21 driving with ANY amount of alcohol in their system, who blows anything higher than a perfect zero (.000) on a breathalyzer test, can and will be charged with a “Baby” DUI. This means that a 20-year-old person who drank one beer and drove home 45 minutes later can be prosecuted. It seems extreme, but that’s the law. It’s a part of Arizona’s Zero Tolerance policy.

The law itself is designed to dissuade young people from drinking before they’re legally allowed, and to protect motorists. Teenagers are very new to driving, and even the slightest amount of alcohol can impede their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle due to their lack of experience behind the wheel.

Penalties for underage DUIs are similar to the penalties for normal DUIs. Though penalties might vary somewhat from case to case depending on whether the offender is a minor or an adult, for the most part judges and prosecutors have the full extent of the law at their disposal.

First Time Underage DUI

The circumstances of a DUI are more likely to come into play if the person is underage and it’s their first offense. If the blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, the circumstances might matter significantly less. The offense itself is almost always charged as a class 1 misdemeanor, which is the highest level of misdemeanor. It’s punishable by as many as six months in jail and up to $2500 in fines and fees, plus surcharges, probation, etc.

The court can also revoke your driver’s license for two years. If you want to drive and the court finds that you have a legitimate reason to do so (such as attending work or school), you can apply for a restricted license. This restricted license prohibits you from driving anywhere that wouldn’t be considered reasonably necessary, and it requires the installation of an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive. You might need to attend driving courses and successfully complete probation as part of your terms.

It’s worth noting that these penalties only apply to simple underage DUI cases. Some DUIs can be charged as a felony, and the penalties will be much, much worse. Having a very high blood alcohol content, and/or seriously reckless driving can and will increase the potential for more time behind bars and serious repercussions that last for many years.

Repeat Offense Underage DUI

For a second underage DUI, you’re less likely to receive mercy or understanding from the prosecution and court. You’ll face similar consequences as you did for your first conviction, but the length of those consequences will be more severe. Arizona has no patience for repeat DUI offenders, no matter their age. Jail time, fines, and license suspension can virtually double.

Preparing A Defense Against Underage DUI

Underage DUI charges can be defended from multiple angles. Your lawyer will be able to determine the best defense for you after reviewing the unique circumstances of your case.

Questioning The Stop

Police officers can’t randomly stop people, or stop people for things that aren’t crimes or traffic violations. If the officer doesn’t like your music, doesn’t agree with the statements on your bumper stickers, or is simply curious what a group of young people are up to, these aren’t valid reasons for a traffic stop. The officer needs to have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, or else any and all evidence collected from that stop can be thrown out because of an illegal search.

Debating Definitions

The law describes DUI as driving and/or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Actual physical control is something that needs to be definitively proven to a jury. For instance, if a young person knows he or she has had too much to drink and decides to sleep it off in the back seat of the car while it’s running, this may still constitute actual physical control of the vehicle, even though the car cannot be driven from the back seat. There are many factual and legal nuances to the concept of actual physical control.

Equipment Or Protocol Failure

There is a strict set of standards for field sobriety tests, breath testing equipment, and blood testing equipment. If there is any reason to believe that tests weren’t properly conducted or that the equipment used in testing you may be faulty, this may call test results into question.

Get An Aggressive Defense Attorney

If you or your teen or 20-year-old child is facing an underage DUI, you need immediate help from an aggressive attorney. Doug Taylor Law is very experienced in representing underage DUI clients. Contact us for a free consultation and we’ll be able to prepare a defense to help you fight for an easier future.