What Is Considered Grounds for Underage DUI and Drug Possession Charges?

In Virginia, an adult can be arrested for driving while under the influence (DUI) if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% (and in some cases, they can be arrested with lower BACs than that). But when someone under 21 is found to have a BAC as low as .02%, they can be charged with DUI. Minors are judged more harshly because the legal drinking age in Virginia is 21, so legally, they weren’t supposed to be drinking at all.

Illegal drugs are grounds for charges at any age. When it comes to marijuana, which has laws that allow it to be used recreationally, in some cases, minors are still prohibited from possessing it.

What Are the Consequences of Underage DUI and Drug Possession?

There are many.

Underage DUI Conviction Consequences

A first conviction is usually a misdemeanor, but that can result in a permanent criminal record, which can affect things in the future, such as college, job, and housing rental applications. Other consequences include:

  • Up to one year of jail time
  • Up to $2,500 in fines
  • Driver’s license suspended for up to one year (there are some cases where the minor may be able to earn a restricted driver’s license, but it’s by no means guaranteed)
  • Six demerit points on their Virginia driving record (which can cause car insurance rate hikes)
  • Mandatory substance abuse treatment or therapy
  • Up to 50 hours of community service

Underage Drug Possession Conviction Consequences

Virginia laws recognize different levels of drugs, known as schedules. They range from less harmful and addictive to dangerous and highly addictive. What outcomes may happen to a minor convicted of possession may vary depending on which schedule of drugs they were convicted of possessing. In general, they may face one or multiple of the following.

  • Community service
  • Substance abuse and/or drug
  • education programs
  • Fines of up to $500

Marijuana Possession

A first conviction of possessing marijuana could result in:

  • Substance abuse and/or drug education programs
  • Up to $25 in civil penalties
  • Being found delinquent in juvenile court
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Probation

Note that consequences may be more severe for any of these if there’s a previous conviction. A minor charged and convicted of both DUI and drug possession may face multiple combinations of consequences. That’s why it’s vital you contact an experienced DUI and drug possession attorney as soon as possible to begin building a defense.

What Are Possible Defenses for an Underage Driver Charged with DUI and Drug Possession?

Every case is unique, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all defense. The following are just included as guidelines and potential defenses, but the right defense for your child’s case will depend on the circumstances of the charges. In many cases, using the minor’s age, lack of experience, and naivete compared to an adult forms part of the defense.

  • Lack of proper police procedures. It’s not uncommon for law enforcement to be lax in following arrest and charging procedures when dealing with minors who may not understand what their rights are and what police are supposed to do. This can include anything from police making an illegal search and seizure, pulling over a driver without probable cause, not reading them their Miranda rights, or forcing them into a confession. Many law enforcement vehicles have dash cams, which record the basis for the stop and how the officer handled the stop. If the recordings show that the officer didn’t follow the procedure properly, any evidence they collected during the stop cannot be used to prosecute the driver.
  • Unaware. The minor may not have been aware they were carrying illegal drugs. For example, a teen borrows a jacket from another teen, not knowing one of the pockets contains an illegal substance.
  • Duress. The minor may have been bullied into carrying illegal substances for someone else.
  • Not possession. If the minor is in the same room as a substance, that doesn’t mean they possessed the substance. For example, if a minor entered a friend’s home or sibling’s room and there was an illegal substance there, that doesn’t mean the minor possessed it.
  • Inaccurate test results. When alcohol use is charged, it’s possible the minor will be given various tests, including field sobriety tests designed to check if the person can physically manage several functions and BAC tests. These tests are not necessarily accurate and can be compromised. For example, a tired teen may trip when trying to walk a straight line, or the use of things like mouthwash or asthma inhalers may lead to incorrect BAC readings. Also, these types of tests involve protocols that law enforcement must strictly follow. If they don’t, the results could be compromised against the driver.

What Should I Do if My Underage Child Is Charged with DUI and Drug Possession?

Call Scott Nolan Criminal Defense as soon as possible at 703-688-9236 to request a free case evaluation. These are serious charges that can have a significantly negative impact on their lives in the future. We can guide you through your child’s charges and identify what the best potential defenses might be. We understand how stressful and traumatic this can be for you, and our compassionate team of experienced, knowledgeable underage DUI and drug charge defense attorneys is to help you.