Arizona has one of the highest rates of underage drinking. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 43.8 percent of Arizona teenagers drink alcohol. Teenagers not only drink, but they are also just starting to maneuver the roads – which makes for a risky combination. For teenagers who are caught drinking and driving, the punishments are significant.

Underage Drinking

Here is an overview of what it means to receive a DUI as a minor and the consequences that the charge entails:

What are Arizona’s DUI Laws?

Under normal circumstances, Arizona tolerates drivers with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.8. This standard is set for adult drivers who are the age of 21 or older.

On the other hand, minors who drive while intoxicated are measured by a different standard – known as the Zero Tolerance policy. Arizona is recognized as one of the harshest states when it comes to underage drinking and driving. Under the Zero Tolerance Policy, even the slightest bit of alcohol in a minor’s system can trigger a driving under the influence charge. Essentially, if you are a minor and are caught driving under the influence of alcohol with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, an officer can cite you for driving under the influence.

Not only does Arizona have a Zero Tolerance policy for underage drinking, but the action is also forbidden under Arizona Revised Statutes 4-244(34). Under the statute, “It is unlawful for a person under twenty-one years of age to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while there is any spirituous liquor in the person’s body.” Therefore, as the law states, any alcohol in your system while you are underage and in control of a motor vehicle constitutes a violation of the law.

A First Offense Underage DUI

Like most states, the consequences for a crime are based on the number of offenses and other factors. When it comes to driving under the influence as a minor, there are certain consequences associated with the action if it is your first offense.

Here are some of the potential ramifications for a first offense DUI while underage:

  • Potentially up to six months in jail
  • Fines and court costs up to $2,500
  • Class 1 misdemeanor
  • Driving license suspension for up to two years
  • Probation
  • Drivers education courses
  • Any other penalties that are left to the court’s discretion

While these are all potential consequences of driving under the influence as a minor, in most cases – depending upon your defense attorney and the judge – you may be given a less-severe punishment. However, you should be aware that any outcome is possible. If you were extremely reckless or your BAC was particularly high, you potentially face a harsher punishment.

A Second Offense Underage DUI

If you offend a second time and drive under the influence while underage, then you face stricter consequences. Those who drive under the influence and are second time offenders risk the consequences mentioned above as well as more significant collateral consequences. It is also imperative to recognize that if you are convicted of the second offense, the court is much less likely to look upon your actions with any leniency. Under the most extreme circumstances, you will face the possibility of jail time, a driver’s license suspension, an extended license suspension and hefty fines.

Proving the Elements of the Crime

Driving under the influence as a minor is a serious crime. However, unlike many other crimes enumerated in the Arizona Revised Statutes, there are no threshold limit requirements. Essentially, the prosecution does not need to prove that you consumed a certain amount of alcohol, but simply that you had a trace of alcohol in your system.

The best way to bypass a tough standard and an even tougher prosecution is with a lawyer who understands cases such as this and knows which defenses will apply.

DUIDefenses Your Attorney May Assert

The key to a positive outcome is an attorney who brings up the proper defense, should they apply to your case. Here are some of the most common defenses that your attorney may assert on your behalf in defending you against a charge of driving under the influence:

An Illegal Stop

In order to stop a vehicle, an officer must have reasonable suspicion, which means that the officer must have some fact or facts that support a rational inference of a violation. An officer cannot stop you based on mere suspicion alone.

No Actual Physical Control of the Vehicle

A second solid defense that your attorney may assert on your behalf if the facts support the claim is that you were not in actual physical control of the vehicle. Actual Physical Control depends on a totality of the circumstances. That means the court will look at each individual case to determine whether the facts support the driver being in control of the car. To be in physical control of the vehicle, you need to be able to operate the vehicle. Therefore, if you pulled off to the side of the road and you are sitting in the back seat, you are not in actual physical control.  However, if you are in the driver seat with the keys in the ignition and the car is running, you may be found to be in actual physical control. Each case is different so it is important that your attorney evaluates this element carefully.

Faulty Field Sobriety Test

It could also be the case that the field sobriety test used on you was inaccurate or unreliable. There are certain circumstances under which a test will not provide accurate results. For instance, if the suspect is disabled and has balancing issues, has injuries to the legs, or is wearing high heels, the test may not be as effective.

Bad BAC Test

It’s also possible the officer performing the breath or blood test didn’t follow proper procedures or the results were inaccurate. It’s possible to have the blood or the breath re-tested. There is also a rate of error that could affect the state’s ability to prove guilt. In every underage DUI case, the BAC matters and your attorney needs to examine the testing procedure used by the officer.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you are in the Phoenix area and were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and are not of legal drinking age, then you deserve the best legal defense possible. You are fully entitled to be represented by a quality attorney and you should not have to face consequences if your actions did not warrant them. You need an experienced Phoenix DUI attorney from Tyler Allen Law Firm. Our professional team not only defends your rights, but also provides you with the guidance and support that you need to navigate the legal system. Contact us today or give us a call at 602-456-0545 for a consultation.

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